2014 NFL Draft grades roundup: Highlights and lowlights of Thursday's first round


Still struggling to figure out what you think of the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft? Here's a rundown of the highlights and lowlights according to the internet!

SB Nation 2014 NFL Draft

You just watched the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Now you need to make sense of what the hell you just saw. Luckily, your favorite sports outlets have rushed out to grade the first-round selections, so you know exactly who will and won't be awful NFL players. How nice!

For a complete analysis of all 32 picks, be sure to check out Matthew Fairburn's synopsis for SB Nation. Below are the highlights and lowlights according to SB Nation, CBS Sports, Sports Illustrated, NFL.com and ESPN.

Everybody loves Clowney now

The draft machine churned out a lot of criticism of Jadeveon Clowney. Nolan Nawrocki made the vague claim that Clowney "needs to learn how to be a pro," and Merril Hoge tried to ruin the internet by making a poorly-worded claim that sounded like he would take Michael Sam over the South Carolina prospect. In the end, cooler headsprevailed, and the Houston Texans were praised almost across the board for making Clowney their No. 1 pick. Clowney is coming off a middling season by his standards, and the Texans already have a potent pass rush, but Clowney was the consensus best player available.

NFL.com: "Passed with flying colors"
ESPN: Thumbs up
What Nolan Nawrocki thinks: [redacted]

The Jaguars reached for Bortles

There are few complaints about Blake Bortles as a player -- he's big, he's strong, he's athletic -- but many questioned whether the Jacksonville Jaguars reached too high to take him. Sure, he was a top 10 pick in a lot of mock drafts, but No. 3 overall was perhaps too bullish. The Jaguars could have desperately used a wide receiver like Sammy Watkins, or an edge rusher like Khalil Mack. The result is meh grades across the board. NFL.com was seemingly the harshest, wondering whether a No. 3 overall selection will put too much pressure on the rookie to turn around the work-in-progress Jags.

SB Nation: B
CBS Sports: C +
Sports Illustrated: B -
NFL.com: "Sorry, Charlie"
ESPN: Thumbs up

The Bills are insane

First-round grades varied widely on the Buffalo Bills' selection at No. 4, but not because of any concern about Sammy Watkins. In fact, the Clemson wideout was universally praised. What miffed writers was what Buffalo relinquished to trade up to No. 4 -- a first-rounder and fourth-rounder in 2015, plus their No. 9 pick. In terms of fit and value, Watkins may have been an "A" pick. A one-sided trade with the Cleveland Browns skewed perception of the selection, however.

SB Nation: C +
CBS Sports: A
Sports Illustrated: B -
NFL.com: "Try again"
ESPN: Thumbs down

The Raiders and Browns done good?

What an age we live in.

The Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns came out of the first round with some of the highest grades of any team. The Raiders addressed a major need by selecting Khalil Mack, a player who would have also satisfied Al Davis' lust for uber-athleticism. The Browns, meanwhile, were able to secure first-round and fourth-round picks in 2015, select a top-notch cornerback in Justin Gilbert, then secure a franchise quarterback in Johnny Manziel.

Now we wait to see how it will all blow up.

SB Nation: A -
CBS Sports: A +
Sports Illustrated: A
NFL.com: "Passed with flying colors"
ESPN: Thumbs up
SB Nation: B - (Gilbert) / A - (Manziel)
CBS Sports: A / A
Sports Illustrated: B / A
NFL.com: "Passed with flying colors"
ESPN: Thumbs up

Everybody loves Teddy now, too

Teddy Bridgewater had fallen like stone throughout the pre-draft process. Once the near-consensus No. 1 overall pick, he wasn't even projected to go in the first round at last check with Mike Mayock because his pro day was that bad.

Photo credit: Brad Penner, USA Today Sports

Well, Bridgewater did sneak into the first round, and was universally lauded, too. Only CBS Sports didn't shower praise upon the Minnesota Vikings for trading with the Seattle Seahawks -- one spot ahead of the Texans, who have the No. 33 overall pick -- to select the Louisville signal-caller. Bridgewater may be refined enough to start for the Vikings next season.

SB Nation: A +
CBS Sports: B
Sports Illustrated: A +
NFL.com: "Passed with flying colors"
ESPN: Thumbs up

The worst pick of the draft

Now for some old fashioned ridicule of what experts deemed the worst picks of the first round.

SB Nation: Tennessee Titans select OT Taylor Lewan. Grade: D

The risk: Taylor Lewan has run into a few incidents off the field and was just average as a senior.

The reward: Lewan has an ideal build for the position and could develop into a franchise tackle for the Titans. They needed to upgrade the offensive line, so they took the top player on their board.

CBS Sports: Tie among Jags selecting Bortles, Lions selecting TE Eric Ebron and Chiefs selecting DE Dee Ford Grades: C +

On Ebron:

Although Ebron boasts some eye-popping measurables, he's still raw as a receiver, as he needs to become a more consistent route runner, and demonstrate better physicality both at the line of scrimmage, as well as when contending for the ball in the air. A lot of upside here, but a bit of a gamble with the tenth pick, considering the lack of refinement.

On Ford:

Ford's first step, agility and closing burst make him a disruptive threat off the edge and give the Chiefs yet another speed-rusher to rotate in on passing downs. Ford is talented, but the Chiefs may have been better-suited addressing a bigger need here at 23.

Sports Illustrated: Tie between Dolphins selecting OT Ja'Wuan James and Chiefs selecting Ford. Grades: C

On James:

Teams can get into trouble when they eschew the best talent on the board for positions of need, but the Dolphins found themselves a bit boxed into a corner — horribly thin and outmatched along the offensive line, plus unable (or unwilling) to move up for one of the top four tackles. Neither Kouandjio nor Moses provided much more of a safe pick than James, and James may wind up being the best of the bunch. Still, in terms of where a prospect landed on the overall draft board, this was a reach.

NFL.com: Bills select Watkins at No. 4 overall. Grade: "Try again"

This might draw some heat, but the Bills traded way too much to move up five picks to get a wide receiver, even one as good coming out of college as Watkins. The offense will love Watkins' ability, but the team paid a ton -- the No. 9 pick this year, plus a first-rounder and fourth-rounder next year -- to move up to get a player at a position that hasn't panned out all that much in the top 10.

ESPN: Seven teams were given a "thumbs down." Let's go with the Giants selecting Odell Beckham Jr. at No. 12 overall.

The New York Giants needed help at receiver, sure, but the No. 12 pick in a deep wide receiver draft was too much to spend on Beckham, who looks too much like the wide receivers they already have. The long-range needs on the offensive line should have been addressed here, and there were good value players available who should have been taken.

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