Each NFL Draft we see plenty of grades on how well each team drafted and while those are fun to do its really hard to really evaluate how good each teams class is. A much easier way is to wait three to four years to see how each player has done leading into what could be their second contract. For the past seven years I’ve looked back three years at the previous draft which takes us to 2014 in what was largely considered to be a loaded draft class.
Listed below is what I wrote the night of the 2013 draft and then commentary on not only my comments but how that pick is viewed at this point along with the top classes and notable players taken outside of the first round. Enjoy!
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney DE South Carolina
Initial Thoughts: For the longest time this was projected to be the pick and despite some late talk of trading down or taking Khalil Mack we saw Clowney be the pick. Clowney will play the OLB position, but lets not kid ourselves, teams are prominently in the nickel defense and Clowney will be playing in a four man front. They made the right decision here. Pick Grade: A+
Today's Thoughts: Heading into the draft it was clear that Clowney was the best player in the draft despite some ground swell for Khalil Mack to be the pick. Clowney has had some injury issues but has continued to develop and is a key piece to Houston's talented defense. It was considered to be a good pick then and continues to be the good pick. If this draft gets repicked, I still believe Clowney would be the choice.
2. St. Louis Rams: Greg Robinson OT Auburn
Initial Thoughts: It was no secret that the Rams were going to add an offensive lineman at some point and Robinson was the favorite by many. He's still a little raw, but that shouldn't matter because it looks like he'll start at guard and give them a fierce run blocker to open up holes for Zach Stacy. He's their LT of the future. Pick Grade: A+
Today's Thoughts: While a lot of people had Robinson as their top tackle, I liked Jake Matthews better and mocked Matthews to the Rams because of the Bruce Matthews/Jeff Fisher connection. The Rams drafted for upside hoping Robinson's elite athletic skills would help in his development. Much like taking the raw Jason Smith over the more skilled Eugene Monroe the Rams dropped the ball here and is a big reason their line has struggled. Robinson has flopped at left tackle and will be moved back to guard in a hope to save his career.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Blake Bortles QB UCF
Initial Thoughts: Surprising pick here considering the elite talent still on the board. However it's a QB league and if you like somebody you usually take him. Word is Bortles wasn't going to last long so hard to blame the Jags for pulling the trigger. However Sammy Watkins is special and the second tier QBs are right there with Bortles in my opinion. Pick Grade: B+
Today's Thoughts: This was a bit of a surprise that he went this early but heading into his third year it looked like Bortles was on his way to becoming one of the top young quarterbacks in the league. Instead year three was his worst season and now there are huge concerns if Bortles will be the next big quarterback bust. Jacksonville is rolling the dice with Bortles this upcoming season and hoping he can get back on track.
4. Buffalo Bills: Sammy Watkins WR Clemson
Initial Thoughts: There was plenty of talk of the Bills moving up, but I thought it would have been for one of the offensive tackles. But to be able to get one of the four best players in this draft and give EJ Manuel a true number one receiver is a smart move for a franchise that needs some excitement. They better hope he makes an immediate impact because they gave up their first round pick next year to get him. Pick Grade: A
Today's Thoughts: When healthy Watkins has shown that he can be one of the top receivers in the NFL. However Watkins career has been marred by injuries missing eleven games the past two years. If Watkins was healthy giving up a future first round pick would be worth it, but if Watkins continues to be injured the pick is going to look worse.
5. Oakland Raiders: Khalil Mack OLB Buffalo
Initial Thoughts: For a franchise that has really messed up a lot of picks, they got this one right. Mack was legitimately challenging Clowney for the top spot and to get him at five is a steal in my opinion. He'll start day one for the Raiders as their SLB and play the Von Miller role in Dennis Allen's defense. Pick Grade: A+
Today's Thoughts: You can trace a lot of the Raiders current success straight to this pick. Mack was considered to be one of the two best players in the entire draft. For as good as Mack was considered what is more impressive is he has suprassed everyone's expectations proving to be a yearly Defensive Player of the Year candidate year in and year out. Slam Dunk pick.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews OT Texas A&M
Initial Thoughts: All the talk leading up to the draft had the Falcons moving up, but instead they end up staying put and get the left tackle they need to protect Matt Ryan. Matthews is as technically sound as they come and allows them to get bigger and more physical like they've done all off season. Matthews may start at right tackle to begin his career but he'll be on the left side before you know it. Pick Grade: A+
Today's Thoughts: I was a big for of Jake Matthews as he was my 3rd rated player in the class and the top tackle in this class so to see that he's developed into a top tier left tackle. While he isn't flashy, Matthews has provided the Falcons a steady force at left tackle a big part of what their offense has become.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Evans WR Texas A&M
Initial Thoughts: Personally I don't like this pick. I seriously question Evans' ability to separate in the NFL and he has a high bust chance. However the Bucs desperately need a second receiver to pair up with Vincent Jackson and many love Evans ability to go up and get the ball. This also gives the Bucs two big receivers like McNown had in Chicago. Pick Grade: B
Today's Thoughts: To be fair I did not like this pick as I felt that Mike Evans was overrated and not worth a top ten pick. However I was not totally down on him as he was my 23rd rated player. Evans has become a top level receiver and given Jameis Winston a true number one receiver, proving me wrong.
Pick Grade: A
8. Cleveland Browns: Justin Gilbert CB Oklahoma State
Initial Thoughts: Cleveland finally gets a quality CB opposite of Joe Haden which allows them to get really creative with blitzes and coverages. Gilbert was my top rated cornerback and reminds me a lot of Antonio Cromartie. Now this wasn't a sexy pick like a QB would have been, but it makes their defense even better which improves the team. He also gives them a punt returner which is an added bonus. Pick Grade: A
Today's Thoughts: After trading back with Buffalo the Browns moved up one slot to nab Gilbert. With all the talent in the world Gilbert barely saw the field for the Browns and Steelers because of a variety of different off the field issues. What makes this pick even worse is now he looks to be out of the NFL three years into his career.
9. Minnesota Vikings: Anthony Barr OLB UCLA
Initial Thoughts: For some reason everybody kept thinking the Vikings were going to take Manziel despite Zimmer bashing him. Instead they take a player that everybody was started to sour on even though he was a top 10 player for a while. Barr's best football is still ahead of him and he gives defensive minded coach a player to move around and take advantage of his speed and athletic ability. Love this pick! Pick Grade: A+
Today's Thoughts: I was a huge fan of Barr coming into the draft, so it wasn't a surprise that I loved this pick for the Vikings. Barr was a stud his first two years battling through injuries but gave the Vikings and athletic linebacker who can blitz up the middle in Zimmer's double A gap philosophy while also being able to flow in coverage. Barr had a terrible 2016 so 2017 will be a big year for him to get back on track.
10. Detroit Lions: Eric Ebron TE North Carolina
Initial Thoughts: Even though I successfully projected this pick, I don't like it. Detroit's offense is fine, but their defense has some enormous holes that could have been addressed with some good players here. Instead of taking a safety like Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix they take an oversized slot receiver. Ebron could develop into a good TE, but they Lions don't need him. Pick Grade: C+
Today's Thoughts: Ebron was getting a ton of Vernon Davis comparisions which I didn't understand and when you compare me not loving Ebron or seeing the fit with the Lions I was not a fan of this pick. This pick has not panned out the way the Lions have hoped as Ebron hasn't developed into a weapon at tight end only producing 1,496 yards receiving and 7 touchdowns. There is hope as Ebron had his best year in 2016, but he doesn't look like he'll ever be the elite tight end as he was drafted.
11. Tennessee Titans: Taylor Lewan OT Michigan
Initial Thoughts: So I get that Michael Roos is getting up there in age, but they just signed Micheal Oher to be their right tackle and have three good young interior lineman. The line was one of the strong suites of this team. So why take a lineman here when they could have taken a safety or cornerback here? Don't be surprised to see Roos get cut in the coming days. Otherwise the 11th overall pick will be a swing tackle. Pick Grade: D
Today's Thoughts: Oh boy, I was not a fan of this pick. I liked Lewan as a prospect as he was my 9th rated player in this class, but couldn't see the forest for the trees. Lewan quickly saw the field because of injuries and eventually supplanted Roos as the starter while Oher was ineffective before being released. Lewan has gone on to develop into a Pro Bowl left tackle and the anchor to one of the best lines in the entire league.
12. New York Giants: Odell Beckham Jr WR LSU
Initial Thoughts: The Giants are a team that you never really know where they are going to go, so when they took Beckham here it shouldn't have been too big of a surprise. But with Hakeem Nicks gone and the fact that they love to play in three receiver sets it makes sense. Beckham allows they to keep Cruz in the slot where he is lethal. Pick Grade: A
Today's Thoughts: Beckham was considered to be a good prospect but nobody thought he'd develop into the elite receiving threat that he is today. Maybe a big part of that was the poor QB play he endured at LSU. At this point the only thing keeping Beckham from continuing his dominance is himself.
13. St.Louis Rams: Aaron Donald DT Pittsburgh
Initial Thoughts: Aaron Donald was thought to be a lock to go in the top 10 so when he falls here to the Rams it's a tremendous value. The Rams already had one of the best defensive lines in the league, but didn't have much of a pass rush up the middle. Now you add Donald to Robert Quinn, Chris Long, and Michael Brockers and that could be the scariest defensive lines in the league. Pick Grade: A+
Today's Thoughts: Donald was a late riser in the draft process as nobody really knew much about him till after the Senior Bowl but he was clearly one of the best players in the draft and a surprise to fall to the Rams here at 13. Donald made an instant impact for the Rams and quickly became one of the best defenders in the league. The Rams are moving to a 3-4 defense with Wade Phillips but Donald should be able to thrive as the defensive still has their defensive lineman attack and he is a transcendent star.
14. Chicago Bears: Kyle Fuller CB Virginia Tech
Initial Thoughts: Chicago has spent this off season working on rebuilding a once great defense. They wanted to get bigger and more athletic and they do that with Fuller who has good size and length. With Jennings and Tillman both over 30 and Tillman on a one year deal this was a no brainer. They'll have those three on the field quite a bit. Pick Grade: A
Today's Thoughts: Cornerback was such a big need for the Bears and Fuller had all the physical tools to be an elite cornerback in this league. After flashing as a rookie Fuller's career has been marred by injuries even resulting in missing the entire 2016 season. With so much uncertainty around Fuller the Bears decline to pick up his 5th year option making 2017 a make or break it year.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ryan Shazier LB Ohio State
Initial Thoughts: I know there are a lot of Shazier fans, but I just don't see it. Shazier is a very good athlete, but that is what he is to me. He can run from sideline to sideline, but playing in the 3-4 he'll have to shed blocks. Normally the Steelers let good players fall into their lap. This time they reached on a guy in my opinion. Pick Grade: F
Today's Thoughts: Being wrong on this pick is one of the mistakes that I've tried to learn from in my player analysis over the years. I got too hung up on Shaizer being just an athlete but didn't realize that his athletic ability at the position in the scheme translates. Shazier quickly became a impact player for the Steelers flying from sideline to sideline and being a top notch run defender. The only negative on Shazier is injuries which has caused him to never play an entire season.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Zach Martin G Notre Dame
Initial Thoughts: Even though Johnny Manziel was sitting there, the Cowboys made the smart pick taking Martin. He was graded out to be a top 10 player by many teams and this is a tremendous value considering they need a guard badly. Martin has the potential to be a multiple time All Pro and fits their zone blocking scheme very well. Smart pick by the Cowboys which you can't say often. Pick Grade: A+
Today's Thoughts: The story is well documented in that Jerry Jones wanted Johnny Manziel but his son Stephen and other brass had to talk him out of Manziel and to take Martin. The pick looked genius at the time and continues to be so as Martin was an instant success and is quickly one of if not the best right guard in the league. Investing first round picks in guys like Martin, Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick is a huge reason why their rookies were able to have so much success.
17. Baltimore Ravens: CJ Mosley LB Alabama
Initial Thoughts: With two Alabama players sitting there we knew that Ozzie was going to draft one of them. CJ Mosley is the top inside linebacker and gives the Ravens a stalwart in the middle of the defense. He doesn't have Ray Lewis' physicality, but he is good in coverage and has some of the best instincts in a linebacker since Luke Kuechly. I'm not a huge fan of him, but a good pick here by the Ravens. Pick Grade: B+
Today's Thoughts: While Mosley has not developed into the Luke Kuechly level of linebacker, he has proven to be a top level linebacker boucing back after a down sophomore year. Was there better prospects available here, yes. But it is hard to really knock this pick too much.
18. New York Jets: Calvin Pryor S Louisville
Initial Thoughts: A lot of people, including me, that had Clinton-Dix higher than Pryor, but they are close so it isn't a big deal. Rex Ryan loves to play three safeties and adding him to Antonio Allen and Ed Reed and Ryan has some toys to play with. Pryor also brings some physicality to the defense who can be an enforcer. Pick Grade: B+
Today's Thoughts: Pryor failed to make a difference with Rex Ryan or with Todd Bowles who has had such good success playing multiple safeties. With the Jets drafted two safeties with their first two picks in the 2017 draft it was clear that Pryor wasn't in their plans and he was traded to the Browns straight up for backup linebacker Demario Davis. Pryor could be looked as the Mark Barron type role in Gregg Williams' scheme.
19. Miami Dolphins: Ja'Wuan James OT Tennessee
Initial Thoughts: I feel the picks that I successfully pick are the ones that I'm hammering the most. Miami wanted to add a RT in this draft because of a huge need. But did they really have to reach on James? He's not a bad player, but they could have easily gotten a better player here and a comparable player in the second round. Clinton-Dix and Dennard would have been better value at just as important needs. Pick Grade: D+
Today's Thoughts: As I said in my initial analysis that I felt that the Dolphins could have gotten a better player here but when you look at it I'm not sure any of the RTs in round two were mcuh better and that also means the Dolphins wouldn't have gotten Jarvis Landry in round two. So as much as this pick seems to be a reach, James has played well enough to be a quality starter and he's be far not the weak link on their offensive line.
Pick Grade: B-
20. New Orleans Saints: Brandin Cooks WR Oregon State
Initial Thoughts: It's scary when one of the best offenses gets even better. The Saints had to let Darren Sproles go because they needed to free up cap space and may have gotten a younger faster version of him. Cooks doesn't have good size, but he has elite speed and quickness and is a nightmare in the open field. He'll be moved all over the field and used to take advantage of mismatches. Pick Grades: A+
Today's Thoughts: Despite his size Cooks was able to come in and be the Saints number one WR early on. However with his contact coming up the Saints chose to move on from him trading him to the Patriots for the 32nd pick in the 2017 draft. Cooks should fit in greatly with the Patriots giving them an elite outside receiver and a downfield speed element they've lacked for years.
21. Green Bay Packers: Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix S Alabama
Initial Thoughts: It's picks like this that allow teams like the Packers to be good year in and year out. Clinton-Dix was seen as a top 15 player who teams passed on by reaching for other players while the Packers let him fall right into their laps. They'll pair him up with Morgan Burnett and give the Packers two young dynamic safeties that will give teams fits. Pick Grade: A+
Today's Thoughts: There isn't much to say that I didn't already say in my initial thoughts. The Lions, Bears and Jets were all teams that could have gone with Clinton-Dix and all three teams would have been better off. In a league where safeties have grown in importance and where true free safeties are hard to find he has given the Packers a true blue chipper.
22. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel QB Texas A&M
Initial Thoughts: It was funny to watch everybody freak out when Manziel started to slide, but what did they expect? He's a unfinished player who has a ton of talent, but isn't ready to start day one. But he's already brought excitement to Cleveland who have been seeing it in season ticket sales in just one evening. If he's allowed to sit for a year he could really succeed, but he'll likely be thrown into the fire too soon. Pick Grade: B+
Today's Thoughts: When we look back three years ago we have to hope we learned from the whole Manziel situation. He was a mess off the field, played in an unrefined system and the exciting players outweighed his overall talent. So when Manziel couldn't give up the partying ways and wasn't putting in the extra effort it was no surprise that he didn't make it. Manziel was out of the league after two years and I'd be surprised if he ever is signed again.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Dee Ford OLB Auburn
Initial Thoughts: A curious pick for the Chiefs who have a big need at receiver. Add that Marqise Lee was sitting there available many Chiefs fans aren't too happy about adding a third pass rusher. Now Ford has a lot of talent, but I don't like the value here. He just isn't as explosive as many people are giving him credit for. They could have done much better with this pick. But should we be surprised with Any Reid? Pick Grade: C
Today's Thoughts: With Tamba Hali and Justin Houston already in the fold the Chiefs subscirbed to the notion that you can never have too many pass rushers adding Ford to the group. Early on it looked like Ford might be a candidate to be a bust, but when thrust into the starting lineup with Justin Houston's injury he stepped up with 10 sacks in 2016. I wouldn't say Ford has been a great pick but it's hard to find another pass rusher taken after him that has had the same impact.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Darqueze Dennard CB Michigan State
Initial Thoughts: With Dennard falling this far it shouldn't have been a shock to see the Bengals take him. They love to draft Big 10 players and love physical corners. A big reason why Dennard fell to the mid 20s is he doesn't have good size or length which can hurt him when facing off against the tall receivers in the league. Pick Grade: A
Today's Thoughts: Cincinnati has shown that they draft for the future and with Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph at the ends of their contract they were able to let Dennard develop. However Dennard has struggled to find his role as he watched 5th round pick Josh Shaw pass him on the depth chart and the Bengals draft William Jackson in the 2016 draft. Cincinnati still has hope for him as they picked up his 5th year option, but time is running out.
25. San Diego Chargers: Jason Verrett CB TCU
Initial Thoughts: If Verrett was three inches taller he might have been the first cornerback taken. However he is only 5'9 which caused him to fall. But what Verrett lacks in size he makes up for in his tenacious play and coverage skills. Pound for pound he is the best cover corner in this league. Don't be surprised to see him get matched up against Wes Welker twice a year. Pick Grade: B
Today's Thoughts: This may be one of those where you need to look past size and look at the traits. As I said in the initial thoughts that Verrett has the cover skills and plays bigger than his size indicates and labeled him as a slot CB. Instead Verrett has prove to be one of the top cornerbacks that nobody talks about and was playing at an extremely high level before an injury shortened his 2016 season.
26. Philadelphia Eagles: Marcus Smith OLB Louisville
Initial Thoughts: A lot of people are hammering the Eagles for this pick, but I like it. I really fell in love with Marcus Smith when I did his scouting report when he showed the best explosion of any pass rusher I saw. He still has some developing to do, but he was a quarterback when he came to Louisville. He'll thrive in the Eagles 3-4 defensive and give them that pass rusher they're lacking. Pick Grade: A
Today's Thoughts: Along with the Dion Jordan pick from a year ago when looking at college pass rushers we often have to look at how they get to the quarterback. Smith was raw and used his speed to rack up sacks in the AAC. That never translated to the NFL and he was buried on the Eagles depth chart totaling only 4 career sacks and playing only 220 total snaps in 2016.
27. Arizona Cardinals: Deone Bucannon S Washington State
Initial Thoughts: Not too surprised that Bucannon went in the first round but mainly because the safety class isn't very deep and teams had to reach to get the top four guys. Bucannon should be a good fit because he's a better at the strong safety position who getting paired with Tyrann Mathieu gives the Cardinals two play making safeties to go along with Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie and that's a scary secondary. Pick Grade: B
Today's Thoughts: When he was drafted nobody really knew the role that he was going to play. But Bucannon transition from big safety to a linebacker in the Cardinals unique hybrid defense. Bucannon gives the Cardinals an athletic coverage linebacker and started a revolution of smaller faster linebackers.
28. Carolina Panthers: Kelvin Benjamin WR Florida State
Initial Thoughts: It's no secret that the Panthers needed receiver help, but surprised they took Benjamin here. After getting a ton of hype after his game winning catch in the National Title game, Benjamin's average hands and lack of separation looked like he was going to slide. I'm sure Cam wanted a big bodied receiver, but you have to wonder if the organizations past failures with USC receivers scared them off of Marquise Lee. Pick Grade: C
Today's Thoughts: With Cam Newton not having pinpoint accuracy having big receivers like Benjamin is where they wanted to go. Benjamin started strong as a rookie before a camp ACL tear has put him back. Benjamin was poised for a big 2017 but showed up to OTA's looking out of shape, so you have to wonder how he'll do in year four.
29. New England Patriots: Dominique DT Florida
Initial Thoughts: Curious pick for the Patriots because Easley has top 15 talent, but two torn ACL's is no joke. Easley has the talent. He has a quick first step and is stout at the point of attack. He can play DE and DT which the Patriots love. Add in that they probably couldn't get him at their pick in the second and it makes sense why they reached on him. But can you trust that he makes it back to 100%? Pick Grade: C+
Today's Thoughts: This was such an uncharacteristic pick for the Patriots as they took a chance on a guy and they normally go low risk prospects. And in no surprise Easley found his way to the IR and was eventually released before signing with the Rams and finding success. It looks promising for Easley, but this was a bad pick for the Patriots.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Jimmie Ward S Northern Illinois
Initial Thoughts: After all the talk of them making a huge splash it was interesting to see them stand pat. They desperately need cornerback help but take a safety here, despite having Eric Reid and Antoine Bethea. But Ward is a very good in man coverage and has a cornerback's body. He'll likely be their nickel back to starter out and could end up being a starter at CB because they like to play a lot of bracket coverage. Pick Grade: B+
Today's Thoughts: Moving to corner is exactly what Ward did in the 49ers zone based defense having success early in his career. With the 49ers moving to the Seattle Style Cover 3 Ward will transition back to free safety. Ward's skill set should allow him to make a seamless transition.
31. Denver Broncos: Bradley Roby CB Ohio State
Initial Thoughts: Denver is in win now mode and are going to look to find those final pieces to get them over the top. Even after signing TJ Ward and Aqib Talib they still have issues in the secondary. Roby had a bad junior season, but has the raw talent to be a first round pick. Denver is taking the gamble that he'll take the next step and thrive in their system. But I'm not buying it. Pick Grade: B+
Today's Thoughts: Along with Aqib Talib and Chris Harris, Bradley Roby has given the Broncos three high caliber corners needed in their aggressive defense. While Roby did have a down 2016 the Broncos picked up his fifth year option a view him as a huge part of their defense.
32. Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater QB Louisville
Initial Thoughts: Much like last draft, the Vikings aren't afraid to move back into the first round to get a player they want. They passed on a QB in the top 10, but get a guy that was once a lock to be the number one pick. I still question Bridgewater's ability to play outside in cold weather, but he'll be asked to manage the offense and hand the ball off to Adrian Peterson. But he's much better than anything they have already. Pick Grade: A
Today's Thoughts: After a 2015 season that saw Bridgewater make strides and earn a Pro Bowl invitation the Vikings were a team the rise. However a horrible knee injury cost Bridgewater his 2016 seaso and possible even 2017. Not to mention the Vikings declined his 5th year option.
Notable other Prospects
2nd Round, Pick #36: Derek Carr, Oakland
2nd Round, Pick #62: Allen Robinson, Jacksonville
2nd Round, Pick #63: Jimmy Garoppolo, New England
2nd Round, Pick #64: Jarvis Landry, Miami
3rd Round, Pick #81: Gabe Jackson, Oakland
3rd Round, Pick #92: Trai Turner, Carolina
4th Round, Pick #103: Davonta Freeman, Atlanta
4th Round, Pick #118: Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh
5th Round, Pick #144: Telvin Smith, Jacksonville
6th Round, Pick #207: Matt Paradis, Denver
UDFA: Malcolm Butler, New England
How the Raiders got to be one of the best teams in the AFC can be traced straight to this draft where they were able to get their franchise quarterback in Derek Carr and blue chip defender in Khalil Mack. Add in getting offensive line stalwart Gabe Jackson in the 3rd round in the cherry on top.
New York Jets
Any wonder why the Jets are in the position to be picking number one overall? Well it's draft classes like this that put them into that position. The Jets just traded away their first round pick while their second round pick was cut before last season. Only three players are still on the roster with Quincy Enunwa being the only one that has provided them with anything.