|Teddy Bridgewater was selected with the 32nd and final pick of the first round by the Minnesota Vikings|
Last night’s NFL Draft first round was as exciting as there’s been for many years, with the evening full of surprise picks, players falling and trades galore. It may be early days, of course, with none of the 32 players taken having set foot on an NFL field, however it’s never too early to analyse the moves made and dish out some instant judgements on the players selected. Scroll down for the three best and worst picks made in Radio City Music Hall late last evening.
Three Best Picks
Teddy Bridgewater (QB), Louisville – 32nd Overall – Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings made the shrewd move to trade back into the first round and select Quarterback Bridgewater after he’d looked likely to slide out of the first round altogether. At the beginning of the draft process the Louisville product had been tipped to go first overall, but a poor pro day and concerns about his physical makeup saw him fall behind other passers Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles. The price Minnesota paid to move up, just a fourth round pick, was minimal and the selection makes perfect sense as the Vikings look to move on from Christian Ponder in the near future. Furthermore, had they not acted and traded up then Houston would have been perfectly positioned to nab Bridgewater with the first pick in the second round tonight.
Brandin Cooks (WR), Oregon State – 20th Overall – New Orleans Saints
After the Saints traded away Darren Sproles this off-season they needed to add an explosive play-maker on the offensive side, and they got the perfect guy in Cooks. The former Oregon State receiver had an impressive combine showing and he is undoubtedly the shiftiest wideout in the draft process this year. Cooks also offers a threat in the return game and closely resembles DeSean Jackson, the former Eagles receiver who was released and signed by divisional rivals Washington last month. Saints QB Drew Brees will be thrilled to have a new toy to play with in the passing game, and Cooks should benefit from being thrown the ball by one of the top signal callers in the league.
Johnny Manziel (QB), Texas A & M – 22nd Overall – Cleveland Browns
“Johnny Football” suffered the indignity of falling into the second half of the draft’s first round, but his slide was Cleveland’s gain as the Browns gleefully traded up four spots and snagged their QB of the future, and quite possibly the present too. When the Browns passed on Manziel at number eight they must have thought their chance to land the Texas A & M star had gone but as more and more teams focused on the defensive side of the ball Manziel fell into their laps as they gave up a third round pick to swap slots with Philadelphia. However the price was more than worth paying as earlier on in the evening the Browns had acquired a first round pick next year from Buffalo, who moved up from nine to four to select wide receiver Sammy Watkins. So in effect Cleveland turned the fourth and 26th picks into: cornerback Justin Gilbert, quarterback Johnny Manziel, an additional fourth round pick this year and a first round pick in 2015. Not a bad night’s work.
Three Worst Picks
Eric Ebron (TE), North Carolina – 10th Overall – Detroit Lions
Ebron is a good player, make no mistake about that. But tight end is a non-premium position in the NFL and to select one in the top ten when you have plenty of holes elsewhere on the roster is an unforgivable mistake. Brandon Pettigrew already mans the position for Detroit and he’s no slouch, so it made little sense for the Lions to ignore the defensive side of the ball where they are in desperate need of help. Their offensive line could also do with some TLC, so Ebron has to go down as a luxury pick from the Detroit management who’d better hope the North Carolina product turns into the next Jimmy Graham or they could rue the selection in the coming months.
Jimmie Ward (S), Northern Illinois – 30th Overall – San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco were at more of a disadvantage than Detroit in that they were picking towards the end of round one. Nonetheless, they ignored a position of need (wide receiver) and decided to take a safety with their first pick when they did the same last year by selecting Eric Reid, who enjoyed a fine rookie campaign. With former USC wideout Marqise Lee still on the board it was surprising to see the 49ers forgo him, with the San Fran receiving corps having come up short in the NFC Championship game in Seattle. Ward has the potential to be a very good safety and he packs a punch in the middle of the field – I just don’t think he was the best option on the board when San Francisco made their pick.
Taylor Lewan (OT), Michigan – 11th Overall – Tennessee Titans
Tennessee were unable to land one of the top two tackles in the draft, Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews, and as a result ended up selecting Lewan despite him being a tier below the other two names at his position and tackle not being an urgent need for the Titans. Having lost Kenny Britt in free agency a wide receiver would have been a better play, particularly with the likes of Odell Beckham still on the board. Lewan has the chance to be a very good tackle but the Titans appear to be placing an unjustified amount of faith in QB Jake Locker, while also failing to surround him with good enough weapons on the outside to ultimately be successful.
Who do you think were the best and worst selections made in the 2014 NFL Draft’s first round? Have your say in the comments or by tweeting @fredjstanley.