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2014 NFL Draft First Round Reaction

by Photo of Gil Santos

Johnny Manziel to the Browns, Blake Bortles to the Jaguars, and more takes from the First Round.

2014 NFL Draft First Round Reaction

Favorite Picks:

QB Johnny Manziel to the Cleveland Browns at #22 

The Browns may have finally found their franchise quarterback and they didn't have to take him in the top 10. While we have heard this story before with the Browns (they took both Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden at the same exact spot), I truly believe this one will end much differently. Manziel is the type of player that can transform a franchise into a great one. He is a magician on the football field as he finds different ways to win whether with his arm or his legs. 

In addition, unlike his counterparts, Manziel will be heading into a good situation in Cleveland. Cleveland's new offensive coordinator Kyle Shannhan has experience and has been successful with a mobile quarterback, a la Robert Griffin III. They have one of the best wide receivers in the game in Josh Gordon along with young star tight end in Jordan Cameron. They also have a decent offensive line to protect him and a solid running back in Ben Tate, so they don't have to heavily rely on Manziel's arm. The Browns have set him up well for success and I am confident he will change the fortunes of this franchise for the better. 

QB Teddy Bridgewater to the Minnesota Vikings at #32

The Vikings greatly benefitted from Bridgewater's much publicized fall and landed, in my opinion, the best quarterback in the draft. Bridgewater is the most polished among the top quarterbacks. He has great pocket presence and has the ability to go through his progressions and make good decisions. Also, he is very good under pressure as he completed 70.1% of his passes when blitzed. There are concerns about his slim frame, average arm strength, and deep ball accuracy, but that can be fixed. Bridgewater should get bigger and stronger once the Vikings' trainers get their hands on him and arm strength is grossly overrated. With Norv Turner helping him along the way, Bridgewater should prove to be the top quarterback in this draft. 

OT Jake Matthews to Atlanta Falcons at #6

I am mostly happy the Falcons did not make the mistake of trading picks to move up for Jadeveon Clowney. The Falcons are more than one player away and they made the right decision in staying pat. They were able to fill a huge need and nab arguably the best offensive tackle in the draft. The Falcons have ignored upgrading the offensive line for too long and I'm glad they finally did it. They needed to find a guy to protect Matt Ryan, who was sacked 44 sacks this year, and Matthews is the perfect guy to get the job done. He should be a starter from day one. 

Picks that left me scratching my head:

WR Kelvin Benjamin to Carolina Panthers at #28

The Panthers badly needed help in the wide receiver department, but I didn't think this was the right slot or the right player to fill that hole. They probably should have went offensive tackle with this pick as they also have a glaring hole at left tackle with Jordan Gross retiring. Moreover, this year's wide receiver class is considered one of the deepest in a long time and they could have picked someone as talented or better than Benjamin in the second round. While you can't teach 6'5", Benjamin is a project. He is one-year wonder who has suspect hands and needs to improve his route running. For a team that will probably want to win now, Benjamin doesn't seem like the right pick to me.  

OT Ja'Wuan James to Miami Dolphins at #19

Like the Panthers, the Dolphins filled a great need, but not at the right slot. Miami should have traded down from this spot instead of reaching for James, who was mostly regarded as a second round prospect. Positively, James is very durable and started all 49 games he played at Tennessee. He should be the starting right tackle from out of the gate, but I think the Dolphins could have gotten better value at their pick. 

DE/OLB Marcus Smith to Philadelphia Eagles #26

Once again, this is another case of a team going for need instead of best player available and I am not a fan of this philosophy as you can see. The Eagles reached a little bit for Marcus Smith, who could have been there for them in the second round or even third round. He should help the Eagles' 20th ranked pass rush, but the value is pretty bad at this slot. 

Boom or Bust Picks:

QB Blake Bortles to Jacksonville Jaguars #3

First of all, I commend general manager Dave Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley for having the courage to draft a quarterback this high in this year's draft. But if this doesn't pan out, they'll be looking for new jobs real soon. Bortles has all the physical aspects that you want in a franchise quarterback. He is 6'5", 232 pounds, has a solid arm, adequate hand size, and good mobility. Also, he has what you want mentally in a quarterback as he doesn't crumble under the pressure and is a very charismatic person. 

However, he still has room for improvement especially in his footwork and accuracy. It would be better for him to sit behind Chad Henne for one year and work on his craft. In addition, they still need acquire more pieces around him to give him the best chance to succeed. Bortles has a lot of potential to be a great quarterback in this league, but the Jaguars need to patient with him and not rush him into the starting role. 

OLB Anthony Barr to Minnesota Vikings at #9

Coming into the draft, Barr was considered as one of the riskiest players in this class. Barr is a supremely talented pass rusher, who just converted to linebacker two years ago from running back. After a tremendous 2012 season, his production went down a bit in 2013 and showed why he still needs to develop as a defensive player. His instincts on defense are still lacking and he needs to improve as a run defender. However, if there is one guy who can mold Barr into a star, it is head coach Mike Zimmer. 

CB Justin Gilbert to Cleveland Browns at #8

As a former Rex Ryan assistant, it is no surprise Browns head coach Mike Pettine went and picked a corner in the top 10. Gilbert has the highest ceiling in the cornerback class and reminds me a lot of Antonio Cromartie. Gilbert has good size, outstanding athleticism, and is a playmaker. He probably has the best ball skills among the top corners and can help the Browns on special teams with his return skills. However, NFL pundits call him a "pile inspector," which means he doesn't like to tackle. Also, it will be interesting if Pettine will put him in press coverage, where he may struggle because he is best at off-man and zone. 

Three Things to watch out on Day 2:

1. Another Carr to the Houston TexansThe Texans still need a franchise quarterback and after missing out on Teddy Bridgewater, they could take a hard look at David Carr's little brother, Fresno State's Derek Carr. If chosen, the younger Carr will be stepping into a much better situation than his brother did in 2002. 

2. Where will Marqise Lee land? If he came out after his 2012 season, USC wide receiver Mariqse Lee probably would've been the first receiver chosen. However after a less than stellar 2013 season, Lee has slipped into the second round and is one of the few players left in the green room. Lee shouldn't have to wait for too long though as there are plenty of teams at the top that need a playmaker like him. 

3. Will Tom Savage be picked tonight? Because of his strong arm, former Pitt quarterback Tom Savage rose rapidly up the boards from undrafted free agent to a potential second day pick. I'm not sold on this guy because he couldn't even win the starting job at Rutgers, but it will be interesting to see if teams in need of a QB will take a look.

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