Friday Morning General Manager: Breaking down the 1st round of the NFL draft (picks 1-16)

Posted: May 10, 2014 in Draft, NFL, Sports

I started this post on Friday, hence the title. I thought about changing it, but I have plans to do a fuller breakdown of rounds 2-7 (hopefully early next week) so I’m keeping it until I think of something better.

1. Texans selected OLB/DE Jadaveon Clowney
I would have been shocked if it was anyone else, Clowney has a support system already in place in Houston, the owner loves him and he’s got a great coaching staff to bring out his best. Playing alongside J.J. Watt means the double teams that restricted Clowney’s effectiveness as a junior should all but disappear. Word is that Crennel sees Clowney fitting into the hybrid DE/OLB role that Patriots great Willie McGinest once played in Crennel’s New England days.

2. Rams selected OT Greg Robinson
I really thought Khalil Mack had a shot here, but there’s no arguing with the pick. Robinson is an ideal fit in St. Louis where he’ll likely start out at Right Tackle or Guard with the intention of sliding back over to the Left Tackle spot he played at Auburn as early as 2015 if Jake Long fails to regain his form after suffering a torn ACL late last season. (Long is under contract through 2015, but the Rams can cut Long for minimal financial loss after the 2014 season if they need to.)

3. Jaguars selected QB Blake Bortles
I did not expect the Jags to pass on Khalil Mack or Sammy Watkins, and they passed on both. I didn’t think taking any QB this high was wise, but by the end of the process I was convinced Bortles would go top 5 (had him going to Browns at 4) and if the Jags were sold on getting a top QB, I think Bortles was the best choice. He’s pretty much a local having played at UCF, so he’ll help sell tickets and he’s really the only QB in this draft who checks all the boxes (namely: size, mobility, arm talent.) I’ll like this pick a lot more if the Jags can land a top WR in the second and a quality pass rusher in the third (or vice versa.) Could they have moved down and still gotten Bortles? Probably, but they would have to move past 2 if not 3 teams with a need at the position and that is a very risky place to be.

4. Buffalo Bills trade w/Cleveland Browns to select WR Sammy Watkins
Love the player, like the fit, but my gut reaction was that the Bills gave up too much (9th pick this year, plus 1st and 4th rounders next year.) I actually like the deal much better now that the Bills have traded Stevie Johnson to the 49ers for a conditional 4th round pick next year that could become a 3rd rounder. Granted, coming from the 49ers it will be a pick late in the round, but it showed me that the Bills had a plan in place to deal with what had suddenly become a crowded WR spot. The Watkins trade was about getting younger and giving EJ Manuel a true #1 and go to WR to pair with a strong supporting cast of Mike Williams, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin and TJ Graham.

5. Oakland Raiders selected OLB Khalil Mack
Mack fell to the Raiders and they did not hesitate. It’s being assumed that Mack will play the ‘Von Miller’ role in Dennis Allen’s defense and I’d say he’s well suited to it. I really like the direction the Raiders are moving in this offseason and I’m especially excited to see what this revamped defense can do, with Mack as it’s centerpiece.

6. Atlanta Falcons select OT Jake Matthews
Nice pick by the Falcons, you sort of knew they would be going tackle with Mack and Clowney off the board, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that they got an exceptionally talented player at a position of dire need. Like Robinson, Matthews will probably start his career on the right side, though Sam Baker has been inconsistent at best on the left side new line coach Mike Tice might be willing to give him one more shot while Matthews builds up his strength and gets acclimated to the NFL.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers select WR Mike Evans
I had really started to sell myself on the Manziel to Tampa hype, but that was always conditioned on Mike Evans being off the board by the 7th pick. Tampa needed a receiver and they got a great one. Evans isn’t a polished route runner yet, but he’s a big bodied WR who knows how to box out defenders and make the catch in coverage. Vincent Jackson should provide a good role model for Evans while also taking pressure off the veteran. It also means Josh McCown and Mike Glennon won’t have to worry much about overthrowing their top targets.

8. Cleveland Browns trade w/Minnesota Vikings to select CB Justin Gilbert
Shades of the 2011 draft when Minnesota scared the Browns into trading up from number 4 to number 3 to select Trent Richardson, but that aside I love this pick. When the ‘Lions looking to trade up for Sammy Watkins’ rumors were at their peak I actually thought the Browns might try to trade down to #10 to take Gilbert (whom I and many other people speculated would otherwise be taken at the 10 spot by Detroit.) Instead it was the Bills who made the trade, but the result is the same the Browns filled a trouble spot on their roster opposite Joe Haden, and added a dynamic punt returner. The Browns defense is another unit I look forward to seeing in action this season.

9. Minnesota Vikings select DE/OLB Anthony Barr
If you read my re-mock just before the draft, you already know I love this pick. Barr is still unpolished, but he is such an explosive athlete who will be a great fit in Mike Zimmer’s offense, and will hopefully take some of the sting out of losing Jared Allen to the division rival Bears this offseason.

10. Detroit Lions select TE Eric Ebron
I’ll be honest, I didn’t quite buy the Lions interest in Ebron, but I was also willing to place my faith in Joseph Fauria as the pass catching TE in Detroit. It’s a pick that makes the Lions scary, giving Matt Stafford another weapon and creating match-up problems for teams outside of Calvin Johnson. He’ll probably get split out wide a lot and he’s a dangerous target to have over the middle. It’s not the pick I would have made, but I won’t knock it, he’s a good fit and Jim Caldwell likes to throw to the TE.

11. Tennessee Titans selected OT Taylor Lewan
I never really bought that Tennessee would go CB in the first round, but it seemed like the offensive line had been addressed last year and in a deep class they might look for a swing tackle later in the draft. But, once again it’s hard to argue with the pick, Lewan was arguably the best player on the board and current left tackle Michael Roos is 31, and on the right side Michael Oher does not necessarily inspire confidence. Lewan’s talent should dictate that he wind up starting, whether it’s through the clearing of a roster spot or winning a position battle. This move likely gives the Titans one of the strongest O-lines in the league.

12. New York Giants selected WR Odell Beckham
This was probably the biggest surprise of the night for me. I like the fit and I love Beckham’s skill set, but the Giants are just not a team that drafts position players this high, so to see Beckham go to the Giants at #12 in a deep class of WR was a little bit of a shock. But like I said, it’s a good fit, Beckham can play inside as well as outside and he can stretch the field as well as anybody. Hakeem Nicks left big shoes to fill, but I think Beckham will prove he’s up to the task.

13. St. Louis Rams selected DT Aaron Donald
With the offensive line addressed the Rams go for the top player on their board, the tenacious 3 technique out of Pitt, Aaron Donald. Donald’s stock blew up from late round flier to best DT in the class and I’m still not sure I trust it. Donald is undersized with short arms, but it’s hard to argue with the production, and starting on a front 4 that includes Chris Long, Robert Quinn and Michael Brockers will make it easy to forget about the 6’0 tackle shredder (that is of course until he’s ripping the opposing QB to the dirt.) In short, I’m not sold on him as a dominant individual, but he’s a great fit in St. Louis.

14. Chicago Bears selected CB Kyle Fuller
Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings are both back, but their on the wrong side of 30 and it’s unlikely Tillman plays past the 2014 season. Enter Fuller a rangy 6’0 corner with 4.5 speed who’s not afraid to come up and make tackles in run support. He’s likely to start inside at the nickel spot in 2014 while learning the NFL game from Jennings and Tillman before likely taking over for the latter in 2015. There were some other needs on defense, but with 5 pass rushers already off the board and only one corner gone the Bears get a guy they know will fit their scheme.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers selected OLB Ryan Shazier
Dennard was the popular pick here with Shazier pegged more for the later round, but in the past two seasons the team has lost franchise legends James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley at the OLB spot and those shoes can’t be filled by just anybody. Shazier is a little small, but he’s an exceptional athlete who plays fast and is extremely competitive. The Steelers are hoping he gives last year’s first round pick, Jarvis Jones, a running mate for the next ten years. Cornerback is deep enough that it can be more easily addressed in the later rounds, and adding a speed rusher like Shazier will make things much easier on whoever they decide to play in the secondary.

16. Dallas Cowboys selected OT Zack Martin
Jerry Jones wanted Manziel, and honestly I don’t blame him if you gave me the ages and scouting reports with the names and fan response redacted, but Romo is Romo and Manziel is Manziel and Zack Martin is the 16th overall pick. Tony Romo has to love this, Cowboys go offensive lineman in the first for the second year in a row, and as much as Travis Frederick was panned for being a reach he played very well in his rookie season. Martin was another quick climber who the Dolphins were really hoping would fall to them. He’s a polished blocker who dominated at the Senior Bowl, has the flexibility to play multiple positions on the line and should slide immediately into the starting line up as a RT or Guard.

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