The first round of the 2014 NFL draft wraps up with more than a few surprises. How does the landscape look after the final 11 picks?
#22 – Detroit Lions – Mike Evans – WR – Texas A&M
Getting a second receiver alongside Calvin Johnson has been a mission of the Detroit Lions for the past couple years. Various experiments have met with little to no success. So they attack the problem from the outset, landing Texas A&M star Mike Evans. The possibilities are endless with him. Evans, like Johnson, stands a rangy 6’5″ with the explosive leaping ability win contested catches with regularity. He also has good speed and some separation skills. Matthew Stafford will enjoy having yet another big target in the red zone.
#23 – San Francisco 49ers – Donte Moncrief – WR – Ole Miss
Missing out on Evans does not warn the San Francisco 49ers from taking a receiver themselves. After all, they need one and Ole Miss product Donte Moncrief is probably the most underrated in the entire 2014 class. Not only does he bring size at 6’3″ but he is also deceptively fast, able to gain separation against a corner on deep throws. His strong lower body and polished route running also allow him to take quick passes and turn them into long gains. Soft hands and toughness make going across the middle in traffic no problem as well.
#24 – Cincinnati Bengals – Bradley Roby – CB – Ohio State
The loss of Leon Hall hasn’t crippled the Cincinnati Bengals defense but it has issued a stark reminder about the fragility of their secondary. Dre Kirkpatrick remains a disappointment. Perhaps the team should think about another crack in the first round. Bradley Roby hasn’t shined in 2013 for OhioState but he has certainly flashed the overall ability that could make him a star in the pros. He has good enough size, excellent speed and athleticism and has improved his overall coverage ability over the second half of the college season. The upside is big with him, and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is good with defensive backs.
#25 – Arizona Cardinals – Brandon Scherff – OT – Iowa
Improving the offensive line remains a priority for the Arizona Cardinals. Carson Palmers seem entrenched at quarterback for the next couple seasons, so protecting him is something Bruce Arians will want to do. Finding a left tackle to put next to Jonathan Cooper who should return from injury next year, would be ideal. Brandon Scherff is one of the hot names rising up draft boards lately. Big, strong, and nasty he is technically sound and athletic enough to play either on the right or left side. He should help the struggling Cardinals running game right away.
#26 – Cleveland Browns (from IND) – Louis Nix III – DT – Notre Dame
Considering where Louis Nix is landing, the Cleveland Browns can call it a steal. The Notre Dame senior is by far the best nose tackle in the 2014 NFL draft. Despite some injury red flags, he is a load to handle at 350 lbs and maintains the quickness and agility to cause problems for the offensive line when they try to run the ball. Cleveland already has a good run defense, but the chance to add Nix who can eat up double teams could really open up the pass rush possibilities for Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo.
#27 – Carolina Panthers – Jordan Matthews – WR – Vanderbilt
Cam Newton, in spite of his success of late, still needs more help at wide receiver. The Carolina Panthers defense can’t be counted on to carry the team all the way to a Super Bowl. That responsibility rests on the quarterbacks, and as it stands he doesn’t have enough weapons. Jordan Matthews is not an explosive receiver out of Vanderbilt, but he has proven a very reliable one. His ability to run routes coupled with excellent size and soft hands make him a constant threat across the middle and in the red zone.
#28 – Minnesota Vikings (from NE) – Brett Hundley – QB – UCLA
In a surprise move, the New England Patriots trade out of the first round, giving their pick to the Minnesota Vikings who promptly do what they couldn’t early in the round by taking a quarterback. With Johnny Manziel still on the board, they instead opt for upside with Brett Hundley of UCLA. Much bigger than Manziel, he has the same dual threat capability with a much stronger arm and understanding of running a pro-style offense. He does lack on experience which might lead to some growing pains but in the long-term Hundley could give the Vikings what they’ve lacked.
#29 – Kansas City Chiefs – Eric Ebron – TE – North Carolina
Adding another playmaker to the passing game is a must for the Kansas City Chiefs. They are remarkably fortunate to land the highly gifted Eric Ebron out of North Carolina. Athletically he is the best at his position in the class, having the great size and speed combination the new hybrid tight ends like Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski possess. He needs work on his route running but the agility is there for him to become a matchup problem no matter where he’s lined up on the field.
#30 – New Orleans Saints – David Yankey – OG – Stanford
Drew Brees has carried the New Orleans Saints for years on his right arm but in order to extend his success with the team, they will have to improve their running game. Doing so requires better play at guard. The loss of Carl Nicks has continued to haunt them, so the Saints set about fill the position with a true talent. David Yankey is a smart, powerful, experienced blocker from Stanford who excels in run blocking but maintains the athleticism to handle various types of pass rushers. He has experience playing tackle, which adds some versatility to his game. Sean Payton can plug him in almost anywhere on the line and yield some results.
#31 – Denver Broncos – Loucheiz Purifoy – CB – Florida
The defensive secondary remains an ongoing problem for the Denver Broncos. Champ Bailey is showing his age this season and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a free agent next year. There is a definite need for a young talent influx. Loucheiz Purifoy is not the most polished corner in the 2014 class but he might be the most athletically gifted. He has good height at 6’0″ coupled with blazing speed that makes him almost impossible to beat deep. There are kinks in his game that need refinement, but the upside with him is higher than any other defensive back in this draft.
#32 – Seattle Seahawks – Morgan Moses – OT – Virginia
Russell Wilson has not gotten adequate protection all year from the Seattle Seahawks. It is a problem that could derail their Super Bowl hopes but also their long-term future if he keeps taking so many hits and sacks. They need to bolster the offensive line. Morgan Moses is a late riser on draft boards. A massive human being at 6’6″, 330 lbs he beats defenders with strength and underrated footwork that allows him to control where he wants the person he’s blocking to go. Given his size he’s a better fit on the right side, which is exactly where the Seahawks would want to put him.