Jeff Roberson/AP
Jeff Roberson/AP

What It All Means: NFC Draft Breakdowns

The 2014 NFL draft went down in unpredictable fashion. Now it’s time to look at what each team’s haul means going forward

Andy Benoit
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Arizona Cardinals

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.

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons tried to trade up for Jake Matthews. They couldn't, but their left tackle of the future fell into their lap anyway. (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
The Falcons tried to trade up for Jake Matthews. They couldn’t, but their left tackle of the future fell into their lap anyway. (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

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.

Carolina Panthers

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’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.

Chicago Bears

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.

Dallas Cowboys

Jerry Jones is hoping Demarcus Lawrence can do some of the things DeMarcus Ware used to do in Big D. (Drew Nash/AP/The Times-News)
Jerry Jones is hoping Demarcus Lawrence can do some of the things DeMarcus Ware used to do in Big D. (Drew Nash/AP/The Times-News)

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.


wonderful.... now I am all keyed up for football and there is nothing to take my mind off of it like the start of the NBA playoffs or anything.  at this point in the NBA playoffs it is kinda boring for most people unless you are a fan of the teams playing OR an "ultra-fan" of the NBA (being just a fan of basketball may not always be the same thing).


ᴊᴜsᴛ ᴀs Rᴏʙɪɴ ᴀɴsᴡᴇʀᴇᴅ I ᴀᴍ sᴛᴀʀᴛʟᴇᴅ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ʏᴏᴜ ᴀʙʟᴇ ᴛᴏ ᴘʀᴏғɪᴛ $7191 ɪɴ ғᴏᴜʀ ᴡᴇᴇᴋs ᴏɴ ᴛʜᴇ ᴄᴏᴍᴘᴜᴛᴇʀ . ʏᴏᴜ ᴄᴀɴ ᴛʀʏ ᴛʜɪs ᴏᴜᴛ 



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.

-GSH must call this one in from the grave every year.


It's a great time to be a 49ers fan! They have so much depth at so many spots. A few nits to pick though... Is Lattimer's knee healing slowly? I love the kid and I've really been hoping he'll emerge as the heir apparent to Frank Gore. The Hyde pick seems to say that he's going to be that guy instead.

Also, I thought they could really use a big guy to play the nose. They play with just two D-linemen a lot of the time, but any 3-4 needs a guy in there who can eat blocks in short yardage situations.

Other than that as long as the corners can step up and Kaepernicking doesn't pull a Flacco on their salary cap this should be a great decade!


Tampa Bay definitely upgrades an anemic offense.....Evans, Sefarian-Jenkins, Vincent Jackson, Doug Martin, Sims....this could be an offense which gives opposing defenses fits....


Kelly's O takes a lot of conditioning for both his O and his D, because the D gets less rest because the O is so fast.  I can see an extra LB needed to keep the D fresh, although I grant it doesn't seem a 1st round need.