Friday, May 9, 2014

Building The 53 - 2014 NFL Draft Day 1 Packers Review

It was a very entertaining first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Just like last year, there were five draft day trades and no running backs were drafted.  The two biggest surprises of the first round were the Cleveland Browns and the Minnesota Vikings moving all over to net each team a potential franchise quarterback and an impact player on defense.

The Browns started the 2014 NFL Draft with the 4th and 26th picks in the first round.  The Browns traded back from 4th to 9th with the Buffalo Bills adding two extra draft picks (2015 1st and 4th round picks).  The Browns then traded back up from 9th to 8th with the Vikings giving up the 154th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft presumably to take a quarterback. Ultimately the Browns drafted Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert with the 8th pick while the Vikings took UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr with the 9th pick.  I am much higher on Gilbert than Barr.

Later the Browns traded the 26th (from Indianapolis Colts for the underwhelming running back Trent Richardson that they took with the 3rd pick in the 2012 NFL Draft) and the 83rd picks in the 2014 NFL Draft to the Philadelphia Eagles for the 22nd pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.  Hopefully 3rd times a charm with the 22nd pick because the Browns previously drafted Brady Quinn (2007) and Brandon Weeden (2009) with that same pick in previous drafts.

Just when we thought the first round was going to end in a whimper with the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks taking another edge rusher, the Vikings gave the Seattle Seahawks the 40th and 108th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft for 32nd pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.  The 32nd pick is especially valuable because it is the last pick of the first night of the draft.  The Vikings used that pick to draft Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

The Vikings/Seahawks swap could be the most interesting trade in the 2014 NFL Draft because the Houston Texans own the 33rd pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, which is the first pick in the second round.  Given that the Seahawks already have a franchise quarterback, they were not going to take Bridgewater so the Texans thought they could stand put and still grab Bridgewater until the Vikings swooped in to get their first true franchise quarterback since Fran Tarkenton left town the second time.

The other trade in the first round was the Arizona Cardinals trading the 20th pick to the New Orleans Saints for the 27th and 91st picks in the 2014 NFL Draft.  Given that the Saints gave a huge contract (six-year, $56 million contract with $28 million guaranteed) to safety Jarius Byrd earlier this off-season, at that point I knew the Green Bay Packers actually had a chance to nab my (realistic) draft crush Alabama safety Ha-Ha Clinton Dix with the 21st pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Here were my thoughts on Ha Ha in mid-January when I gave my first look at the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft for the Packers:

"Right now it looks like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Calvin Pryor, or bust given the lack of quality safeties in the 2014 NFL Draft.  Ha Ha is a 21-year old junior from Alabama that at 6'1" and 208 lbs is not the biggest hitter but has the skills to start at safety as a rookie in the NFL in 2014.  Ha Ha reminds me a lot of Eric Reid, a standout rookie for the San Francisco 49ers.  Pryor has essentially the same build as Ha Ha but playing at Louisville as opposed to Alabama didn't prove he can do it on a big stage like Ha Ha did the last three years.  This feels a little bit like the the 2007 NFL Draft when the Packers desperately needed a running back so every mock draft had them taking Marshawn Lynch with the 16th pick.  Ultimately Lynch went 12th to the Buffalo Bills and the Packers took defensive lineman Justin Harrell, oh dang.  I obviously favor Ha Ha over Pryor at this point but we are still very early in the process so that might change by the 2014 NFL Draft.  Clearly Ha Ha or Pryor would fill a huge need for the Packers, which is why I would be shocked if the Packers actually drafted either unless they traded up in the first round." (Source) 

Ultimately Pryor went 18th to the New York Jets. As the Packers got closer to picking in the first round, I sent out a ton of Ha Ha related tweets.  Speaking of tweets, Ha Ha got himself in some hot water with this tweet just before the start of the 2014 NFL Draft that put a smile on Milwaukee Bucks center Larry Sanders' face.  Thankfully Packers general manager Ted Thompson choose Ha Ha.  In case you are wondering whether I liked the Ha Ha pick, here are two of the tweets that I sent:
I gave LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to the Packers yesterday in my 2014 First Round NFL Mock Draft because Ha Ha and Pryor were off the board.  Beckham went 12th overall to the New York Giants.  In my description of Beckham, I actually talked more about safeties than Beckham:

"The Packers clearly need a safety but with Clinton-Dix and Pryor off the board, taking Deone Bucannon (S, Washington), Jimmie Ward (S, Northern Illinois), Terrence Brooks (S, FSU), or Lamarcus Joyner (S, FSU) feels like a reach this early in the draft despite the fact that the Packers desperately need a safety opposite Morgan Burnett.  I guess I favor Bucannon's larger frame but still am leery to pull the trigger on him, which is why I took the best player available even thought wide receiver is not really a need for the Packers.  My guess is that Beckham goes much earlier but at 21, I couldn't pass up such a dynamic pass catcher.  Plus, this feels a little Jordy Nelson-esque, which obviously turned out great for the Packers." (source)

For those, including me, that said the safety position is being devalued we were clearly wrong based on what happened at the end of the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.  With the 27th pick the Cardinals drafted Washington State safety Deone Bucannon.  Don't lose sight of the fact that if the Cardinals stayed at 20, they could have taken Ha Ha.  Instead the Cardinals got Bucannon and the 91st pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.  Clearly I like Ha Ha more than Bucannon but we will have to see what the Cardinals get with the 91st pick before determining whether the Packers or Cardinals made out better.  Just three picks after the Cardinals picked Bucannon, the San Francisco 49ers drafted Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward despite the fact that they traded up in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft to take LSU safety Eric Reid. Only time will tell but I favor Ha Ha over Pryor, Bucannon, and Ward.

With the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft in the books, there are a number of talented players available: Marqise Lee (WR, USC), Stephon Tuitt (DE, Notre Dame), Cyrus Kouandjio (OT, Alabama), Louis Nix III (DT, Notre Dame), Kony Ealy (DE, Missouri), and Ra'Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota) just to name a few that were projected to go in the first round.  As a result, it will make the second and third round of the 2014 NFL Draft this evening very interesting.  Make sure to check back for my Packer draft thoughts on Twitter in real time tonight and tomorrow.  Finally make sure to check back in this space on Sunday morning for my extended thoughts on entire draft.

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