Grades: Progress report on the 2014 NFL draft

Rob Reischel
Special to Packer Plus
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Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers (12) jokes with Oakland's Khalil Mack at Coliseum during a game Dec. 20, 2015. Mack is arguably the best player from the 2014 draft.

The age of instant analysis can be exhausting, draining and borderline comedic all at the same time.

Five minutes after something happens, it’s immediately judged. Grades are instantly assigned. Opinions are formed within seconds.

When it comes to the NFL draft, that’s foolish.

Those close to the game fully understand a draft class needs time to find their wings. Then, they’ll either fly or flop.

“You’ve got to give it three years,” former Packers general manager Ron Wolf once said. “By then, you’ve got a pretty good idea if a guy can play or not.”

Using that as a barometer, Packer Plus looks back on the 2014 draft class of every team in the NFL and assigns grades. Packer Plus also looks at some of the grades those same classes were given back on draft weekend of 2014.




One reason Phil Emery was fired as the Bears’ general manager and Mark Trestman lost his head coaching job was this draft. First-round CB Kyle Fuller has flopped and faces an uphill climb simply to be on the roster in 2017. Second-round DE Ego Ferguson was waived in March and remains a street free agent. Fourth-round safety Brock Vereen and sixth-round quarterback Davis Fales have also been released. The only full-time starters have been seventh-round OT Charles Leno Jr. and sixth-round punter Pat O’Donnell. B




Tight end Eric Ebron was the 10th-overall pick in the draft, but has been nothing more than a tease. Two picks later, the New York Giants took Odell Beckham Jr. The rest of the NFC North should still be sending the Lions thank you cards for taking Ebron. Second-round OLB/DE Kyle Van Noy was traded after two sub-par seasons. Fourth-round CB Nevin Lawson has develop

ed into a solid starter and is arguably the Lions’ best value pick in this draft. Third-round C Travis Swanson has developed into a quality starter, as well. B-



The Packers found three high-level starters in this draft, making it a rousing success. First-round safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix made the Pro Bowl in 2016 and the Packers recently picked up the

option for his fifth year. Second-round WR Davante Adams was up-and-down his first two years, but had 12 touchdowns in 2017. And fifth-round center Corey Linsley was a find and ranks among the top-10 centers in football. Third-round TE Richard Rogers and seventh-round WR Jeff Janis have had memorable moments, while sixth-round CB Demetri Goodson has flashed, but is o

n IR with a torn ACL. Third-round DT Kyhri Thornton ranks among the biggest busts

of the Ted Thompson-era, while fourth-round LB Carl Bradford and fifth-round WR Jared Abbrederis are out of the l

eague. B+



First-round OLB Anthony Barr has already reached two Pro Bowls. Odds say he’ll be a force in the division for the foreseeable future. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, taken with the final pick in the first round, suffered a devastating knee injury last summer and his career is in doubt. Bridgewater had shown signs of becoming a quality starter, and his injury forced the Vikings to trade for Sam Bradford last year. Third-round DT Scott Crichton and fifth-round OL Antone Exum gave the Vikings little to nothing. Fourth-round RB Jerick McKinnon has been a serviceable reserve. The rest of the class did nothing. B+




Cowboys OG Zack Martin went to the Pro Bowl as a rookie and has returned each of the past two years, as well. Martin, a left tackle in college, is a terrific pass protector and has some nastiness as a run blocker. Second-round DE Demarcus Lawrence led the Cowboys with eight sacks in 2015, but injuries limited him to just nine games a year ago. Fourth-round OLB Anthony Hitchens is versatile and has made 36 career starts. The final six picks in the draft are no longer on the roster. B-



Top pick Odell Beckham Jr. is on track to go to the Hall of Fame one day. In three seasons, Beckham Jr. has 288 receptions, 35 touchdowns and 4,122 receiving yards. Second-round C Weston Richburg has 30 career starts and has been solid. Third-round DT Jay Bromley is a situational player, while fifth-round SLB Devon Kennard was a steal. Fourth-round RB Andre Williams lasted just two seasons. B



Eagles first-round DE Marcus Smith has just 23 tackles and four sacks in his first three seasons. Second-round WR Jordan Matthews has speed limitations, but has been relatively productive. Fourth-round CB Jaylen Watkins, fifth-round DE Taylor Hart and seventh-round DT Beau Allen have been role players. The rest of the class was invisible. B



The Redskins’ first-round pick in 2014 went to St. Louis in the Robert Griffith III trade. Washington did find a pair of starting offensive linemen in the third round in right tackle Morgan Moses and center Spencer Long. Second-round DE Trent Murphy was quiet his first two seasons, then erupted with nine sacks in 2016. Fourth-round CB Bashaud Breeland has been a steal with 43 career starts, seven interceptions and seven forced fumbles. Overall, the Redskins recovered nicely after not having a first-round pick. C+




The jewel of this class has been fourth-round RB Devonta Freeman, who has back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and 127 receptions over the last two years. LT Jake Matthews, the No. 6 pick in the draft, has rebounded from a rough rookie season to become an anchor up front. Second-round DT Ra’Shede Hageman has been a solid role player. Fifth-round safety Ricardo Allen has developed into an above average starter, as well. B



First-round WR Kelvin Benjamin looked like a future star during a brilliant rookie season, but suffered a torn ACL in Year 2. Benjamin spent much of last year trying to round back into shape. Second-round DT Kony Ealy was traded to New England this offseason. Third-round OG Trai Turner hasn’t missed a start in the last two seasons and is developing into one of the better guards. Fourth-round safety Tre Boston (Los Angeles Chargers) and fifth-round CB Bene Benwikere (Cincinnati) are already with other teams. C+



The Saints moved up seven spots to take WR Brandin Cooks with the 20th-overall selection. In three seasons, Cooks had 215 receptions and 20 touchdowns. Cooks was traded to New England this offseason, though, for a first-round pick that the Saints then used on OT Ryan Ramczyk. The rest of New Orleans’ draft class was a mess. Four of the Saints’ other five picks are still in the NFL, but none of them plays for New Orleans. B+



The Buccaneers hit it big with WR Mike Evans, who was taken with the No. 7-overall pick. Evans already has 138 career receptions, nearly 3,600 yards and 27 touchdowns. He also was named to the 2016 Pro Bowl, and his presence alone makes this class a winner. Second-round TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins was released last September after a DUI charge. Third-round RB Charles Sims has been serviceable and fifth-round OG Kevin Pamphile started 14 games a year ago. A-




This was largely a two-person draft class for the Cardinals. First-rounder Deone Bucannon moved from SS to ILB in his second year and has been a playmaker. Third-round WR Josh Brown, who has 4.34 second speed in the 40, has averaged 50 catches, 726 yards and five touchdowns in his first three seasons. The rest of the class has done little to nothing. The biggest disappointment has been second-round tight end Troy Niklas, who has just eight catches in three seasons. B



The Rams were in St. Louis for this draft and had a pair of first-round draft picks thanks to the Robert Griffith Jr. trade. The Rams received the No. 2 pick from Washington in that deal, and bombed with OT Greg Robinson. The Rams did rebound nicely, though, and took DT Aaron Donald with the No. 13 pick. Today, Donald is considered by many to be the most dominant defensive player in football. Second-round CB Lamarcus Joyner has been a part-time starter, while sixth-round CB E.J. Gaines has developed into a respectable starter. The rest of the group did little. A+



The best player from this class might have been third-round ILB Chris Borland, who stunned the football world by retiring after his rookie season. Second-round RB Carlos Hyde is a battering ram, who fell just 12 yards shy of 1,000 yards last season. With an improved offensive line, Hyde could still blossom into a star. First-round SS Jimmie Ward spent his early years at corner, but is being moved back to safety in 2017. That should help Ward jump start a career that has yet to take off. Fifth-round DE Aaron Lynch has 19 career starts and 14 sacks. B



One big reason the Seahawks slipped after winning back-to-back NFC championships and Super Bowl XLVIII was their lousy 2014 draft class. Second-round WR Paul Richardson has just 51 career receptions. Second-round C Justin Britt has been the best of this class, with 47 career starts. The Seahawks found a pair of reserve linebackers in the fourth round with Cassius Marsh and Kevin Pierre-Louis. After that, though, the cupboard was bare. C




The Bills traded the No. 9 overall pick, as well as first- and fourth-round picks in 2015 to Cleveland to move up and draft Sammy Watkins at No. 4 overall. Watkins is certainly a unique talent, but he’s battled a myriad of injuries and hasn’t produced like the Bills had hoped. To date, Watkins hasn’t come close to justifying the hefty price tag. Third-round ILB Preston Brown has been a tackling machine with 368 tackles in just three seasons. The Bills also found offensive line depth in second-round OT Cyrus Kouandjio and seventh-round OT Seantrel Henderson. B



The Dolphins hit it big with second-round WR Jarvis Landry, who’s had consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and has already been to a Pro Bowl. First-round RT Ja’Wuan James is a rising player with 39 starts to his credit. Fourth-round safety Walt Aikens has been a special teams standout, while seventh-round DE Terrence Fede has been a rotational player. But third-round OT Billy Turner was released early in his third season and the rest of the class disappointed, as well. B-



The key to this draft for New England remains second-round QB Jimmy Garoppolo. The Patriots could still trade Garoppolo and would likely receive a king’s ransom. New England could also hold onto Garoppolo and eventually make him Tom Brady’s replacement. First-round DT Dominique Easley was a massive bust and is playing for the Los Angeles Rams now. Fourth-round C Bryan Stork retired after two years in the league. The best player to date has been fourth-round running back James White, who could have been the MVP of Super Bowl LI. B-



The Jets took safety Calvin Pryor at pick No. 18, three spots before Green Bay took Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Pryor has been a disappointment and his future is muddied, while Clinton-Dix has developed into one of the NFL’s better safeties. The Jets’ draft didn't get a whole lot better, either. Second-round TE Jace Amaro lasted just two years before he was waived. And of the Jets’ 12 selections in 2014, only four still remain with the team. B+




Ravens ILB C.J. Mosley, the 17th pick overall, has 342 tackles in three years and has already been to three Pro Bowls. Second-round DT Timmy Jernigan was traded after three highly-productive seasons, while third-round FS Terrence Brooks was waived after two years. Depth was found later in the draft. B



First-round CB Darqueze Dennard can’t get on the field consistently and has been a disappointment, to date. Second-round RB Jeremy Hill has 29 touchdowns and more than 2,700 rushing yards, while fourth-round C Russell Bodline hasn’t missed a start. The player to watch from this class is fifth-round QB A.J. McCarron, who could eventually land the Bengals a first- or second-round draft pick via trade. B+



The Browns traded up in the first round for both CB Justin Gilbert (No. 8) and QB Johnny Manziel (No. 22). Gilbert lasted just two years, was traded to Pittsburgh for a sixth-round pick, then released by the Steelers in February. Manziel was a sideshow both on and off the field, was released in March 2016, and remains out of football. Second-round OG Joel Bitonio has been solid and recently signed a five-year contract extension. Third-round OLB Christian Kirksey has also been highly productive with 292 tackles and eight sacks in three years. But teams like Cleveland, that haven’t won in decades, can’t miss in the first round and certainly can’t miss twice. A-



The Steelers landed one of the NFL’s elite inside linebackers in Ryan Shazier with the 16th pick in the draft. Shazier is coming off his first Pro Bowl and has 210 tackles and seven sacks through three seasons. Second-round DE Stephon Tuitt has been another anchor on the Steelers’ defense and has 111/2 sacks through three seasons. Fourth-round WR Martavius Bryant is coming off a one-year suspension, but is one of the NFL’s top deep threats (17.3 yards per catch) when he’s been available. Third-round RB Dri Archer was the biggest disappointment, carrying the ball just 10 times for 40 yards before his release midway through the 2015 season. B+




The Texans used the No. 1-overall pick on DE Jadeveon Clowney, who battled injuries his first two seasons. But Clowney erupted in 2016 with six sacks and 52 tackles and reached his first Pro Bowl. It’s beginning to look like Houston made the right call taking Clowney No. 1. Third round TE C.J. Fiedorowicz has been a steady player, while sixth-round RB Alfred Blue has 1,646 rushing yards in three seasons. Second-round OG Xavier Su'a-Filo has been solid, while fourth-round pick Tom Savage could be Houston’s starting quarterback in Week 1. A-



The Colts made one of the worst trades in franchise history when they sent their first-round pick to Cleveland for running back Trent Richardson. Second-round OT Jack Newhart was a find, as was third-round WR Donte Moncrief. Two players are out of the NFL, while seventh-round OT John Ulrick plays for Arizona. C



The key for this class remains quarterback Blake Bortels, who was drafted with the third-overall pick. Bortels looked like a potential star in 2015, but regressed badly in 2016. Fifth-round LB Telvin Smith has been terrific with 350 tackles, 51/2 sacks and 19 passes defensed in three years. Second-round WR Allen Robinson has produced at a high level, while fellow second-round WR Marqise Lee began to fulfill his promise in 2016. Third-round C Brandon Linder should be a rock in the middle of the Jaguars’ line for years to come. If Bortels eventually becomes the answer at quarterback, Jacksonville’s grade will jump even higher. A-



The Titans found a potential 10-year starter at LT in Taylor Lewan in Round 1. Lewan has started 31 games over the last two seasons and reached the 2016 Pro Bowl. Fifth-round LB Avery Williamson is on the brink of stardom, while fourth-round DE DaQuan Jones is an emerging player himself. The rest of the class failed to inspire. C




The Broncos drafted just six players and have had mixed results. First-round CB Bradley Roby has been up-and-down, although Denver just picked up his fifth-year option. Second-round WR Cody Latimer has been a bust and has just 16 catches in three seasons. RT Michael Schofield was plucked in Round 3 and center Matt Paradis was found in Round 6. Paradis has played near a Pro Bowl level, while Schofield has been relegated to the second team for now. The rest of the class offered little. B



The Chiefs acquired quarterback Alex Smith for a pair of second-round draft picks, including their 2014 selection. Smith has been serviceable and reached the Pro Bowl in two of his four years in Kansas City. The rest of the Chiefs’ draft has been so-so. First-round DE Dee Ford was quiet his first two seasons, then erupted for 10 sacks in 2016. Sixth-round RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif has been a steal. Fourth-round RB De’Anthony Thomas was a bust, while the Chiefs are still waiting for second-round CB Phillip Gaines to emerge. C+



Why have the Raiders reversed years of losing in a relatively short time? A big reason is general manager Reggie McKenzie hit it big in this draft. Outside linebacker Khalil Mack, the No. 5 pick, might be the best player in this entire draft. Mack has 30 sacks in his first three years and was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2016. Then in the second round, McKenzie selected quarterback Derek Carr, who was on the verge of greatness before breaking his fibula last December. Carr is expected to make a full recovery, though, and should quickly resume his place among the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. McKenzie also found starting guard Gabe Jackson in the third round and starting DT Justin Ellis in the fourth. A



The Chargers found a big-time CB in Jason Verrett in Round 1, but injuries have limited him to just 24 games in three seasons. Second round OLB Jeremiah Attaochu has 10 career sacks, but missed eight games a year ago with a foot injury. The rest of the six-person class failed to produce. B


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