Analysing Round One of the 2014 NFL Draft - picks 1-16...

American Football - NFL

The NFL Draft got underway last night, and whilst grades for picks often don't tell the full story, here is my analysis on each pick of the first round...

  1. Houston Texans – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

    Having decided to not take a quarterback with the first overall pick, the Texans made the sensible decision to take the best player on the board in pass rusher Clowney. It's unclear how he will fit in Romeo Crennel's 3-4 scheme, whether as a down lineman or as an outside linebacker, but an athlete like Clowney will fit almost anywhere. Clowney will now be able to team up with JJ Watt in the Texans' defense as they seek to slow down Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck in the AFC South.

  2. St. Louis Rams – Greg Robinson, T, Auburn

    With Clowney off the board at number two, the Rams may have had offers to trade down but decided to get aggressive on the offensive line with Robinson. An absolute mauler with dominant strength in the run game, Robinson has huge potential as a future left tackle but could feature at guard to begin with whilst he works on his technique. In a division as physical as the NFC West, adding an athletic freak like Robinson is a great pick for Head Coach Jeff Fisher as they look to close the gap on the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.

  3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida

    The first shock of the night came with the third pick as Jacksonville took the plunge early, picking a quarterback. The 2011 pick of Blaine Gabbert was an absolute disaster, leaving Gus Bradley's men with Chad Henne at quarterback. Whilst Johnny Manziel had been strongly linked as the selection, they chose to go with Bortles, who has prototypical size and flashed pocket awareness whilst at Central Florida but will need some work on his mechanics to be a success.

  4. Buffalo Bills (from Cleveland Browns) – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

    The first trade of the night arrived within the first hour as the Bills gave up a 2015 first round pick to move up and grab Clemson receiver Watkins. Buffalo had to surround quarterback EJ Manuel, their 2013 first round pick, with receiving talent and they did just that with the move up for Watkins. With elite speed, hands and body control, Watkins can win at all levels of the field and will now provide Watkins with a safety blanket for years to come – but in a deep receiver class, was it worth giving up a huge pick next year to grab one?

  5. Oakland Raiders – Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo

    Tipped to go with the first overall pick earlier this week, Mack was still on the board for the Raiders and with help needed on defense, GM Reggie McKenzie made a wise pick in taking Mack. Able to play as a linebacker or as a down-lineman, Mack offers versatility and a legitimate pass rushing threat, which will certainly improve a flimsy Oakland defense. He may spend most of his early time at strongside linebacker with LaMarr Woodley and Justin Tuck at defensive end, but his scheme versatility will be valuable in years to come.

  6. Atlanta Falcons – Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M

    With Clowney, Robinson and Mack off the board, Atlanta had to 'settle' for Matthews, which is still a great move. A pure technician with great footwork in pass protection, Matthews will come in and offer immediate help for quarterback Matt Ryan, who was under far too much pressure last season. A smart player and high character person, Matthews fits in well with what the Falcons have done in recent years, and as a day one starter at either left or right tackle, GM Thomas Dimitroff can be happy with their selection.

  7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

    Tampa were linked with a number of names in the lead up to the draft – including quarterbacks – but ultimately, they chose to take a wide receiver after the departure of Mike Williams to Buffalo in free agency. Evans, a huge receiver who teamed up well with Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M, has the prototypical size for a receiver in the modern NFL and will form a “two towers” tandem with Vincent Jackson, replicating what head coach Lovie Smith and quarterback Josh McCown had in Chicago with Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall. If they can match those two, Tampa will be very happy with this pick.

  8. Cleveland Browns (from Minnesota Vikings) – Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

    After trading down to pick number nine, the Browns moved back up to number eight in order to secure the services of cornerback Justin Gilbert. Cleveland have been searching for a partner for Joe Haden at cornerback for some time, and decided to make a move this year to get one. Gilbert has terrific speed, ball skills and even return skills, but has tight hips and poor footwork, but if he can clear up some of those technical issues in Mike Pettine's defense, Gilbert should be the man Cleveland are looking for in the secondary.

  9. Minnesota Vikings – Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA

    With the pick previously owned by Buffalo and then Cleveland, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer went back to his defensive roots to strengthen Minnesota's pass rushing options with UCLA linebacker Barr. A great athlete who is somewhat raw, Barr possesses natural bend around the edge and will draw comparisons to Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson – who Zimmer coached in Cincinnati. With flexibility to play outside linebacker or defensive end, like Johnson did for Zimmer, Barr could have found his perfect landing spot given Zimmer's track record.

  10. Detroit Lions – Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

    This was something of a shock after being linked with wide receivers and defensive backs for the majority of draft season, but the Lions add yet another receiving weapon for quarterback Matt Stafford to work with. They already have Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria at tight end, but Ebron offers elite athleticism and playmaking ability from the position – even if he needs to work on catching the ball at times. If Ebron can become more consistent with his hands, the Lions have added another receiving threat alongside Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate as they look to outscore the NFC North.

  11. Tennessee Titans – Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan

    The Titans were in a situation where no part of their roster was particularly bad, but also not immune to improvement. That meant that when the best tackle left on the board, Taylor Lewan, was available at 11, they decided to improve their offensive line even more following big splashes for guards Andy Levitre and Chance Warmack last offseason. With left tackle Michael Roos the wrong side of 30, drafting a young replacement who can step in is good planning from Tennessee, whilst Lewan could even beat out free agency acquisition Michael Oher at right tackle this season.

  12. New York Giants – Odell Beckham, WR, LSU

    Hakeem Nicks was allowed to leave MetLife Stadium this offseason, leaving the Giants with something of a hole at wide receiver – and it's one that they filled last night. Beckham came off the board here as he will team up with Victor Cruz in the passing game for Eli Manning, and offers superb body control, reliable hands and impressive speed. Some will question whether receiver was really their biggest need, but with a player like Beckham in their lap, it would've been hard to pass on him.

  13. St. Louis Rams – Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

    One of the biggest risers throughout the post-season workouts, Donald was projected to go in the top half of the first round and that's exactly what happened as St. Louis added him to an already promising defense. The Rams can now use Robert Quinn and Chris Long on the edge with Michael Brockers as a nose tackle, freeing up Donald to work as a penetrating under tackle in their four-man front. It's a terrifying proposition to face, and one that St. Louis will benefit from in the NFC West. Alongside James Laurinaitis, Alec Ogletree and Janoris Jenkins, the Rams have an ever improving defense and sack master Donald will add even more to it.

  14. Chicago Bears – Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

    Whilst the Bears would have loved to have added Donald to their defense, they were always going to spend this pick on that side of the ball, and it was no surprise to see them add Fuller, who they have courted throughout the draft process. Able to play inside, outside or even at safety, Fuller is a valuable addition to a Chicago defense which has struggled in recent times, and with Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings both over 30 now, Fuller adds some youth at cornerback which they desperately need.

  15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State

    Another team who were thoroughly expected to add to their defense, the Steelers followed conventional thinking and went for a linebacker in Shazier – despite many thinking they would go for a player in the secondary. Shazier had been called too small to play in a 3-4 defense but he has something in his favour; blazing speed. His ability to get from sideline to sideline in a hurry will reinvigorate an ageing Steelers defence which was in desperate need of some fresh athleticism.

  16. Dallas Cowboys – Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame

    For a few minutes whilst Dallas were on the clock, the world was waiting for Jerry Jones to pick Johnny Manziel and break the internet in doing so. Yet from all the excitement of that possibility, the Cowboys hit us with a fairly dull yet sensible pick. Martin can play anywhere on the offensive line and will provide even more protection for quarterback Tony Romo, alongside 2011 first round pick Tyron Smith and 2013 first round pick Travis Frederick. Still no help on defense though for Dallas, which should come on day two...