2014 NFL Draft LIVE First-Round Grades

gradesFRG Scouting will be updating this story after every selection with our analysis and reaction.  The criteria for each grade is based on a combination of the following:

1)  Our opinion of the player’s future success;

2)  Our opinion of whether the player’s draft value was equal to his draft slot (or a reach); and

3)  Our opinion of how the selection meets the drafting team’s needs.

Feel free to use the comments section below to offer your grade and feedback of each pick!

1.01:  Texans – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Grade: A+
Analysis: The best player in the Draft, bar none. Clowney is the kind of talent who only comes around once a decade. You simply cannot pass that up. Kudos to Houston for making the pick.

1.02:  Rams – Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Grade: A
While not the most polished offensive tackle in the class, Robinson has the greatest upside and can be one of (if not THE) most dominant run blockers in the game.

1.03:  Jaguars –  Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Grade: C
Analysis: Bortles is a nice quarterback, but it’s a reach here. The Jaguars could have had a comparable quarterback in the second round, and passing on elite talents like Khalil Mack and Sammy Watkins seems like a glaring mistake.

1.04:  Bills –  Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Grade: B
Analysis: Watkins is an elite talent, no doubt, and will provide the Bills with the kind of weapons needed to put EJ Manuel in a position to be as successful as possible. However, they gave up quite a bit to grab a player at a position that is very deep at the position.

1.05: Raiders – Khalil Mack,OLB, Buffalo
Grade: A
Analysis: The Raiders grab an elite defensive talent who should have gone in the top 3. It’s hard to imagine that you get a “steal” at the 5th overall pick, but the Raiders just got one. Mack will give the Raiders a face of the franchise to build their defense around. Great pick.

1.06:  Falcons – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Grade: A
Analysis: It’s always nice when need meets value for a franchise, and that’s exactly what happened for the Falcons. They needed offensive line help desperately, and they just selected one of the safest and well-rounded players in the entire Draft. He’ll be starting from day 1 and will likely remain in that role for the next 10-12 years. Great pick.

1.07:  Buccaneers – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Grade: C+
Analysis: I’m not quite as high on Evans as most, and I certainly don’t think his name should have been called before Aaron Donald or even his teammate, Johnny Manziel. But Evans and Jackson will make for one of the biggest and most physical wide receiver duos in the NFL and give Josh McCown the same kind of size at the position that he enjoyed with the Bears.

1.08:  Browns – Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma St.
Grade: C+
Analysis: A better athlete than corner right now, Gilbert will make an instant impact in the return game as he’s slowly worked into the secondary. Good player, yes. But I don’t think the value matches this slot.

1.09:  Vikings – Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Grade: A
Analysis: Anthony Barr is one of the most athletic defensive prospects not named Jadeveon Clowney, and while he’s still learning how to play defense, he has the potential to be a double-digit sack master in the not-too-distant future. Very, very good pick by the Vikings.

1.10:  Lions – Eric Ebron, TE, UNC
Grade: B+
Analysis: I mocked Ebron here and it makes total sense. The Lions have missed that presence down the middle of their offense for a long time, and when you consider the stress that Calvin Johnson and Eric Ebron will create for opposing secondaries, it simply makes sense. No more excuses for Matt Stafford.

1.11:  Titans – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Grade: A-
Analysis: Taylor Lewan is a natural right tackle who possesses the kind of mean streak and experience needed to hold down the right side of an offensive line for a long time. Plug and play from opening day and beyond. It wouldn’t have shocked me if Lewan had gone in the top 6 or 7 picks. To get him at No. 11 is really nice value.

1.12:  Giants – Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU
Grade: B
Analysis: Pick makes sense, as the Giants need to give Eli as many weapons as possible (especially with the departure of Hakeem Nicks.) Beckham is an explosive player who will give Eli the type of big play potential needed to complement Victor Cruz. He also brings a lot of value in the return game. I think OBJ is a tad overrated, but the pick makes a lot of sense.

1.13: Rams – Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Grade: A+
Analysis: One of the truly elite players in the 2014 NFL Draft. Adding Donald to an already dominant defensive line is scary, folks. Just scary. Donald will provide a penetrating force up the middle of the defense while the Rams’ special defensive ends harass the QB on the edge. Wow.

1.14:  Bears – Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Grade: B
Analysis: It was no secret that the Bears were going to address their secondary, and while I have a few corners graded higher than Fuller, the pick is still a good one and fits an immediate need (with an eye to the future as well.) Fuller is a tough, physical corner who will be able to stack up against the bigger and evolving NFL receiver.

1.15: Steelers – Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Grade: B
Analysis: The Steelers added a lot of speed and athleticism to their defense in an effort to get their linebacker group back to the dominant force that is was a few years back.

1.16:  Cowboys – Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Grade: B
Analysis: The Cowboys resisted temptation and made a smart, logical selection. For the second year in a row, Jerry Jones addresses offensive line and is slowly but surely creating a very, very talented front five. While the need was at safety, the selection of Martin is a really solid one.

1.17:  Ravens – C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Grade: B
Analysis: The Ravens love their Alabama players, and Mosley is player who is entering the League with a veteran’s savvy. He’ll bring a reliable and thumping presence to the middle of the Ravens defense. While he won’t be the next Ray Lewis, he certainly should enjoy a nice career with some Pro Bowls in his future.

1.18:  Jets – Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Grade: B-
Analysis: You can never have enough big hitters on your defense, and Pryor is the biggest hitter in the entire draft. Better against the run than the pass, Pryor will become a fan favorite in New York once he KO’s a few receivers across the middle.

1.19:  Dolphins – Ja’Wuan James, OT, Tennessee
Grade:  B+
Analysis:  James is one of the most underrated players in this entire class, and a guy I had a solid first-round grade on throughout the process.  He’ll be the starting right tackle in Miami for a long, long time.  The ‘Fins line just got a heck of a lot better from both a talent and character perspective.

1.20:  Saints – Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Grade:  B+
Analysis:  The Saints made the move to go up and get their guy, and for Cooks, he couldn’t go to a better landing spot.  He’s entering the League with a Hall of Fame quarterback who will use his speed and explosiveness to it’s maximum capacity.  Cooks could end up being one of the most productive rookies as a result of this perfect landing spot.

1.21:  Packers – Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Grade:  B+
Analysis:  The Packers needed to add talent in the backend of their secondary, and few had Clinton-Dix falling this far.  He’s the No.1 safety on FRG’s Board, so for Green Bay to land an instant starter at one of their weakest positions is a home run.  I don’t think Ha Ha will is an “elite” talent, but he certainly will provide an instant upgrade to the Packers defense.

1.22:  Browns – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Grade: A
Analysis:  Johnny Football is taking his talents to Cleveland, a franchise in need of a quarterback that can single-handedly take over a game.  He would’ve been a great pick at No.4 and then at No.8 (after their trade.)  Instead, they get him all the way down at No. 22.  Cleveland?  You now have a quarterback.

1.23:  Chiefs – Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
Grade:  C
Analysis:  Ford is a one-trick pony who rode a great Senior Bowl to this spot in the first round.  He’ll have a role in the pro’s as a situational pass rusher, but needs to develop against the run in order to justify a top-25 selection.

1.24:  Bengals – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Grade:  B+
Analysis:  Just about everyone knew that the Bengals were going to go corner here, and Dennard is the most NFL-ready of this year’s crop.  He plays with a physical style and has a veteran’s understanding of how to get away with the little things in coverage that make all the difference.  He’ll be able to work his way into the lineup and should be a starter quickly in his rookie year.

1.25:  Chargers – Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Grade:  A
Analysis:  FRG’s top-rated corner in the class, Verrett has the best instincts of all the corners in the class.  He’s not the biggest guy at the position, but he is a plus athlete who makes up for his lack of height with great closing speed and leaping ability.  Verrett will be a pro bowler, folks.  The Chargers just upgraded their biggest weakness with one of the best values left on the Board.

1.26:  Eagles – Marcus Smith, OLB, Louisville
Grade: B
Analysis:  Not quite sure Smith should’ve been a first-round guy, but there’s no denying that he’ll be able to get to the quarterback and he’s still getting better.  Smith might not be an instant starter in Philly, but he’ll work his way onto the field on passing downs and eventually end up an every down starter.

1.27:  Cardinals – Deone Bucannon, S, Washington St.
Grade:  C
Analysis:  A bit of a reach here for the Cardinals, although safety was a position that was on their radar coming into the Draft.  With Clinton-Dix and Pryor off the Board, Bucannon was one of the logical “next” guys to grab.  While I think he’s more of a late-2nd day player, the Cardinals certainly addressed a need in round 1.

1.28:  Panthers – Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida St.
Grade:  A-
Analysis:  A great pick by the Panthers, grabbing a glaring need with one of the most imposing players at the wide receiver position.  Benjamin is still a player on the rise; it’s scary to think how good he can be.  Cam Newton will finally have a guy that can bail him out of a jam.  Benjamin will see the field early and often in his career and help the Panthers offense get to that next level.

1.29:  Patriots – Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
Grade:  B
Analysis:  Had Easley been healthy, he would have been a top-10 selection. However, his knees are a serious concern as his game is based on speed and quickness.  If he makes a complete recovery, then he’s a steal.  If he’s lost a step, then he’ll end up as an average rotational defensive lineman.  At the end of the day, it’s a good value selection at the bottom of round 1.

1.30:  49ers – Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
Grade: C+
Analysis:  I’m a fan of Jimmie Ward, but this is a bit of a reach.  I didn’t think he’d end up a first rounder, but the reality is the 49ers are a team that has the luxury of picking players they like.  Ward has starter’s upside, but it won’t be right away.

1.31:  Broncos – Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio St.
Grade: B
Analysis:  Really good value for the Broncos at the bottom of round one.  I didn’t think Roby would get passed the 49ers at No.30, and I’m pretty sure the Broncos were thinking the same way.  Roby had a down 2013 season, but if he had played in ’13 like he did in ’12, he would’ve been the first corner off the board.  He’s going to get a lot more playing time than some of the guys picked ahead of him.  Nice job by the Broncos.

1.32:  Vikings – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Grade:  A
Analysis:  The Vikings, much like the Browns, have their quarterback.  The top-rated QB on FRG’s Board, Bridgewater enters a situation where he’ll have a Hall of Fame runner to lean on and an explosive young receiver to throw to.  Teddy has everything you look for when projecting a player as a good NFL starter, and he’s absolutely worthy of a first-round selection.

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