Ranking the First Round Picks

I will hold off on a full assessment of the Birds until after the whole draft plays out, but, as you will be able to tell from where I ranked their performance last night, I am not exactly thrilled with the situation of last night.  In short, I think a “reach” in the first round almost always equates to “bad pick.”  And, I think this for the simplest of reasons.  If you “reached,” that means that, by definition, that player would not have gone anywhere near that pick.  So, why not either (a) take another player and pick the “reach” with your next pick or (b) if you are that scared of losing him, trade down a couple spots, pick up an additional pick, and still get the guy.  Both seemed like options for the Birds last night, as it did not seem like teams were breaking down the doors to draft Marcus Smith, so they may have gotten him at #59.  BUT…at the very least, there are multiple reports that the Vikings wanted to do what the Browns did and trade up to #22.  That would have included the 40th pick, which is still probably safe for Smith there.  And, you could have netted at least another 2nd from Minnesota.  Anyway, like I said, I will wait until after the draft is complete to go in-depth with what Chip and Company have done, but they aren’t off to a blistering start, in my opinion…EVEN if Smith turns out to be very good.

But, that is not what this post is about.  I want to rank the First Round picks from last night based on the value they seem to have gotten from their spot.  Obviously, Jadeveon Clowney is the best player in this draft, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he was the best value.  If we were ranking the best players, we could just look at the draft order.  But, I wanted to capture the return on whatever it cost the team to get the player – basically the difference between what you possessed yesterday and what you possess today.  For instance, the Texans had the #1 pick yesterday, and today they have Clowney.  The Bills had the #9 pick, got Sammy Watkins, but lost a 5th and next year’s #1.  And, so on…  So, here is where I rank the “value gained” with each pick yesterday.

Elite Value

1. OAKLAND (5) – OLB Khalil Mack
The Oakland Raiders made the best draft pick of the night.  That is as surprising for me to write as it probably is for you to read, but I really believe it is true – and, it may not be close.  To get a guy with the ability of Mack at #5 is absolutely supreme value

2. HOUSTON (1) – DE Jadeveon Clowney
Trust me, I weighed the fact that it cost them the #1 overall pick to acquire Mr. Clowney.  But, I really think that this guy is a once-in-a-decade kind of a talent at a HIGH-impact position.

3. CLEVELAND (8) – CB Justin Gilbert
I actually thought Gilbert was taken a little too high (and, I have NO idea why they felt they had to swap with Minnesota – sounds like they got sold a bill of goods from the Vikes claiming that another team wanted to trade with them for Gilbert).  BUT…in the way we are judging it is what they had before and what they have now.  And, they invested the #4 pick for the return of a starting CB, a 5th-round pick, AND next year’s #1 pick from Buffalo (which could EASILY be another top 10 pick).  The Gilbert pick, alone, would have been middle of the pack – at best – but adding a potential Top-10 pick in 2015 is spectacular.

4. ST LOUIS (13) – DT Aaron Donald
I really thought Donald was a top-7 talent in this draft, so for the Rams to get him at #13 is pretty great.  They have a pretty spectacular D-line right now.  The best division in football got even better Thursday night.

5. GREEN BAY (21) – S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
My best-case Eagles scenario was one pick from becoming reality, when the Packers swooped in and – as they always do – maximized the value of their draft position.  There are certain teams that crush this process every single year.  If Green Bay isn’t the best drafting team in the league they are second to…

6. BALTIMORE (17) – ILB C.J. Mosely
Ho-hum, another Ravens draft, another stud at a need position falls into their laps.  This is getting old fast…

7. CINCINNATI (24) – CB Darqueze Dennard
How about sitting at #24 and getting potentially the best player at your top position of need?  That’s what the Bengals did – much to the dismay of this Eagles fan.

8. TAMPA BAY (7) – WR Mike Evans
This pick was set up from the beginning, and it could not have gone better for the Bucs.  They add a potential superstar at a need position without moving.  Defensive coordinators are getting heartburn having to deal with the sheer size of the two wideouts in Tampa right now.  And, Josh McCown is well-versed in having two huge receivers to throw to.

9. ATLANTA (6) – OL Jake Matthews
The Falcons stayed put and used their #6 pick on an O-tackle that will anchor that line for a dozen years.

10. ST LOUIS (2) – OL Greg Robinson
The second Rams pick that made my “elite” status.  I like Robinson better and think they made the right pick, but they are slightly behind the Falcons pick just because of the difference in pick value.

Good Value

11. NEW ORLEANS (20) – WR Brandin Cooks
The only reason this falls into the next category is because WR is so incredibly deep.  But, Cooks is a great fit in New Orleans and might be the front-runner for 2014 Offensive Rookie of the Year.

12. MINNESOTA (32) – QB Teddy Bridgewater
You’ll notice that this is the first QB pick that I have on this list.  And, I am actually surprised that I have it this high.  But, I really think that Minnesota did a great job jumping back into the 1st to get someone who very well could be the best QB in the past two drafts.  As of two months ago, it would have been laughable to suggest that Bridgewater might not be in the Top 5.  Now, Minnesota gets him at #32 – which, not unimportantly, is the last pick of the draft that comes with a 5th-year option – a perk that could pay offer massively if Bridgewater become a viable starting quarterback.

13. CLEVELAND (22) – QB Johnny Manziel
Even if this is a lottery ticket, the chance of hitting the jackpot on a quarterback at #22 gives this pick a lot of value…and, I don’t even think he’s gonna be good.  Still really nice spot to take a flyer on a potential superstar – in multiple ways.

14. NEW YORK JETS (18) – S Calvin Pryor
The Jets stood pat at #18 and got a big-hitting safety that plays the run awfully well.  His coverage skills may be lacking, but in Ryan’s blitz-heavy defense, he has the potential to be an incredible havoc-creating boomer.

15. NEW YORK GIANTS (12) – WR Odell Beckham, Jr.
I have heard people not liking this pick.  While it is the second-best pick in the city, I actually think it’s a good one.  What else should they have done here?  I probably would have gone Aaron Donald, but Stri convinced me that he wasn’t a scheme fit for the Giants D.  What about Zack Martin?  Definitely would have been okay because he will be productive and versatile, but he’s not going to be a star.  I think Beckham could be.  He also seems like the perfect fit for the personal demands of a Coughlin-coached team.  I think five years from now, people might look back on this pick with reverance.  The only knock against it is the same thing against Cooks – this was a pretty high price for a WR in a draft with so many of them.

16. DALLAS (16) – OL Zack Martin
I am not as high on Martin as others because he doesn’t seem to have the Pro Bowl upside.  He’s versatile and durable, though, and I applaud Jerry Jones for a second straight year with a boringly logical first round performance.

17. PITTSBURGH (15) – OLB Ryan Shazier
I hadn’t heard much about Shazier coming into the draft, but all the reviews seem to say that he’s the perfect fit in Dick LeBeau’s system.  And, if anyone can pick LBs and make them stars it’s that Hall of Fame coordinator.

Some Value

18. TENNESSEE (11) – OL Taylor Lewan
Maybe the least “sexy” pick of the draft could return solid value if Lewan has a long, solid career on an O-line that needs stability.

19. BUFFALO (4) – WR Sammy Watkins
The Bills may have drafted the best player in the draft…but it sure as hell cost them.  A 5th-rounder this year and next year’s #1?!?  That is a big gamble on a guy at a position they aren’t exactly desperate to fill (they might end up cutting Stevie Johnson because of this pick).  This should probably be lower, but they did add Sammy Watkins…

20. CHICAGO (14) – CB Kyle Fuller
It is strange for me to rank this pick so low because I really like Fuller and really wanted him for the Eagles at #22.  But, I just think that he screams the quintessential “guy that was underrated for so long that he has now become overrated.”  That being said, I think the Bears will be very happy with Fuller.

21. DENVER (31) – CB Bradley Roby
If you can add an athlete the caliber of Roby with the 31st pick, you have to be happy.  This may actually be low for this pick, I just think there’s a big downside here.

22. NEW ENGLAND (29) – DT Dominique Easley
I hear people not liking this pick, but I’m not sure what you expect to get at #29.  Easley – if healthy – might be the best interior lineman in the draft.  I think the Pats did pretty well here to take a chance on potential stud at the end of the first round.  But, then again, if anyone has experience picking at the end of the first round, it’s the mighty Pats.

23. KANSAS CITY (23) – DE Dee Ford
I don’t mind the Ford pick, though I probably would have gone WR here.  But, as I have been saying the whole time, WR is really deep, so if I’m holding that against teams that did take a WR, I guess I can’t hold it against teams that don’t.

24. SAN DIEGO (25) – CB Jason Verrett
A bit undersized in a division with a lot of big WRs, Verrett may only be a nickle-corner his whole career.  A fact that, 5-10 years ago, would have made this pick an incredible reach, isn’t such a bad thing anymore.  We may have arrived at a time where a really good nickle corner may actually be worth a first-round pick…which is shocking to even think.

25. ARIZONA (27) – S Deone Bucannon
Not sure why everyone said that safety was such a huge need for the Cards.  From an outside perspective, I would think that they could really use help on the offensive side more than a very good defensive unit.  And, didn’t they just lose Andre Roberts, too?  I guess I’m probably wrong here because everyone seems to applaud this pick, but if it were me, why not a WR here?  It’s not like Larry Fitzgerald is on the right side of that career mountain.  Whatever…

26. SAN FRANCISCO (30) – S Jimmie Ward
I guess I’m an easy grader because 26 of the 32 teams I felt got at least adequate value for their first-round investments.  I think San Fran got some depth here in their secondary, which is not a bad thing for a 30th pick.

Poor Value

27. MINNESOTA (9) – OLB Anthony Barr
I love taking a chance on a superstar in the late First Round.  I HATE it in the early First Round.  And, that’s what Minnesota did.  They took a chance on Barr being a stud when it is somewhat feasible to see him out of the league in 3-4 years.  Their only saving grace is that they picked up a 5th by moving down a spot.

28. MIAMI (19) – OL Ju’wain James
Hey, they took the best guy left at a position of dire need.  And, that is the price you pay for a poorly-run organization.  But, that doesn’t mean we should give them a pass and ignore the fact that they took a guy at #19 that probably should have been no higher than a mid-30’s pick…at BEST.

29. CAROLINA (28) – WR Calvin Benjamin
Everything I said about the Miami pick can also apply to Carolina here, except that they may not have even gotten the best player left at a position of dire need.  I guess the saving grace is that they really needed a WR and got one.  The lesson here – it doesn’t pay to go into the draft “really needing” anything.  It leads to really poor draft choices.

30. JACKSONVILLE (3) – QB Blake Bortles
I want to absolutely CRUSH them for this pick, but I can’t totally go that far because the only way to win in this league is by having a QB, and they don’t.  So, it’s hard to fault them too much for taking the guy they thought was best, who almost certainly wouldn’t have been there at #35.  That being said, I don’t think I’d have the stones to pull the trigger on a shaky QB prospect with Khalil Mack and Sammy Watkins sitting on the board.  I think their biggest mistake is not finding a trade partner to come up and get Watkins.  It seems to me that is something they could have done.  I mean even if they took the EXACT same offer that Buffalo gave Cleveland to go to #4, I would be praising them for grabbing next year’s #1.  And, they still probably would have had Bortles.  Actually, the more I think about it – why didn’t they do that?!?!?

Awful Value

31. PHILADELPHIA (26) – DE Marcus Smith
I’ll be brief here, but what I don’t understand is how they could take a player with a 3rd- or 4th-round grade at #26.  At the very least, trade down.  And, we KNOW that they could have.  They took Cleveland’s offer to come up and get Manziel and not Minnesota’s (which obviously would have been more and still would have netted them Smith).  Is it because they thought Dennard would still be there?  I hope not because I know nothing and knew that he wouldn’t get past Cincy at #24.  This is frustrating…even if he’s good.  In Chip We Trust…hey, at least it wasn’t the dumbest pick of the night.

32. DETROIT (10) – TE Eric Ebron
The new Lions…same as the old Lions.  As good as the Ravens and Packers are on draft day – that’s how bad the Jags and Lions are.  And, it’s not coincidence that the former win titles and the latter keep getting high picks to screw up.  This one made absolutely no sense for a million reasons, most notably that the player isn’t that good, they don’t exactly need more guys running patterns, and that they had solid fits at need positions like Taylor Lewan, Kyle Fuller, and Calvin Pryor still on the board.  Just a god-awful pick all-around.  Nice work, Lions, nice work.

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