Way back in April a host of NFL teams made a lot of dreams come true. They spent draft picks on them to make them football players and we’ve been lucky enough to watch every snap of their young careers.
For some teams those first round picks have made an immediate impact. Making the kind of plays they were drafted to they’ve caught the imagination of their fans and raised expectations for next year. For others? Well they’ve got a lot to work on in the coming year.
For all however we’re going to give you a quick breakdown on them all, filled with snap counts, grades and a brief analysis.
1. Eric Fisher, T, Kansas City Chiefs
Analysis: It’s been a tough rookie year for Fisher who ended the year our fourth lowest ranked right tackle on the year. The better news is in the past five weeks he’s earned a +2.6 grade and after his baptism of fire on the right side of the line has taken a step forward. Does he end up on the left side? His fate will be tied to what the Chiefs do with Branden Albert.
2. Luke Joeckel, T, Jacksonville Jaguars
Analysis: His season was cut short by injury which but did look reasonably assured in pass protection on the right side before going down. After the trade away of Eugene Monroe, Joeckel was moved over to the left side, but just 12 snaps leaves his sample size a little short.
3. Dion Jordan, DE, Miami Dolphins
Analysis: There were lofty hopes that situational role could see Jordan produce like Aldon Smith back in 2011. Jordan found himself more limited in his appearances to obvious passing situations as the early season form of Olivier Vernon limited his opportunities. He’ll be expected to do a lot more next year.
4. Lane Johnson, T, Philadelphia Eagles
Analysis: Regarded by a project as some, Johnson started the year off slowly and had some major issues in pass protection where he allowed seven sacks in the first eight weeks of the season. However with just three more allowed the remainder of the year and our 12th highest run blocking grade for a tackle, he proved an asset for the Eagles when it mattered most.
5. Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Detroit Lions
Analysis: Ended the year with a healthy nine sacks, but didn’t consistently deliver the kind of pressure that the team may have hoped for. That said he impressed in the run game and showcased his immense physical tools enough to suggest he’ll be some player with more experience and fine tuning.
6. Barkevious Mingo, OLB, Cleveland Browns
Analysis: Simply didn’t produce the kind of immediate impact the Browns were hoping for, finishing the year our fourth lowest ranked 3-4 outside linebacker and never really threatening the playing time of Jabaal Sheard or Paul Kruger. Like DC Ray Horton said, needs to do more rushing the passer.
7. Jonathan Cooper, G, Arizona Cardinals
Analysis: The team is hoping Cooper will get over his severe injury that saw him spend the entire year on injured reserve.
8. Tavon Austin, WR, St Louis Rams
Analysis: Austin made his share of headline plays and was particularly effective on gadget plays and special teams. Still, the team didn’t make full use of him in a receiving game where he was way down the priority list. That’s a shame given how much he promised to deliver. Look for an increased role in 2014.
9. Dee Milliner, CB, New York Jets
Analysis: Slow to adapt, Milliner was poor in the first 10 weeks of the season and twice earned benching through his sloppy play. Then the light seemed to go on, with the coaching staff getting the best out of him by season’s end as his final quarter of the season saw him pick up a +8.6 grade. If he keeps that up the fans may forget about the other guy who had his own island.
10. Chance Warmack, G, Tennessee Titans
Analysis: After being told Warmack was NFL ready we’re a little disappointed here. His season was patchy with the Titan guard never putting a string of good games together, chiefly having issues on his heels as opposed to in the run game (though that was hardly perfect).
11. D.J. Fluker, T, San Diego Chargers
Analysis: This grade would look much better but for a spell at left tackle that saw Fluker earn a -13.0 grade. That’s how good he was at right tackle where he fitted straight in and provided an immediate upgrade for Philip Rivers. You get the impression there’s a lot more to come from him next year.
12. D.J. Hayden, CB, Oakland Raiders
Analysis: A miracle to some he’s even on a football field, his disjointed offseason didn’t help him make a positive impression. Before his season ended after Week 9 he’d missed six tackles in a single game and earned a -7.7 coverage grade. Question marks remain on this pick on so many levels.
13. Sheldon Richardson, DE, New York Jets
Analysis: When we announce our Rookie of the Year next week expect Richardson, who has led our Race for Rookie of the Year all season, to feature prominently. He’s ended the year our fifth ranked 3-4 defensive end and only J.J. Watt has a better run defense grade than the man from Missouri. Still Jets fans might expect a leap from him next year rushing the passer where he was something of a non-factor relative to how much he was on the field.
14. Star Lotulelei, DT, Carolina Panthers
Analysis: Might not be everyone’s cup of tea given his one dimensional play, but he’s so good in that one dimension (run defense) you can’t fail to acknowledge his importance to the Panthers. Much of the media is looking for a figure to credit their resurgence to, but the truth is they’ve just got a letter better at the defensive tackle position and Lotulelei, who had the first highest Run Stop Percentage of all defensive tackles, is the main example of this.
15. Kenny Vaccaro, S, New Orleans Saints
Analysis: Actually finished the year with our third highest grade of any safety for his work against the run, while also earning a positive for his work in coverage. Just let down by his inability to turn a lot of blitzes into pressure, and a worryingly high (five) penalty count. Added an explosive element to the Saints secondary.
16. E.J. Manuel, QB, Buffalo Bills
Analysis: The only quarterback drafted in the first round ended the year with our second lowest grade of all quarterbacks as he struggled mightily. Failed to get the vertical aspect of the Bills passing attack working and had problems with his accuracy (fifth lowest adjusted Accuracy Percentage). The Bills really need a huge step forward with him next year.
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