Sad, sad times in DatDude's life... After spending countless hours breaking down film, ranking prospects, etc., I'm finally done with the 2014 NFL Draft. I will be taking into account my personal opinions on the prospects, my personal opinion of the value, my personal opinion of our needs, etc. (in other words, this is MY opinion, feel free to agree or disagree... Nobody is right or wrong RIGHT after the Draft concludes) while grading our picks and our draft as a whole. There is a lot to like about our draft class this year, and good reason to be excited for the upcoming season. Let's get started...
Round 1: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan St
Perfect... Absolutely perfect pick. Dennard is one of the three corners I wanted at 24 (Fuller and Verrett being the other two). Physical, and the best press-man corner this class had to offer, Dennard was the best fit for our defense (with Fuller coming in a close second). Super solid man-cover guy who reminds me a lot of Darrelle Revis. In my opinion, Dennard can easily develop into a lockdown #1 cover corner. Couple that with the tremendous value AND filling a need? Fantastic pick.
Round 2: Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU
If you thought I was hyped about the No Fly Zone heading to Cincy, you haven't heard anything yet. Hill was my favorite pick of our draft. Loved that we grabbed him over Hyde. Both are bulldozers, but Hill is better at making people miss, put up his numbers in a RBBC, and dominated against SEC defenses instead of the slower B1G defenses. Hill plays faster than his 4.66 40 time, and offers impressive ability as a receiver out of the backfield. Our offense will be far from one-dimensional when he enters the game. The only reason this pick doesn't get an A+ is value... This is right around the area Hill should've went in my opinion, so we definitely didn't reach, but it wasn't a great value pick either.
Round 3: Will Clarke, DE/DT, WVU
Freak DE/DT with size, length, strength, athleticism, and tons of upside. While I do think he is somewhat raw, he is nowhere near as raw as I've seen some say. Put up solid stats while being held down by two things that really hurt him... He was out of scheme in WVU's 3-man front, as he is much more of a natural 4-3 DE that also offers the versatility to rush the passer as a 3-tech DT. The other thing that held him down is he was THE guy on a not-so-talented WVU defense. He is pretty solid against both the run and pass, with the ability to improve in both areas with proper coaching. Offers us depth all across our DL, and while he may not contribute too much right off the bat, I think we'll see him find a solid role in our DL rotation by seasons end. Like Hill, was picked right around where he should have been.
Round 4: Russell Bodine, C/OG, North Carolina
Another pick I really like. Not only is Bodine ridiculously strong, but he also has some athleticism too him. Offers us versatility at all 3 interior OL spots. Plays with a mean streak, which is great to have in an AFCN C, taking on those big NTs. One thing I really like about Bodine is if he does initially get pushed back, he does a solid job regaining his composure and executing the block. Another guy we got right around where he should've went, so not great value. May have even been a slight reach (very slight, if at all), but he was our guy, and we HAD to go up and get him. The trade was a good one too, only giving up a 6th rounder. Bodine should compete for the starting C job, and if Boling isn't ready for the start of the regular season, I could easily see Pollak starting at LG and Bodine starting at C. If Boling IS ready, I see the C job being Pollak's to lose, but I fully expect Bodine to be our starting C of the future, and to keep that job for years to come.
Round 5: AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama
This is another pick that I really like, for multiple reasons. First off, this is tremendous value. Most expected McCarron to come off the board in the 2nd-3rd round range, and we got him in the late 5th. McCarron doesn't have the strongest arm, but he actually throws a decent deep ball. Very accurate from 15-in. Good game manager who won't make mistakes and cost you a game, but he has actually come up big in big time moments under the spotlight. Something that rubs some people the wrong way may be the thing I like the most... His attitude. He's confident, a fiery leader, holds his teammates accountable, and HATES losing. I don't necessarily agree with those who think he's going to take Dalton's job this season, but he does offer us a very solid safety net of Dalton goes down or doesn't get re-signed. Doesn't have HUGE upside, so that prevents the grade from being and A or an A+ from me. I will say I am glad we took him over Mett, whose injury concerns and bad seasons before this past season scare me off. McCarron is a MUCH safer backup-plan to Dalton.
Round 6 (Comp): Marquis Flowers, OLB/S, Arizona
This is a pick I expected to happen. We've shown tons of interest in Flowers, and for good reason. If Lamur is going to have an important role in Guenther's defense, then it's nice to have backup options for him incase he goes down again. Mays was playing well in the Nickel LB role, but Flowers is a more natural LB than he is, which is a big reason I like this addition. Offering the ability to play S in a pinch for us, Flowers is a coverage LB with speed who is very comparable to Lamur. If he doesn't beat out Mays for a spot, he can be put on the PS, and called up if Lamur or Mays go down. Smart move to grab depth at our coverage LB spot, especially looking at the fact both Lamur and Mays are coming off of injuries. Flowers also has some upside too him, and could e a decent spot starter in the future.
Round 7: James Wright, WR/ST Ace, LSU
If I were grading picks of off instant reaction, this would've been a D or an F. However, after actually looking into it, I completely understand the pick. We put HIGH value on our ST play, and after losing Hawkins, it's not shocking that we wanted to add another teams playmaker. Wright was LSU's ST MVP this past season, coming up with 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries, and a solid number of tackles (can't remember the actual number). Standing 6'2 and running in the low 4.4s, he is an exceptional athlete. As a WR, he wasn't a great pick, especially considering who was left on the board at that position, but he does offer some intrigue. He came into LSU as a 4-star recruit who was suppose to be the next big thing at WR for them, unfortunately, he got buried on the depth chart in an offense that doesn't spread the ball around much in the passing game. Has solid hands and impressed at the LSU Pro Day. Even with the little bit of intrigue/upside he offers as a WR, I couldn't grade this pick higher than a C... Because, can we afford to use TWO roster spots on ST only players (assuming Tate makes the 53 man roster)? I don't love it, but I get it.
On an interesting note, here are some positive things said on LSU's SB Nation Blog. On James Wright and Kadron Boone, "Wright & Boone were largely bit players at LSU, never more than third or fourth options on offense. They leave Baton Rouge with a combined 69 career catches (44 for Boone, 25 for Wright) and eight touchdowns (all Boone), and neither is likely to hear his name called in this weekend's draft. That said, they'll both have a shot to make a roster as undrafted free agents, and with some surprisingly solid measurables, who knows how they'll take advantage of that opportunity. Reportedly, Wright has a very big fan in current New York Jets (and former LSU) special teams coach Thomas McGaughey. That's no surprise, as he was the Tigers' special teams MVP in 2013. Players like Courtney Roby, Kassim Osgood, Ted Ginn and Danny McCray have all been able to carve out nice careers in the NFL almost exclusively on special teams. There's no reason to think Wright couldn't do the same. Boone has good speed and agility, and was fairly reliable when LSU called upon him last season. There's enough upside for him to catch on somewhere with hard work and a little luck." Comments made after Wright was selected by us, "Always liked James Wright He suffered from being on an offense that really didn’t spread the ball to a lot of guys, first due to inconsistent QB play for much of his career and then due to Mett really tossing it to just Juice and Beckham to the exclusion of all others (hey, if it works …). Wright and Kadron Boone both have some interesting athletic ability and almost no wear on their tires. I think NFL teams might find some potential sleepers in both of them." In response to that comment, "Agree Absolutely. I was intrigued when they were recruited, and had always questioned why they weren’t being used more. Both of them are going to be steals as players."
Round 7 (Comp): Lavelle Westbrooks, CB/S, Georgia Southern
Westbrooks is a guy that I was hoping to grab, so obviously I like the pick. Doesn't offer a ton of upside and isn't the best athlete, but offers good size and length to go along with solid coverage and tackling skills. Gives us good depth at both CB and S, which is always a plus. Could make the roster if we carry 6 corners, but most likely headed to the PS. That's completely fine though, as Chris Lewis-Harris is in his last year of PS eligibility, so we need a DB there anyway. With our top 30 corners being old and/or often injured, Westbrooks is going to offer us a good depth player who can contribute when he is called upon, be it this season or in the future.
Overall Grade: A-
All of the picks make sense to me, and I like all of them a lot but one (I don't like the Wright pick A LOT, but I do somewhat like it and definitely understand it). Added some solid depth and contributers, a couple of potential Day 1 starters, and a few more potential starters down the road. Not perfect, but it was a great draft for us in my personal opinion. On a side note, I won't grade the UDFA class because it isn't official yet, but I really like the guys we reportedly got, especially Hewitt.