Jeff Kirby, KC SportsNation
What an opening night to the 2014 NFL draft. It was as exciting as any in recent memory, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. With the No. 23 pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, the Chiefs selected Auburn defensive end Dee Ford – a speed rusher off the edge who can really get after the quarterback, solidifying the pass rush with a legit third pass rusher. Ford, who will shift to the 3-4 pass rushing DE for the Chiefs, was big time in crunch time for Auburn in 2013, sacking Johnny Manziel on the final two drives vs Texas A&M, performed well in the SEC title game versus Mizzou and the National Championship Game, registering 10.5 sacks and a second best in the SEC 28.5 QB hurries.
This is the 10th time in 12 years as a NFL Head Coach that Andy Reid has taken an offensive or defensive lineman in the first round of the NFL Draft, however, it was still a bit surprising to see the Chiefs shy away from taking an offensive skill player with so much talent on the board. But, Ford did say that he was a better defensive end than No. 1 overall pick – freak defensive end Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina, as expected. The most shocking selection was the Jacksonville Jaguars taking QB Blake Bortles at No. 3, then declaring that they plan to sit him for 2014. This sent the draft into a frenzy for an exciting night with plenty of twists along the way. Cleveland traded the No. 4 pick to Buffalo, which ended in them taking Clemson WR Sammy Watkins, the most talented WR in this class. It was thought that the Browns would take Manziel at 9, but they then traded up just one spot and most were certain Johnny Football was next, but instead they passed and went with possibly the most physically gifted corner in the draft in Oklahoma States Justin Gilbert. But, the Browns, who were all over the board making three first round trades, still got their man at No. 22 after trading up four spots from 26 – one pick ahead of the Chiefs, to get “Johnny Cleveland.”
Interestingly, ESPN’s Adam Schefter was on radio today discussing how the Chiefs were really thinking they were gonna take Manziel at 23. Kansas City may have been that close to taking a QB in the first round for the first time since Todd freaking Blacklege. The Browns, to their credit, swooped in and got him when they could knowing he would be off the board within the next few picks so they didn’t take the chance. They got the QB they wanted, they got maybe the best corner in the draft, and also a 1st round pick for next season…A grade for them so far.
- It has also been speculated that the Falcons attempted to trade up to No. 22 to get Ford, but the Browns offer was much better.
- New Orleans traded up to 20 to get little speedster Brandin Cooks of Oregon State – the fastest WR in the draft. Obviously an attempt at replacing the offensive playmaking ability left by the void of Darren Sproles.
- Buffalo’s Khalil Mack will look like a beast in a Raiders uniform.
- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers looked to fill the absence of Mike Williams after being traded to Buffalo, selecting WR Mike Evans with the No. 7 pick. Evans has an NFL-ready body and big upside. Tampa finished dead last in the NFL in passing last season.
- Cincy made a fine pick in corner Darqueze Dennard of Michigan St – a guy many thought the Chiefs would take at 23 when he was still on the board when they went on the clock. It was important for them in the secondary as they are really aging at defensive back.
- New York Giants looked to fill the vacated WR’s spot (Hakeem Nicks) by drafting Odell Beckham from LSU. He adds a dimension in the return game and is polished receiver for his age.
- Desperately seeking a promising QB prospect, the Vikings got their wish after trading from the second round into the last pick of the first round to get Teddy Bridgewater, a gunslinger that put Louisville on the NCAA map over the past few seasons, at No. 32. Vikings fans can only hope he catches on to the system quickly to become an instant hit in Minnesota, especially considering the current mess at quarterback.
- The SEC has 11 first round picks; no other conference had more than 4.