Surprises are to be expected during the draft, and 2014 was pegged as a year that would feature many of them.
If that was what fans were looking for in Day 1 of this year’s draft, then they certainly got their fill.
There were five trades in the first round, with the Cleveland Browns involved in three of them as they put together a draft night that they hope will change the destiny of their currently struggling franchise. Other teams were involved, and some of the biggest names in the draft were selected as a result of these moves.
The trades weren’t the only surprises, as teams made shocking picks as well. Here’s a look at some of the biggest surprises from the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
The fall of Johnny Manziel
Gil Brandt told MMQB “I think Johnny Manziel will go in the top five, but not number one.”
Far from it. Manziel didn’t go in the top five—nor the top 10, 15 or 20 picks.
Manziel wound up following in the footsteps of Aaron Rodgers, Brady Quinn and Geno Smith, as he waited in the green room sweating out when he’d get picked.
In the end, Manziel wound up a member of the Cleveland Browns, which makes sense as he was the biggest newsmaker going into the draft. It’s a marriage that for now looks like it’s made in heaven, but once he’s on the field, we’ll see how it really works out.
Overall, the Cleveland Browns have won Day 1 of the draft, managing to pick up a potential superstar quarterback, a Pro Bowl cornerback, and a 2015 first rounder.
The Browns winning the day should be the most surprising thing of all, and from the looks of it, it won’t be the last time the Browns will win in 2014.
Cleveland Browns traded the fourth overall pick to Buffalo in exchange for Buffalo’s ninth overall pick and a 2015 first round pick.
The Browns made the most noise on Thursday night and made the first official trade. In it, they victimized the Buffalo Bills by moving down to the ninth pick as well as acquiring the Bills’ 2015 first rounder.
In return, the Bills got the rights to draft wide receiver Sammy Watkins out of Clemson. The good news from the Bills is they now have the best wide receiver tandem in the AFC East and plenty of promise with their playmakers on offense. The bad news is their potentially explosive offense is at the mercy of quarterback E.J. Manuel, who was disappointing in his rookie season.
The Bills better hope that Manuel is the one for them, because they won’t have a 2015 first-rounder to go after the top quarterback of the class, since the Browns will have their pick. Anything other than a playoff appearance will be a disaster for the Bills.
Pittsburgh Steelers selected Ryan Shazier
Coming into the draft, Ryan Shazier was looked at as a nice player who would be picked late in the first round or early in Day 2.
It even looked like Shazier was tipping where he was going, showing up to the draft in Miami Dolphins aqua colors. And his father is the Dolphins’ team chaplain, and Shazier had worked out for the Dolphins in the weeks preceding the draft.
The Steelers were a team with pressing needs along the offensive line and in the secondary. It seemed like the pick would certainly address the secondary, with plenty of DBs available.
Instead, Pittsburgh took a chance and reached for Shazier, which was only the second-most egregious reach of the night.
Shazier’s athleticism and skill set will work in Pittsburgh’s defensive scheme. If anyone can get the most out of him, it’s DC Dick LeBeau. And at Ohio State he showed tremendous play-making ability. It wasn’t a bad pick by any means, just unexpected when looking at what the Steelers needed.
Dallas Cowboys drafted Zack Martin
The good news for the Cowboys is they have someone who can protect Tony Romo and block in the running game, as well as a versatile lineman that can play all five positions.
The bad news for the Cowboys is they still have many needs on defense, especially in the secondary, which is what I expected them to address in Round 1.
This is a surprising pick in the sense that nobody expected it, but it’s also a “safe,” solid pick.
But maybe Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Calvin Pryor would’ve been a better one?
New York Jets selected Calvin Pryor
I’ve noticed a theme with these surprises (other than the first one). These are all pretty good picks, just not the ones that these teams were expected to make.
The Jets’ selection of Louisville’s Calvin Pryor was unexpected but a pick that made too much sense not to happen once you thought about it. The team loves to use pressure packages on defense to be aggressive, and head coach Rex Ryan loves hard-hitters.
The thinking was that the Jets would go for a wide receiver or cornerback at No. 18, but instead they picked a position they greatly needed. The one question raised is whether or not they chose the right safety. However between Pryor and HaHa Clinton-Dix, they really couldn’t go wrong.
There will be plenty of receivers for the Jets to pick from in Round 2, which is likely what general manager John Idzik was thinking upon making this selection.
New England Patriots drafted Dominique Easley
NFL.com’s draft grade for Florida’s defensive tackle Dominique Easley was third to fourth round. But he somehow managed to sneak into Day 1.
This is not due to his skill set alone (which actually is first round-worthy, when looking at his tape) but rather his injury history, which includes ACL surgery in both knees.
New England absolutely could use some help in their defensive front, but it was surprising that they spent their first-round pick on Easley as opposed to other available defensive tackles or linebackers.
Easley is expected to be Vince Wilfork’s eventual successor, and the pick drew praise from Wilfork himself as it was made.
I’m lovin this pick !!
— Vince Wilfork (@wilfork75) May 9, 2014
Now, if any other team had made this pick in this round, it would’ve likely been highly scrutinized. The Patriots however are receiving praise for making the gamble.
Minnesota Vikings jumped back into the first round to draft Teddy Bridgewater
At the end of the night, the Seattle Seahawks were on the clock and they weren’t going to draft a QB. It looked like the Houston Texans would finally draft their potential franchise quarterback with the first pick of Day 2.
The Vikings had other plans, and wound up giving the Seahawks their second and fourth round picks in exchange for the 32nd pick in the draft. The pick would become Bridgewater’s ticket to Minny.
Overall, this trade was a win-win for both teams. Minnesota got a quarterback they can plug into an offense with a good offensive line and plenty of playmakers, while the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks get additional picks to shore up their offensive line.
(Follow Thomas Galicia on Twitter: @thomasgalicia)