The 2014 NFL Draft has come and gone, with the perfunctory fanfare and second guessing of our team's choices coming with it. While we tend to become myopic in our critique of our own team, the question must be charged.. "how did our 2014 opponents fare?"
My first take is that no team in the NFC East had a good draft. Odell Beckham strikes me as the only scary pick. Well, call it homerism and hatred of the other colors in the division if you'd like, but that is my opinion of our Divisional opponents' drafts.
With this in mind, I will look solely at the drafts of our non-divisional opponents. After all, likely our non-divisional opponents this year will determine our fate in the 2014 playoff hunt. Did we gain any advantage through our opponents' moves in the draft? Will we be able to swing close games a couple of points and get to 9 wins for once??!!!
THE SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Not going to lie. This is serious. We had a chance at beating the 9-ers, and still do... HOWEVER... what a draft. Carlos Hyde is the heir apparent to Frank Gore, who I feel is at the end of his rope. Last year, you could see in multiple long runs he is no longer able to run a full football field. This does not bode well for the future of an NFL running back. Against Seattle he seems to lose steam forty yards into a 70 yard run. Sure there will be those who disagree with my assessment that he was not ABLE to run full speed for 70 yards, and that he was simply trying to go down in field goal range to run out the clock, fair enough, but watch the film twice and you will see him running out of steam and I don't believe Frank Gore is running wild anymore. I believe Frank Gore is in decline, and it is the biggest reason I believed we had a shot to beat the Niners.
However, Carlos Hyde is likely to begin phasing into a heavy rotation with Gore this year, and Carlos Hyde is a friggin beast-tastic RB who will make the Niners more youthful and explosive. At the very least he will give ol' Frank Gore more rest.
Jimmy Ward gives the Niners the best pair of young safeties in the game. Eric Reid and Jimmie Ward show that the Niners are looking to build a secondary that can keep opposing teams from excelling at deep posts and corner routes, limiting the explosiveness of opposing offenses, and giving their linebacking corps a chance to make plays stuffing the run, jumping on shallow passes, and blowing up opposing receivers.
A solid choice for the LB corps came in the 3rd round, with the Niners taking ILB Chris Borland from Wisconsin. The Wisconsin program is known for producing high-IQ players who LOVE the game of football. This passion has translated in recent years with NFL level talent in the likes of Super Bowl winning QB Russell Wilson and Future Hall of Fame Center Travis Frederick. Borland shows a high motor on film with exceptional awareness.
With the horrific injury to perennial Pro Bowler Navarro Bowman, the Niners are looking to create competition between likely incumbent sub Michael Wilhoite and Borland to replace Bowman for the start of the season. With all the film I've watched on this kid, my money is on Borland. He has a boxy frame and plays pretty stiff, however, his awareness makes him a great pick here and a likely starter on day one.
With the most draft picks in the 2014 NFL Draft, the 49ers are instantly improved to the point of real concern for the rest of the NFL. The only gripe would have to be that they didn't draft someone who could replace Aldon Smith, but then again... who could? However, they do have high hopes for Aaron Lynch, drafted in the 5th round, an OLB who has 1st round talent and a similar character to Aldon Smith (USF strength coach tweeted that the Niners must not care about character if they drafted him). However, if you were to take a chance on a talented "character issue" guy, the 5th round would be the spot to do it.
The Niners win on so many fronts in this draft, it must make all of Cowboys nation cringe in jealousy. The addition of Brandon Thomas at pick 100 - a player who won't even play in 2014 - is the ultimate trump card. A team rich enough in talent and draft picks that they are able to take a developmental player. The best part for the Niners is that these moves are going to make them viable into the foreseeable future, with or without Jim Harbaugh or Colin Kaepernick.
DRAFT GRADE: A+
• 30. Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
• 57. Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
• 70. Marcus Martin, C, USC
• 77. Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin
• 100. Brandon Thomas, OT, Clemson (somebody was going to win with this guy)
• 106. Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina
• 129. Dontae Johnson, CB, N.C. State
• 150. Aaron Lynch, DE, South Florida
• 170. Keith Reaser, CB, Florida Atlantic
• 180. Kenneth Acker, CB, SMU
• 243. Kaleb Ramsey, DE, Boston College
• 245. Trey Millard, FB, Oklahoma
Estimated probability of Cowboys' victory in 2014: 20%. With the most picks, The Niners improved greatly in the draft.
THE TENNESSEE TITANS
The Titans did not have many picks in this draft, but in my opinion, they got a quiet win. For a team that needed a QB to COMPETE but aren't necessarily dissatisfied with the potential of Jake Locker, Zach Mettenberger at pick 178 is an absolute coupe. Seeing what new Coach Ken Wisenhunt was able to do with a similarly big-armed mammoth pocket passer like Philip Rivers in San Diego last year should have the Titans' fan base excited about the prospect from LSU.
Taylor Lewan, for all of his character flaws is as solid of a pick at 11 as could be had for this squad. I had seen Donald mocked to them, however, their forthcoming switch to the 3-4 defense negated much of Donald's one-gapping ability that had him climb up the boards to become the top DT in this year's draft. I think Nix would have been a good fit for them but after he went of the board to the Texans at 83, they settled for DaQuan Jones, another favorite here at BtB. He added some bulk and many of us looked at him as an option to be our 1-tech, but the same skill set applies to helping the Titans at NT in the 3-4.
Bishop Sankey is my favorite pick of this draft, and in general is my NFL pet cat. Sankey will likely bring a similar agile receiving back as the Bengals got last year with Giovanni Bernard. Paired with everybody's least favorite NFL RB Shonn Greene, I could see Sankey taking more and more work away from Greene. Plenty of electric potential and quite a pick.
DRAFT GRADE: B-
• 11. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
• 54. Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
• 112. DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State
• 122. Marqueston Huff, CB, Wyoming
• 151. Avery Williamson, MLB, Kentucky
• 178. Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
Likelihood of Cowboys' victory in 2014= 60%. I do not see the Titans as having their identity fully established by week two, however we all saw how electric the Chargers were out the gate last year, so this could be a major upset if it takes us to 0-2.
THE SAINT LOUIS RAMS
Might as well call their draft class "the BTB wish list". The Rams picked up the top ranked tackle, the top ranked DT, a wildcard for their secondary, a top 3 RB.
The Rams were already dangerous before this draft, and afterward there should be plenty to fear about my pick to win the NFC West. The Rams certainly still have a question-marked Quarterback in the always-vanilla Sam Bradford. However, the defense got a great boost, and a running back corps that now features both Zac Stacy AND Tre Mason should do wonders for a "now-super-protected-by-Greg-Robinson" Sam Bradford.
The one downfall of this draft is that no WRs were taken, which was legitimately shocking. However, it would be hard to give a draft that netted Robinson, Donald, Joyner, and Mason anything except an A+.
DRAFT GRADE A+
• 2. Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
• 13. Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
• 41. Lamarcus Joyner, S/CB, Florida State
• 75. Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
• 110. Maurice Alexander, S, Utah State
• 188. E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri
• 214. Garrett Gilbert, QB, SMU
• 226. Mitchell Van Dyk, OT, Portland State
• 241. Christian Bryant, S, Ohio State
• 249. Michael Sam, DE, Missouri
• 250. Demetrius Rhaney, C, Tennessee State
Likelihood of Cowboys' victory: 10%. I see the Rams under Jeff Fisher as having an incredible year. They will run the ball down defense's throats, knife them with play action and let Robert Quinn, Aaron Donald and co. stifle the defense. Aaron Donald could not have gone to a better situation to pad his stats.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
I have to admit, I was very high on Stanley Jean-Baptiste when I saw my first bit of film on him. 6'3'', great speed, and he did put some good games on film this year. However, one thing happens undoubtedly when a prospect is on your radar= you keep watching. I saw too much stiffness, too much separation and very little agility from Baptiste. I believe the Saints reached here and I don't believe Baptiste is going to be able to handle the receivers on the NFL level this year, and maybe not ever consistently.
DRAFT GRADE: Cooks is a great pick, outside of that, the Saints get a C-.
• 20. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
• 58. Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska
• 126. Khairi Fortt, OLB, California
• 167. Vinnie Sunseri, S, Alabama
• 169. Ronald Powell, OLB, Florida
• 202. Tavon Rooks, OT, Kansas State
Cowboys' probability of victory 2014: 70%. I'm not calling my shot here, they usually have our number, but I don't see the Saints as a vastly improved squad, and defensively I can see them taking a step backward. Brandin Cooks is a great pick, but I can see the Cowboys winning this game.
The Texans simply made out like bandits in this draft. Anytime that your D Line looks like Clowney, Nix, Watt, you are looking like a winner. Add that to the fact that they picked up a good developmental talent in Tom Savage in the fourth round, and shored up their offensive line with Sua Filo and I give the Texans an A+. However, I'm not sure how much their draft is going to help them get the ball consistently to their playmakers Hopkins and Johnson. For this reason, I do not foresee the Texans beating the Cowboys this year. However, this draft will make them at least 7-9 this year and will make them much more competitive into the future. In hindsight the Texans should have kept Schaub, as they will likely enter the 2014 season with Ryan Fitzpatrick as their QB.
• 1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
• 33. Xavier Su'a-Filo, G, UCLA
• 65. C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa
• 83. Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
• 135. Tom Savage, QB, Pittsburgh
• 177. Jeoffrey Pagan, DE, Alabama
• 181. Alfred Blue, RB, LSU
• 211. Jay Prosch, FB, Auburn
• 216. Andre Hal, CB, Vanderbilt
• 256. Lonnie Ballentine, S, Memphis
DRAFT GRADE: A+
Cowboys probability of victory: 80% I see this as a victory. Lack of QB hurts the Texans.
The most surprising and disappointing draft I've seen in some time. While the Seahawks came away with some quality players, they also came away with many questions. Justin Britt with pick 64? Wow. I thought he was going in the 5th. I watched a lot of footage of him as a possible late-round Tackle for the Cowboys and realistically saw NOTHING that would tell me he can live up to the bill as a top 100 player in this draft class. Cassius Marsh is SLOW SLOW SLOW. Another "scratch-your-head" pick with pick 108.
• 45. Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado
• 64. Justin Britt, OT, Missouri
• 108. Cassius Marsh, DE, UCLA
• 123. Kevin Norwood, WR, Alabama
• 132. Kevin Pierre-Louis, OLB, Boston College
• 172. Jimmy Staten, DT, Middle Tennessee State
• 199. Garrett Scott, OT, Marshall
• 208. Eric Pinkins, S, San Diego State
• 227. Kiero Small, FB, Arkansas
Draft Grade: D.
traded down too often and didn't cash in on enough of their picks, imo. Britt and Marsh are unforgivable reaches imo.
Probability of Cowboy victory 2014: 15% the Seahawks are the Super Bowl Champions and had a stifling pass coverage. Stifling is usually not a word used to describe pass coverage.
THE ARIZONA CARDINALS
The Cardinals are coming off a season where they surprised everyone who wasn't already privy to the fact that Bruce Arians is a genius. The Cardinals played lackluster football by nearly every account, excelling in simply grinding teams down on defense and scheming for particular opponents. There is no way this team wins more than 7 with any other coach. Deone Bucannon is the steal of this draft. They reached for him, but he is absolutely worth the 27th pick, and will make the Cardinals' already stout defense even better. It really is a shame that they lost high powered LB Karlos Dansby.
- 27. Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
- 52. Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame
- 84. Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina
- 91. John Brown, WR, Pittsburg State
- 120. Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
- 160. Ed Stinson, DE, Alabama
- 196. Walt Powell, WR, Murray State
DRAFT GRADE: B
Chances of victory 2014: 50%. I flip a coin, personally. I can't see much to like about the Cardinals but all they do is win.
So we 'ead on out to London! Not really, but that's where we will meet these Jaguars November 9, the day before the Marine Corps birthday and two days before Veterans day the Cowboys plan a military strike on foreign soil! Alright, alright back to football.
The Jaguars supposedly shocked the world by taking UCF Quarterback Blake Bortles no. 3 overall, but the shock shouldn't have lasted too long. Bortles is an Andrew Luck caliber passer/scrambler (important note: not the other way around!) who in footage does not scramble to create time, but passes well and creates lanes which he uses damn impressive athleticism to take advantage of breakdowns in full-coverage defenses. He welcomes contact with the ball and has the frame to sustain hits without taking injury.
The Jags didn't stop there, giving him two top flight wide outs in the next two rounds in an attempt to bolster an offense that just absolutely couldn't find a rhythm under the guidance of Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne, and an absentee Justin Blackmon. Cecil Shorts III will return this year and line up opposite of Marquise Lee and Allen Robinson - two wideouts who many here at BtBs are interested in. Lee may have the MARQUEE name (mo' pun intended) but Allen Robinson has the surer hands of the two.
In the late rounds the Jags poached BtB favorites DE Chris Smith of Arkansas and Will LB Telvin Smith. Boy I hope for the Boys' sake that Telvin Smith is a bust! I, for one, will remember the Hitchens pick kept us from getting that guy every time I see Telvin make a play if he turns out to be the futuristic Will LB many of us thought he could become. (Run Stuffing seems to be an antiquated idea in the new school NFL).
- 3. Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
- 39. Marqise Lee, WR, USC
- 61. Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
- 93. Brandon Linder, G, Miami
- 114. Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma
- 144. Telvin Smith, LB, Florida State
- 159. Chris Smith, DE, Arkansas
- 205. Luke Bowanko, C, Virginia
- 222. Storm Johnson, RB, UCF
Likelihood of Cowboys Victory: 60%. Rome wasn't built in a day. Romo destroys the Jags.