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The NFL Draft's biggest winners, so far

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Two days down, one to go. Which teams have set themselves up for the homestretch?

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation 2014 NFL Draft

While I believe it's presumptuous and premature to attempt to give Draft grades at all (especially before the Draft is even done), I do think that there are a few aspects that one can evaluate. The things I consider when looking at each team's picks are: a) need, b) scheme fit, c) immediate impact and d) culture/identity fit.

Without giving any letter grades, and with the caveat that these players are just getting started in the work they must do to contribute on the field, let's look at a few teams that have thus far made out like bandits in this year's Draft, based on some of the criteria above.

The Obvious One

The Houston Texans

The Texans had the first pick, which typically helps boost the talent level in your class. That said, even past the decision to draft Jadeveon Clowney, I like what Houston has done thus far.

Round 1, Pick 1 (1) Jadeveon Clowney DE 6'6" 266 South Carolina 
Round 2, Pick 1 (33) Xavier Su'a-Filo OG 6'4" 307 UCLA
Round 3, Pick 1 (65) C.J. Fiedorowicz TE 6'5" 265 Iowa  
Round 3, Pick 19 (83) (From Steelers through Browns and Eagles) Louis Nix NT 6'2" 331 Notre Dame

Adding Nix -- who many considered the top nose tackle and a sure-fire first rounder -- to an already absurdly stacked defensive line was a small coup in the middle third round, but I also really liked their decision to upgrade the offensive line with Su'a-Filo, who many considered the top guard in the Draft. Throwing in an athletic, versatile tight end in Fiedorowicz was a quality move that just adds one more piece to their offense.

Reaction to Picks

Clowney is an excellent scheme fit. His elite athleticism and power should translate well to Houston's multiple 3-4, and when playing next to or opposite J.J. Watt, he will almost undoubtedly wreak havoc in the backfield as Watt continually sees double-teams.

Nix is a depth need and a fit as a 3-4 nose tackle, and Su'a-Filo makes tons of sense in Houston's zone-blocking scheme because of his quick feet and high-level athleticism.

Not a bad couple of days.

The Usual Suspects

The Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens have Ozzie Newsome, which typically helps boost the talent level in your class. As we've come to expect year in and year out, on paper, his picks look pretty good thus far.

Round 1, Pick 17 (17) C.J. Mosley ILB 6'2" 234 Alabama 
Round 2, Pick 16 (48) Timmy Jernigan NT 6'2" 299 Florida St. 
Round 3, Pick 15 (79) Terrence Brooks FS 5'11" 198 Florida St.  
Round 3, Pick 35 (99) (Compensatory selection) Crockett Gillmore TE 6'6" 260 Colorado St.

Mosley is a prototypical Ravens linebacker pick and fits perfectly as a rangy ILB in their 3-4. Schematically, he comes to an already equipped defense, and will get tossed in there with Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil and hopefully get some field time in conjunction with second year ILB Arthur Brown.

Up front, the Timmy Jernigan pick is an intriguing one. He has ability to slide out and play the five-technique in Baltimore's 3-4 and will be fun to watch as an interior disruptor at the nose on nickel downs. His temperament and playing style is "Raven-y" and he appears to be a great value in the middle of the second.

Sticking with the defensive theme -- apparently Newsome has had some success with that -- the Ravens grabbed a rangy free safety in Terrence Brooks to play the deep middle, thus allowing big hitter Matt Elam to drop down in the box and move around freely.

Finally, at pick 99, Crockett Gilmore is an underrated red-zone threat, a solid blocking tight end, and should give Joe Flacco a nice threat up the seam. Gilmore seems equipped for the NFC North in that he's built well and plays with some vinegar in his game, and he's a need with the recent departure of Ed Dickson.

The Pittsburgh Steelers

Round 1, Pick 15 (15) Ryan Shazier OLB 6'1" 237 Ohio St.
Round 2, Pick 14 (46) Stephon Tuitt DE 6'5" 304 Notre Dame 
Round 3, Pick 33 (97) (Compensatory selection) Dri Archer RB 5'8" 173 Kent St.

The Green Bay Packers

Round 1, Pick 21 (21) Ha Ha Clinton-Dix FS 6'1" 208 Alabama
Round 2, Pick 21 (53) Davante Adams WR 6'1" 212 Fresno St. 
Round 3, Pick 21 (85) Khyri Thornton DT 6'3" 304 Southern Miss 
Round 3, Pick 34 (98) (Compensatory selection) Richard Rodgers TE 6'4" 257 California

I thought that both the Steelers and the Packers -- the usual suspects along with the Ravens when it comes to excellent drafting -- both acquitted themselves well in the first two days of the Draft.

The Steelers got two highly rated high-upside defenders in Shazier and Tuitt, and by going with linebacker and defensive end with their first two picks, really stuck to their roots and core identity as a franchise. When you think about the Steelers, you think about linebackers and a tough defensive line.

As for the Packers, adding a premiere safety to shore up the pass defense and set a tone and identity as a hard-hitter was a priority for Ted Thompson, and he just gave Aaron Rodgers one of the best jump ball passers in the Draft in Devante Adams. Rodgers can throw the ball into the tightest of windows, and I'm guessing these two will connect for a nice amount of touchdowns over the next few years.

The NFC West Arms Race

The St. Louis Rams:

Round 1, Pick 2 (2) (From Redskins) Greg Robinson OT 6'5" 332 Auburn
Round 1, Pick 13 (13) Aaron Donald DT 6'1" 285 Pittsburgh
Round 2, Pick 9 (41) (From Bills) Lamarcus Joyner CB 5'8" 184 Florida St.
Round 3, Pick 11 (75) Tre Mason RB 5'8" 207 Auburn

I can't say enough about how much I liked the Rams' first two days, so I'll just keep it short and sweet. Greg Robinson and Aaron Donald add tenacity, physicality and explosive power to the trenches on each side and both embody the culture that pervades the NFC West. Joyner is a nice need pick with the departure of Cortland Finnegan, and gives them more flexibility in the secondary inside and out. Tre Mason feels like a luxury pick -- the Rams already have a solid backfield as it is -- but it's an enticing addition and adds some explosive speed to their offense.

The San Francisco 49ers

Round 1, Pick 30 (30) Jimmie Ward SS 5'11" 193 Northern Illinois 5.4
Round 2, Pick 25 (57) (From Chargers through Dolphins) Carlos Hyde RB 6'0" 230 Ohio St. 6.1
Round 3, Pick 6 (70) (From Jaguars) Marcus Martin C 6'3" 320 USC 5.6
Round 3, Pick 13 (77) (From Titans) Chris Borland ILB 5'11" 248 Wisconsin 5.3
Round 3, Pick 36 (100) (Compensatory selection) Brandon Thomas OT 6'3" 317 Clemson

Stacked with an incredible amount of ammunition, the Niners have not disappointed with the picks they've made thus far. I'm particularly impressed with what they've done to add Marcus Martin and Brandon Thomas in the third round. Both of those picks feel like great values and just add to what's a major strength and focal point for their franchise.


A few other teams that did well, in my opinion, were the Arizona Cardinals (stupid NFC West), the Cleveland Browns, the Minnesota Vikings, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Atlanta Falcons. The Panthers' moves have been intriguing (that DL!!), I can't argue with what the Saints have done and the Cowboys are off to a very solid start.