NEW YORK, May 10, 2014 — With the second day of the 2014 NFL Draft now in the books, analysis of rounds two and three should focus on what were four bad teams. Good teams still need draft help. Even Super Bowl champions need to guard against complacency. However, the purpose of the Draft for leather heads is to see if bad teams can get better and live out the late Pete Rozelle’s dream of competitive balance on any given Sunday.
Four teams in particular had a miserable season last year. The Houston Texans, Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns were all jokes. Failed drug tests hurt the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars on day two of the Draft, while Houston and Oakland thrived.
The Oakland Raiders struck gold in the first round by seeing Khalil Mack fall to them. In the second round, Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie stayed patient and got his man in quarterback Derek Carr, who the Raiders were rumored to have wanted all along. Oakland drafted him with the 36th pick without giving up anything. In the third round the Raiders drafted a 6’3”, 336 pound guard named Gabe Jackson. McKenzie is building the team his way, and it appears to be the right way. The Silver and Black have reason for optimism.
Houston also did it right. Taking Jadavean Clowney first overall was a no-brainer, and they did it. Like Oakland, Houston added a behemoth at guard in Su’a-Filo Xavier. Houston then added a tight end. While some will criticize the Texans for not taking a quarterback, the team now has a solid defense, which will keep them competitive. Houston fans should be pleased, even without the pickup of a signal caller.
Cleveland began the draft brilliantly, maneuvering around brilliantly to get cornerback Justin Gilbert and eventually getting Johnny Manziel. In the second round, the Browns played it basic, but smart. The Browns got their offensive tackle in Joel Bitonio.
The big news in Cleveland was not the third round draft picks, a linebacker and a running back. The pall cast over this long-suffering franchise was the announcement of a failed drug test by wide receiver Josh Gordon. Gordon is a playmaker, and his loss to a suspension is a real blow to the Browns. Just when there was cause for optimism by Lake Erie, this has to happen. In better news, Bryan Hoyer could be great trade bait if the Browns want to shop around their quarterback from last year.
Jacksonville is another team that is saying goodbye to a talented, but troubled player. The drafting of Blake Bortles at the third spot lit up Radio City Music Hall, but the real Jaguars news is the suspension of wide receiver Justin Blackmon for another failed drug test. Jacksonville immediately grabbed two wide receivers in round two, Marquise Lee and Allen Robinson. Late in the third round they took a guard, but the Blackmon news is the big deal. He will most likely never play for Jacksonville again.
The Raiders and Texans got a lot better, while the Jaguars and Browns still had dark clouds following them.
In average team news, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones insisted that he wanted Manziel, comparing him to Elvis Presley. The bottom line is Jones poured so much money into Tony Romo that the salary cap prevented moves, even with the newer rookie wage scale. Whoever talked Jones out of drafting Manziel did the right thing. He is a much better fit in Cleveland than Dallas. Now Jerry should stop undermining his own players by lamenting who got away.
The last bold move came from the New England Patriots, who drafted quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo near the end of the second round. This means Ryan Mallett is not the long-term successor to Tom Brady. Brady is 36, and wants to play until he is 40. Aaron Rodgers had to wait several years before Brett Favre finally was moved out of the way. Brady will fend off Garoppolo for as long as possible.
This leaves quarterback A.J. McCarron as the last wild card among the signal callers. As for Michael Sam, at some point Day three of the Draft will be filled with drama about him either way.