The 2014 draft class is loaded with talent and was lauded as one of the deepest in recent history. So it might seem baffling to imagine any team failing to address their key needs. But somehow, some teams found a way.
That’s not to say that those teams necessarily had a bad draft, but when you head into the event with some obvious areas of concern, it’s unacceptable for those needs to go unrecognized.
Let’s take a look at the NFL teams who missed their mark when they had some major needs to tend to.
Once a top championship contender, the Falcons seem to be on the rapid decline. Failing to pick up an edge rusher in the draft didn’t help their chances.
Opposing passers thrived against the Falcons in 2013 and much of that had to do with the lack of pressure from Atlanta’s front seven. The logical move then would be to bolster that group with some capable pass rushers, right?
Ryan Riddle’s utter disappointment tells the tale of the Falcons’ 2014 draft:
Not a fan of what the #Falcons did this week. Overrated OT and no pass rusher. A team on the decline in my opinion.
— Ryan Riddle (@Ryan_Riddle) May 10, 2014
Osi Umenyiora led the team with just 7.5 sacks and the Falcons finished 29th with 31 in total. Their opposing quarterback rating of 102.4 was second-worst behind only the Oakland Raiders.
With quarterback Matt Ryan playing out his prime years of football, now is the time to win. The Falcons didn’t make the moves necessary to help make that happen.
The defending NFC South champs went into the 2014 NFL Draft and did what fans have been begging for over the last few years—they selected a wide receiver in the first round. While Benjamin wasn’t the best player they could have come away with it at the position, for once Panthers fans can’t really complain there.
They did reach a bit in selecting Benjamin. But the issue is they departed Radio City Music Hall without adding an offensive tackle—another crucial need on offense—which is what makes the Panthers’ draft class is a disappointment.
They had the opportunity to nab a talented young talent in Morgan Moses out of Virginia in the second round, who would’ve been a great value pick at No. 60 had they pulled the trigger on him. They had another opportunity in the third round when they chose to pass on Michigan tackle Michael Schofield. Even their group of undrafted free agents lacks a tackle.
Benjamin was an understandable selection but he is very much a boom-or-bust prospect, as my colleague Chris Roling noted here. Meanwhile, the Panthers still have a major void at tackle and chose to pass up on Moses, Schofield and Joel Bitonio, all three of which could be stable, long-term fixture on an NFL offensive line.
The Browns went in the draft desperately needed a wide receiver. They left with everything but that.
Cleveland had a solid draft, adding key pieces on offense and defense, but how they could leave NYC without a wide receiver is nonsensical.
Their need for a receiver only grew when news that star wideout Josh Gordon would likely be suspended by the NFL first broke. Still, the Browns chose to ignore the need to despite having a wealth of options at their disposal. Marqise Lee, Jordan Matthews, Paul Richardson and Jarvis Landry were all available when they picked in the second round. Ole Miss’ Donte Moncrief was certainly worth consideration in Round 3.
Yes, the Browns are a few years off still. But the idea is to get those pieces on your roster now so that you can be a contender later. Cleveland failed to do that and, as a result, are in place to hand the offensive reins over to Johnny Manziel with one talented and established wideout in Josh Gordon, who will likely miss at least four games. And that’s assuming he doesn’t run into more trouble in the near future.
New York Giants
I don’t care what general manager Jerry Reese says. The Giants needed to draft a playmaking tight end. What they have currently on the roster doesn’t appear up to par and that could be cause for concern in an offense expected to utilize the position heavily in the passing game.
Admittedly, it’s difficult to say who the Giants shouldn’t have drafted to take a tight end instead. But to leave Radio City Music Hall without one of the top ones in the draft is inexcusable for an offense currently featuring a handful of tight ends with minimal experience (Adrien Robinson, Larry Donnell and Daniel Fells) and a proficient blocker but underwhelming pass catcher in Kellen Davis.
Even head coach Tom Coughlin showed some concern for tight end position heading into the summer.
Coughlin did say the Giants will still be tight end shopping, if for no other reason than they need more on the roster to get through camp.
— Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoNYDN) May 10, 2014
On top of that, the Giants needed to get Eli Manning protection. Weston Richburg was an answer of sorts at the center position, but a versatile tackle like Notre Dame’s Zack Martin should have been in their sights—and many believed he was. Had they drafted Martin at No. 12, they could’ve looked to add either Jace Amaro or Troy Niklas in the second round to provide an immediate improvement at tight end.
But they passed up on Martin and defensive tackle Aaron Donald, another popularly projected Giants pick, in favor of wide receiver Odell Beckham. For their sake, hopefully the selection of Beckham proves to be worthwhile.