NEW YORK — The 2014 NFL draft is stacked with talented players, but not every team came out of the first round smelling like roses.
The Cleveland Browns and St. Louis Rams owned the draft with multiple picks, while the Buffalo Bills were among teams that made head-scratching decisions.
The New England Patriots almost made the “winners” list after taking Dominique Easley — a potential steal — at No. 29 overall. If Easley’s health checks out after he tore both ACLs in college, he could be the best defensive tackle in the draft.
Here are the winners and losers from the first round of the 2014 NFL draft:
Cleveland Browns: The Browns shimmied up and down the first round and helped their offense and pass defense. They selected Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert at No. 8 and quarterback Johnny Manziel at No. 22 while also acquiring a future first-round pick.
Manziel falling could give him an even bigger chip on his shoulder, which should only boost his play in the NFL.
St. Louis Rams: The Rams didn’t budge from their No. 2 and 13 positions and came away with two of the best players in the draft. Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson was the highest-ranked player in the draft by one AFC scout, and Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald has been compared to Cincinnati Bengals interior pass rusher Geno Atkins.
NFL teams win up front on offense and defense, and the Rams realized that by taking players on both lines.
Dallas Cowboys: Owner Jerry Jones passed on Johnny Manziel, and while the quarterback was a great pick for the Browns, he also wasn’t an immediate need for Dallas. The Cowboys instead picked Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin at No. 16, which will help their current quarterback, Tony Romo, stay upright and healthy.
Buffalo Bills: They gave a ton to the Browns to trade up for wide receiver Sammy Watkins at No. 4. He’ll help current starting quarterback EJ Manuel, but was he worth giving up a future first-round pick when faced with the deepest wide receiver class in recent memory? Probably not.
The Bills won’t have the option of selecting a top quarterback in next year’s class if Manuel fails to live up to expectations in 2014.
Miami Dolphins: They drafted purely for need at No. 19 when they reached for Tennessee offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James. They likely wanted to take linebacker Ryan Shazier, but the Pittsburgh Steelers plucked him at No. 15.
James should have success at right tackle, but better players were available for the Dolphins there.
Carolina Panthers: They also drafted for need when they selected Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin at No. 28. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound receiver is huge, but his 4.60-second 40-yard dash had some teams worried if he has NFL speed.
Benjamin also showed inconsistent hands with the Seminoles and only had one year of production. The Panthers undoubtedly need help at wide receiver, but they could have waited until Round 2 to grab it.
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