1.27 Deone Bucannon, S, Washington St.
2.20 Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame
3.20 Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina
3.27 John Brown, WR, Pittsburg St.
4.20 Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
5.20 Ed Stinson, DL, Alabama
6.20 Walt Powell, WR, Murray St.
The Cardinals already had the best safety from last year’s draft in Tyrann Mathieu. They may have the best one from this year’s, too. Scouts love Deone Bucannon’s physicality, which should suit him well in the box as he prepares to replace cagey veteran Yeremiah Bell. Because Mathieu plays the slot in nickel and dime, Bucannon needs to be an adept half-field defender deep, as well.
Troy Niklas, the fifth Notre Dame tight end drafted in the top two rounds since 2006, should start immediately alongside Rob Housler and ahead of John Carlson, another one of those Golden Domers.
With a quality backup 3-4 end already on the roster in Frostee Rucker, Kareem Martin’s selection suggests Darnell Dockett could receive fewer snaps moving forward. Dockett is still a top-shelf defensive end, but he turns 33 at the end of this month and plays with an exhausting amount of ferocity.
John Brown may be a forgettable name, but the speedster may not be as the No. 3 receiver job—currently held by free agent pickup Ted Ginn—is ripe for the taking.
1.06 Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
2.05 Ra’Shede Hageman, DE, Minnesota
3.04 Dezmen Southward, FS, Wisconsin
4.03 Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State
4.39 Prince Shembo, LB, Notre Dame
5.07 Ricardo Allen, CB, Purdue
5.28 Marquis Spruill, OLB, Syracuse
7.38 Yawin Smallwood, ILB, Connecticut
7.40 Tyler Starr, OLB, South Dakota
Many (understandably) believed Atlanta needed a galvanizing pass-rusher. GM Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith, however, believe that a pass rush can be manufactured with blitzes and pre-snap overloads. That’s why Jake Matthews was, according to our Peter King, the man Dimitroff coveted in his unsuccessful attempt to trade up to No. 3. Luckily for Atlanta, Matthews fell to No. 6. His bloodline seemingly guarantees success and allays what had become a crippling pass protection problem. Matthews is slated to begin at right tackle, but given his sound technique it would not be surprising to see him wedge out Sam Baker on the left side.
Atlanta didn’t neglect the defensive side of the ball, as the Falcons invested a second-rounder in Ra’Shede Hageman, who will bring athleticism as a five-technique end, lightening the workload of clogger Paul Soliai and Corey Peters, who is coming off an Achilles injury. Dezman Southward will try to fill the gaping hole at free safety after the release of the erratic Thomas DeCoud.
1.28 Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
2.28 Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
3.28 Trai Turner, OG, LSU
4.28 Tre Boston, FS, North Carolina
5.08 Bene Benwikere, CB, San Jose St.
6.28 Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford
Maybe Cam Newton doesn’t need to fine-tune his accuracy after all. Newton’s new top target, Kelvin Benjamin, has an 83-inch wingspan plus good leaping ability. It’s disconcerting that Benjamin was the only receiver taken by GM Dave Gettleman. One could make the argument that Carolina entered the draft needing three wideouts. It’s not like there weren’t quality choices available late; Gettleman must be higher than most on worn veteran pickups Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant.
Or maybe Gettleman just loved all the other players he selected. According to draft pundits like SI.com’s Chris Burke, Ealy was a major steal late in Round 2. Trai Turner should upgrade an interior line that was in dire straits last year; Nate Chandler, a defensive tackle in 2012, was switched to offense and was pressed into the starting lineup at right guard.
Gettleman landed a second Tre (different spelling) on his next pick, nabbing safety Tre Boston. It could be taken as a tacit admission that Carolina is not wild about offseason pickup Thomas DeCoud. Boston will compete with DeCoud, as well as Ryan Lester, for a starting job.
1.14 Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
2.19 Ego Ferguson, DT, LSU
3.18 Will Sutton, DT, Arizona St.
4.17 Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
4.31 Brock Vereen, S, Minnesota
6.07 David Fales, QB, San Jose St.
6.15 Pat O’Donnell, P, Miami (Fla.)
7.31 Charles Leno Jr., OT, Boise St.
Ask a Bears fan how they feel about their team’s first-round selection and you’ll probably get an answer along the lines of “eh.” But most Bears fans at least understand the rationale behind the pick. Kyle Fuller may not be a dazzler, especially in a year when the defense had more dire needs up front, but the off-man/zone corner embodies the team’s patience and foresight. He’s the heir to Charles Tillman in the long-term. In the short-term, perhaps Fuller can beat out Kelvin Hayden (who is returning from a season-ending torn left hamstring) for nickel duties.
After Fuller, the need up front was addressed with Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton. Incredibly, depth could still be an issue at defensive tackle if veteran starters Jeremiah Ratliff and Stephen Paea can’t shake the injury bugs that hindered them in 2013.
Ka’Deem Carey was a solid addition; it’s wise to have someone help shoulder Matt Forte’s load. Brock Vereen (New England RB Shane’s brother) was selected because it must be a franchise bylaw that the Bears are to take a safety in the third or fourth round.
1.16 Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
2.02 Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise St.
4.19 Anthony Hitchens, OLB, Iowa
5.06 Devin Street, WR, Pittsburgh
7.16 Ben Gardner, DE, Stanford
7.23 Will Smith, OLB, Texas Tech
7.33 Ahmad Dixon, SS, Baylor
7.36 Ken Bishop, DT, Northern Illinois
7.39 Terrance Mitchell, CB, Oregon
It was irresponsible for anyone to hype the Manziel-to-Dallas pipe dream. It bolstered Thursday night ratings but totally misrepresented what Jerry Jones & Co. were thinking. According to The Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys were hoping to spend the 16th pick on defensive front seven forces Anthony Barr, Aaron Donald or Ryan Shazier. With all three off the board they settled for Zack Martin, who will start his career at guard but could eventually move to right tackle, kicking Doug Free inside and thus upgrading two positions along what could be a very good offensive line.
As their original first-round targets suggest, the Cowboys needed help on the other side of the ball after their defense allowed a league-worst 415.3 yards per game. That’s why Dallas traded up to get Demarcus Lawrence, who will almost certainly be the team’s top nickel pass-rusher this year. Though whether he can replace that other DeMarcus, future Hall of Famer Ware, seems unlikely.
The selection of Anthony Hitchens is an eye-opener; it could be the first step in the Cowboys’ eventual divorce from talented but inconsistent weakside linebacker Bruce Carter.