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2014 NFL draft: Upon further review

Sifting through the 72-hour whirlwind that is generally referred to as the NFL draft, and here are some final takeaways:

-- The happiest quarterback in this draft should be Teddy Bridgewater, who goes to the Vikings at No. 32 and joins a team that is only a year removed from the playoffs. There’s still the nucleus of a decent defense, there’s an elite running back in Adrian Peterson and, best of all, there is the best quarterbacks coach in the NFL and one of the best in league history: Norv Turner.

-- The quarterback I’d least want to be right now: Tom Savage of the Texans. There was ridiculous hype about the Pitt quarterback, but in the end, the Rutgers transfer went 135th overall to the Texans. Like Minny, the Texans are a year removed from the playoffs, and J.J. Watt is joined on defense by No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney. But with Arian Foster coming off back surgery, and with Andre Johnson turning 33 in July, Savage enters a situation where the team is in much more of a win-now situation. And he’s not ready to win now, no matter how some scouts gushed about him in the weeks leading up to the draft. Pressure on the kid? You bet.

-- I’m no Johnny Manziel fan, and I hope I’m wrong about what he’ll do in the NFL  (not much), but the Browns did a masterful job in getting the quarterback they’d targeted at a very affordable 22nd overall pick. Not only did the Browns maneuver smartly with their fourth overall pick – trading it to Bills and taking Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert at No. 9 overall. GM Ray Farmer also got the Bills’ 2015 first-round pick out of the deal. Then Farmer moved up from 27 to the Eagles’ spot at 22 and took Manziel. That is some good work by the first-year general manager.

-- Who knows if Missouri linebacker Michael Sam makes the Rams’ roster, especially knowing that the history of seventh-round picks making teams isn’t very good. But his drafting was a very, very big deal, signifying a true shift in attitudes in the NFL that the league’s first openly gay player was selected in any round. Love the fact that his No. 10 jersey is already the second-best selling jersey among all rookies. Only Manziel jerseys are going faster. The league is ready for this moment. So are most – even if not all – of the NFL’s paying customers. Sam believes he fell to the seventh round because he announced that he is gay, and that many teams passed over him because of it. I’m not naïve enough to think that some teams didn’t want to invest a higher pick because they knew his selection would come with unique challenges from a public relations and media attention perspective. But this may have as much to do with Sam’s relatively slow speed and poor off-season workouts as it does with his sexual orientation. Sam said being the SEC’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year and an All American should have meant a higher selection. But consider Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. He was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, but went undrafted. Tom Brady was a sixth-round pick in 2000. Joe Montana was a third-rounder in 1979. Those are maybe the best two quarterbacks of all-time, and they pre-draft doubts, too.

-- I like what the Jets did in this draft, even if they didn’t come away with one of the big-time receivers near the top. Calvin Pryor is a stabilizing force for their rebuilding secondary – which has now lost Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie in consecutive years – and second-round tight end Jace Amaro can be a major part of the passing game, even if he doesn’t have the speed of an outside receiver.

-- Giants did a solid, if unspectacular job on draft weekend, even if they didn’t get a tight end. Wideout Odell Beckham Jr. adds speed and playmaking ability on offense,  and center Weston Richburg offers a fallback option in case free agent J.D. Walton doesn’t pan out. For those who are panicked that the Jets didn’t get a top-flight tight end, consider that they won Super Bowls with seventh-rounder Kevin Boss and undrafted free agent Jake Ballard.

-- Buffalo gave up plenty to get Sammy Watkins, and they better hope the Clemson receiver is close to being Larry Fitzgerald good. Giving away next year’s first round pick a huge gamble to move up five spots.

-- The Ravens went a long way toward addressing two major needs on defense with linebacker C.J. Mosley of Alabama and tackle Timmy Jernigan of Florida. Jernigan’s positive drug test from the combine caused him to drop to the second round, but he has first-round talent. Now it’s up to the Ravens, who have generally had a good track record of keeping players headed in the right direction.

-- Curious to see how Cardinals’ quarterback-friendly head coach Bruce Arians does with Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas. If Arians makes a player out of him, that’s a fourth-round steal.

-- Eric Ebron will be a major factor in the Lions’ offense this year. With Calvin Johnson demanding most of the attention in the passing game, quarterback Matthew Stafford can use his rookie tight end in a big way. The former North Carolina star can be a Jimmy Graham-type presence for the Lions.

-- No one’s laughing at Green Bay taking Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round. The Alabama safety fills a major need for the Packers and beleaguered defensive coordinator Dom Capers.

-- The Jaguars have essentially said so long to suspended wide receiver Justin Blackmon, the fifth overall pick of the 2012 draft. Blackmon remains suspended because of repeated positive drug tests, and GM David Caldwell said it was unlikely he’d be with the team in 2014. After Caldwell took receivers Marqise Lee of USC in the second round and Allen Robinson of Penn State in the third, Blackmon is done.

-- Like what the Jags have done with Blake Bortles, the third overall pick. Rather than rush the rookie quarterback into the lineup, they’ll go with Chad Henne at the start and give Bortles time to get up to speed. It’s the way the NFL used to work not long ago, and for a player with Bortles’ ability but lack of experience against top-caliber opponents, it’s the right call.

-- Will Jimmy Garrapolo eventually take over for Tom Brady? Could be, although this isn’t the first time the Patriots have invested a high pick in a quarterback as a potential replacement for Brady, who turns 37 in August. Ryan Mallett was a third-rounder in 2011, although the former Arkansas star hasn’t shown that he’s ready to take over any time soon, and was reported to be in line to be traded to Houston.

-- 49ers came away with Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde, a smart move to prepare for life after Frank Gore. Niners are the most serious threat in the NFC right now to the defending champion Seahawks.

 

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