NFL Draft: First-Round Winners, Losers, Gambles

Jedeveon Clowney was taken first. Blake Bortles was the first quarterback taken. No running backs were taken in the first round for the second straight year. A homeless man may have convinced the Cleveland Browns to take Johnny Manziel. No Big Ten player was taken in the first ten picks. Again. And 11 players from the SEC were taken in the first round. Here are the winners, losers, and gambles from the first round of the NFL Draft.

Winners

1. AFC North --  Ravens, Bengals, Steelers, Browns

The Baltimore Ravens got C.J. Mosley out of Alabama, who may soon be their quarterback on defense. The Bengals got Darquese Dennard, a shutdown cornerback out of Michigan State that many thought would not be there for them at No. 24, and the Pittsburgh Steelers got bruising Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier.

Cleveland also beefed up on defense with Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, pocketed a first-r0und pick in a loaded 2015 draft by trading their fourth pick to the Buffalo Bills, and then ended up with Johnny Manziel, the most electric and polarizing quarterback in the draft that may give the league's brutal defenses fits. But Manziel is also one hit from getting knocked out as well. I don't think Cleveland -- and the AFC North -- is the best fit for him. But Cleveland got the quarterback they were thinking about taking at No. 4 at No. 22, which is still a win. It will be an even bigger win for Cleveland if Manziel's friend LeBron James, who shares business associates with him, comes back home to Cleveland. 

This division improved the most of any on night one. 

2. Texans --  DE Jedeveon Clowney 

Houston would have been the biggest winner of the night had Teddy Bridgewater still been on the board after the team drafted Jedeveon Clowney. But the Vikings traded with Seattle to snag Bridgewater with the last pick in the first round. Clowney may have been the No. 1 pick last year, and is one of the top-rated players to have ever come out of college. He cannot not be a win. And Houston now has JJ Watt and Clowney to chase around Andrew Luck for years to come.

3. Minnesota Vikings -- LB Anthony Barr and QB Teddy Bridgewater 

Minnesota may have reached in taking Anthony Barr in the top 10, but they made up for it by getting the best value pick so far in the draft in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who many thought was a top-5 pick before he turned in a less than stellar pro-day performance when he threw without his gloves on. Bridgewater, with Adrian Petersen in the backfield, fits in Norv Turner's scheme -- and he'll surely wear his gloves when the Vikings play the next two years outdoors until their new stadium is built. 

4. New  York Giants -- WR Odell Beckham, Jr. 

Eli Manning got a dynamic receiver from LSU that can line up opposite Victor Cruz. Beckham was simply a playmaker playing in college football's best league. He can overpower press coverage and can make an immediate impact on special teams as well. 

5. New Orleans Saints -- WR Brandin Cooks 

Anybody who watches Pac-12 football knows how dangerous Brandon Cooks is. The Saints not only got a value in him, but also filled a need after trading Darren Sproles to Philadelphia. He can be used in a variety of hybrid roles -- like a Percy Harvin who causes defenses to get migraines. 

Losers

1. Dallas Cowboys - OL Zack Martin 

The Cowboys needed to draft for defense and left plenty of stellar defensive players on the board to draft an offensive lineman. If they were going to draft offense, they may as well have drafted Johnny Manziel -- that would have been a Jerry Jones pick. But Alabama's CJ Mosley and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix were on the board. So were Calvin Pryor and Darquese Denard.

2. Arizona Cardinals - DB Deone Buchanon

The Cardinals could have used a quarterback like Teddy Bridgewater, but they drafted a defensive back even though they are incredibly deep in the defensive backfield with the likes of Patrick Peterson, Tyrann "honeybadger" Matthieu, and Antonio Cromartie. The Cardinals may try to stockpile defensive backs like the Seahawks, but had other needs. 

3. Miami Dolphins - OT Ja'Wuan James

Dolphins had needs on both sides of the ball and may have taken an offensive tackle that may not even been the best at his position. 

4. Philadelphia Eagles - LB Marcus Smith

The Eagles could have taken a wide receiver like Marqise Lee to replace Desean Jackson and instead went with a linebacker who will really have to exceed expectations to be worthy of the first-round pick. 

Gambles 

1. Jacksonville Jaguars - QB Blake Bortles

Bortles is not the best quarterback in the draft. His arm strength is not as good for someone his size and he may have trouble reading defenses at the next level. He is not even the most prepared to start at the next level. The Jaguars spent a franchise pick on him, and Bortles has to live up to be a franchise quarterback for this pick not to be a bust. 

2. Buffalo Bills - WR Sammy Watkins 

All indications is that Watkins will play like a No. 4 pick. But since Buffalo traded a No. 1 pick in next year's loaded draft (in addition to a No. 4) to grab the talented wideout out of Clemson, he now has to be at least as good as Julio Jones.

3. Carolina Panthers - WR Kelvin Benjamin 

The Panthers needed a wide receiver to replace Steve Smith, and they picked up a dandy in Miami's Kelvin Benjamin that will give Cam Newton another receiver that can both be a possession receiver and a deep threat. But Benjamin has to be on his game, especially since he was taken in the first round when there were a lot of quality wide receivers left (see: Marqise Lee), and be better than the receivers that will be taken behind him in the second round.

Photo: Blake Bortles, ESPN


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