The Cardinals added a tone-setting safety in Washington State safety Deone Bucannon to pair with free safety Tyrann Mathieu. While he’s known for his jarring hits, Bucannon’s coverage skills tend to get overlooked. GM Steve Keim also added a pair of weapons who are very different in stature. Second-round pick Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas’ 6-foot-6, 270-pound frame will be a big red-zone target for Carson Palmer. Third-round pick Pittsburg State wide receiver John Brown can take the top off of a defense, despite only standing 5-foot-10 and weighing 180 pounds. Arizona also added a developmental guy in Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas, who is very raw but has plenty of upside.
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Last season was a wake-up call for the Falcons as they got pushed around in the NFC South (1-5). They needed to get nastier up front on both sides of the ball. They did so in their first two picks by adding an experienced, technical offensive tackle in Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews and an explosive one-gap penetrator in Minnesota’s Ra’Shede Hageman. Wisconsin safety Dez Southward can compete with Zeke Motta right away for the free safety gig. Lacking a little pop in the backfield, they drafted Florida State’s Devonta Freeman for some depth. General manager Thomas Dimitroff did a nice job rounding out the draft with quality role players who could develop into future starters. Keep your eye on Yawin Smallwood. While the UConn linebacker had a lackluster path to the draft, he’s a three-year starter who will contribute on special teams.
The Ravens got back to what they’re known for: solid defense. By spending their first three picks on Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley (pictured), Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan and Florida State free safety Terrence Brooks, they fortified Dean Pees’ defensive unit. Then they got a big target for quarterback Joe Flacco in 6-foot-6, 260-pound tight end Crockett Gillmore in the fourth round. General manager Ozzie Newsome finished off his draft by making a bit of a splash selecting Coastal Carolina RB Lorenzo Taliaferro in the fourth round. While he’s not a big-play threat, he excels in pass protection and can push the pile.
The Bills certainly made some noise by mortgaging off next year’s first-round pick and a 2014 fourth-round pick to move up five spots and select Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins. This is a decision that GM Doug Whaley will be judged upon much like Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff did when he moved up to get Julio Jones in 2011. The Bills shored up some offensive line issues by adding Alabama tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and Baylor guard Cyril Richardson. Whaley also delivered new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz a few toys in Louisville linebacker Preston Brown and Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell. Brown packs a punch, but is probably nothing more than a guy who will help in run support. They also got tremendous value by taking a flyer on 6-foot-7, 331-pound tackle Seantrel Henderson.
Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman understood he needed to get quarterback Cam Newton a legit weapon and he did so by selecting Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (pictured). With an 83-inch wingspan, Benjamin is a large, red-zone target, who will immediately compete with Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant for the No. 1 receiver in this offense. The 60th overall pick on Missouri's Kony Ealy was based purely on value as they are stacked up the middle in their defense. Ealy is a versatile pass rusher, who could end up replacing franchise player Greg Hardy.
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When Bears general manager Phil Emery attended one of Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller’s games last fall, he knew his instinctive skillset would make a seamless transition into the NFL. That selection will make the lives of veteran cornerbacks Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman much easier. On Day 2, the Bears added two defensive tackles at different points in their careers. Arizona State's Will Sutton was named twice to the all-Pac 12 team, while Ego Ferguson came on strong during his senior season in Baton Rouge. Running back Matt Forte has a strong complement in Ka’Deem Carey, whose two-year production in Tucson rivals just about anyone in this draft.
The Bengals are rather thin at cornerback and added the most polished player at the position in Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther employs a very aggressive scheme and Dennard thrives in press techniques. Cincinnati also found a thumper in LSU running back Jeremy Hill, who most draft analysts cited as being the most well-rounded runner in this year's class. While it’s not necessarily a need, Hill and scatback Giovani Bernard provide a dynamic 1-2 punch. With defensive Michael Johnson departing via free agency, the Bengals beefed up their defensive end position by adding West Virginia's Will Clarke. He won’t need to play immediately as they have depth including Margus Hunt, Robert Geathers and Sam Montgomery. Alabama's AJ McCarron will also provide a competitive spark for franchise quarterback Andy Dalton.
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The Browns may have suffered a loss with the news of wide receiver Josh Gordon being possibly suspended for an extended amount of time for failing a second drug test. That report, however, didn’t deter them from their pre-draft strategy as they truly stuck to their board and never selected a receiver. While first-time general manager Ray Farmer earned a 2015 first-round pick by trading back in Round 1, he certainly made a splash by adding Joe Haden’s counterpart in Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert and franchise quarterback Johnny Manziel. The Browns’ new identity emphasizes employing players with toughness. Towson running back Terrance West is a thick-framed player who weighs over 220 pounds and Nevada offensive tackle Joel Bitonio can play any position on the offensive line. On top of that they added a long cornerback in Lindenwood's Pierre Desir.
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Everyone was expecting the Cowboys to make a splash by drafting Johnny Manziel. They did the opposite and got a gritty offensive tackle in Zack Martin. Martin, who might end up playing guard, would be a Day 1 starter and offer great punch in the running game. With their second-round pick, they addressed a major issue as the team used 19 different players along their defensive line last season. Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence should contribute early as Anthony Spencer and George Selvie are less-than-adequate pass rushers. Jerry Jones also added a pair of linebackers in Iowa's Anthony Hitchens and Texas Tech's Will Smith who have great range and can contribute on special teams. The real difference-maker could be wide receiver Devin Street, who owns a Pittsburgh school record with 206 receptions.
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Broncos general manager John Elway only made six selections during the three-day draft, but made each one count. Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby has through-the-roof upside if he can keep his off-the-field troubles at bay. This was clearly a need as the team allowed Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Champ Bailey to sign elsewhere in free agency. They also added one of the most underrated wide receivers in Indiana's Cody Latimer. While some might point at this pick as a replacement for Eric Decker, Broncos brass is looking a year ahead as Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker will be free agents in 2015. What’s more is the Broncos strengthened their offensive line by adding Senior Bowl standout Michael Schofield.
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The Lions wanted to get better at the tight end position and they did so by adding North Carolina’s Eric Ebron and Bloomsburg’s Larry Webster. While the team already has Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria, general manager Martin Mayhew made sure to keep adding to Matthew Stafford’s arsenal. It didn’t end there as they got a highly rated center in Travis Swanson and a polished route runner in TJ Jones. The Lions, however, seemed to completely abandon the cornerback position – an area where they desperately need help. Utah State's Nevin Lawson looked very fluid in the East-West Shrine and Senior Bowl, but he’s undersized at 5-foot-9, 190 pounds. That doesn’t bode well as the NFC North is littered with large receivers. Did Princeton defensive tackle Caraun Reid’s signing foreshadow the Lions allowing Nick Fairley to test free agency next season? Quite possibly.
Green Bay Packers
General manager Ted Thompson will not make the error of his predecessor Ron Wolf and not give his franchise quarterback more-than-enough playmakers. Thompson selected three wide receivers, turning the Packers’ corps into a major strength. While Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are each entering the final years of their rookie deals, Thompson found tremendous value in Wisconsin wide receiver Jared Abbrederis. A former walk-on, who can make plays in traffic, Abbrederis is fearless and was very productive in Madison. They also added Richard Rodgers, who played wide receiver at Cal because of Sonny Dykes’ no-tight end offense. He’ll compete with Andrew Quarless for the gig. And who can forget about the Packers adding the ball-hawk safety from Alabama. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is rarely caught out of position and is an instant upgrade at the safety position -- an area where the Packers didn’t net a single interception a season ago.
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The Texans came into this draft needing a quarterback. They waited 135 picks to get one. While it remains to be seen who will line up under center in Week 1, Tom Savage has a big arm, toughness and potential to grow into a franchise quarterback. He’ll first need to start digesting head coach Bill O’Brien’s offense. This draft was all about defense, though. After selecting Jadeveon Clowney No. 1 overall, the Texans added Notre Dame’s Louis Nix and Alabama’s Jeoffrey Pagan. General manager Rick Smith was patient in his picks and enhanced his offensive line by getting an above-average run blocker in UCLA’s Xavier Su’a-Filo.
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The Colts came into this year’s draft looking to add offensive linemen with position flexibility. They did so by signing Ohio State’s Jack Mewhort and Georgia State’s John Ulrick. Mewhort’s toughness and technique will make him an exceptional player in this league and he should start right away at guard. General manager Ryan Grigson made sure to get quarterback Andrew Luck a weapon by adding Ole Miss wide receiver Donte Moncrief, who is 6-foot-2, 211 pounds. Moncrief clocked in with a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash and is a big target who can stretch the field.
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The new era in Jacksonville has begun. While the team has noted there isn’t any pressure for him to start Day 1, Bortles must earn respect in the locker room and then take command of the huddle as soon as possible. The 6-foot-5, 232-pound prototypical pocket passer will be joined with two very good weapons on the outside. USC’s Marqise Lee and Penn State’s Allen Robinson are both home run threats with the ball in their hands. General manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Gus Bradley added a powerful pass rusher in Arkansas Chris Smith and a instinctive linebacker from Florida State with Telvin Smith. Defense, defense, defense.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs sharpened iron with iron in a sense, using a first-round pick on defensive end Dee Ford. They plan to use Ford as an outside linebacker to mix in with Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, who make up a very formidable pass rush. General manager John Dorsey (pictured) spent a third-round pick on Phillip Gaines, who is a long, wiry cornerback. The pass-breakup artist will get a chance to play at the nickel. The most intriguing option is Oregon running back De’Anthony Thomas. Head coach Andy Reid must find a way to get Thomas the ball as he’s not a prototypical between-the-tackles runner. He also has some value in the return game.
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The Dolphins have successfully rebuilt their offensive line this offseason and added some critical pieces during the draft. Tennessee’s Ja’Wuan James should be able to lock down the right side opposite incoming free agent Branden Albert. North Dakota State’s Billy Turner will compete with Shelley Smith and Dallas Thomas for a starting guard position. Montana outside linebacker Jordan Tripp consistently drew comparisons to Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso during the draft process and is a sideline-to-sideline player.
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General manager Rick Spielman put an emphasis on getting to the pass rusher and will do so by adding UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr and Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton. Both players have relentless motors, but will need to get stronger before the season begins. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (pictured) will be firmly entrenched in a competition with Christian Ponder and he should be able to outshine him during the preseason. Adding depth at cornerback was also a priority despite signing Captain Munnerlyn in free agency and spending a first-round pick on Xavier Rhodes a year ago.
New England Patriots
Bill Belichick outsmarted the Super Bowl champion Seahawks by selecting Dominique Easley (pictured). Once Seahawks’ brass witnessed Easley had been plucked at No. 29 overall, they bowed out of the first round and allowed the Vikings to trade up and get Teddy Bridgewater. While Easley is rehabbing a torn ACL, he will give the Patriots a pass-rushing threat from defensive tackle. Also, did the Patriots find Tom Brady’s successor? Jimmy Garoppolo was highly touted during the draft process and will be well-schooled playing behind Brady for the next several years.
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New Orleans Saints
General manager Mickey Loomis kept low-key during the NFL Draft, but got some instant impact players. While draft experts are mesmerized by Brandin Cooks’ production at the wide receiver position, the Saints were looking for a solid return man to fill Darren Sproles' role. At 6-foot-2, Stanley Jean-Baptiste is a big cornerback, who is a former receiver, and has drawn comparisons to Richard Sherman. Rob Ryan got a few solid pieces for his defense in Cal's Khairi Fortt and Florida's Ronald Powell.
New York Giants
The Giants struggled in the interior of their offensive line last season and need an upgrade at guard. Colorado State center Weston Richburg was a two-time captain and a four-year starter and will be able to play immediately. Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s favorite new toy Odell Beckham is a very explosive athlete who brings another element in the return game. On top of that, the Giants added running back Andre Williams, who had a decorated career at Boston College.
New York Jets
The Jets found players who matched their hard-nosed, physical identity. Nicknamed the “Louisville Slugger," safety Calvin Pryor is comfortable inside the box, but also has tremendous range. General manager John Idzik made sure to find quarterback Geno Smith/Mike Vick/Tajh Boyd some playmakers on the outside as he spent three picks on wide receivers. They also found tremendous value in Utah linebacker Trevor Reilly in the seventh round.
Did any team have better players fall into their lap at each respective pick? General manager Reggie McKenzie must’ve been pleasantly surprised to learn that Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack was available at No. 5 overall. Mack is a versatile player, who can play with his hand in the dirt in a 4-3 and rush the passer as an outside linebacker in the 3-4. He also has great range and soft hands. Then, the Raiders pulled the trigger on Derek Carr on Day 2. Carr will have a chance to learn the nuances of the offensive behind Matt Schaub.
Head coach Chip Kelly respects Charlie Strong’s opinion so much that he spent a first-round pick on one of his players. While former Louisville linebacker Marcus Smith needs to get strong to anchor against the run, he is a hybrid guy who will likely get after the passer. The two receivers they added on Day 2 are much different, but they each boast their own types of significant qualities. Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews has big hands, who can track balls in traffic. He could be very productive in this offense from the start. Kelly was well aware of Oregon wide receiver Josh Huff’s ability as he recruited him to Eugene. Huff can take the top off a defense and is coming off a productive senior season.
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Ryan Shazier will likely line up as an inside linebacker and play there for the next decade. The former Ohio State linebacker will be a weapon in Dick LeBeau’s defense. This unit needed to get younger and did so up front with the selections of Notre Dame's Stephon Tuitt and Tennessee's Daniel McCullers. Both players will have the opportunity to produce right away. The most intersting pick was Kent State running back Dri Archer. If the owner of the 4.26 40-yard dash pans out, he could be a lethal weapon in the return game.
San Diego Chargers
General manager Tom Telesco was desperate to add a cornerback and he did right from the beginning. While TCU's Jason Verrett is rehabbing from labrum surgery, he’ll be asked to compete for the No. 2 cornerback position during training camp. At 5-foot-9, Verrett must use his quickness and aggressive mindset to make up for his lack of height. The Chargers like what they have in Georgia Tech outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu, having to trade up seven spots in the second round to acquire him. Attaochu is insurance on veteran Dwight Freeney and he could develop into a special player.
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San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers entered the weekend with 12 picks and they ended up making 12 selections. Despite signing safety Antoine Bethea to a four-year, $23 million deal, general manager Trent Baalke used the No. 30 selection on strong safety Jimmie Ward. That’s one year after using a pick on Eric Reid, too. It was surely a surprise, but this defense is fueled on hard hitting, impact-setting players. Ward fits that mold. Another surprise was drafting Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde, who is considered the best overall running back in this year’s class. The 49ers now go six deep at the running back position. With Frank Gore entering the final year of his deal, the writing could be on the wall.
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The Seahawks took a page out of Bill Belichick’s book by moving down three times to acquire three extra picks. With a deep talent pool, general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll were able to find players that fit their system. They selected two wide receivers including Colorado's speedy Paul Richardson and Alabama's sure-handed Kevin Norwood. Seattle was also able to fill a need (Missouri OT Justin Britt) as right tackle Breno Giacomini left via free agency. It’s too early to tell how this draft will pan out. If history is any indicator, the Seahawks did just fine.
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St. Louis Rams
The Redskins’ trade for Robert Griffin III is literally the gift that keeps on giving. Not only did general manager Les Snead receive a first-round pick, but he found himself owning a top-2 selection of the 2014 NFL Draft. It was there where he found his future Pro Bowl left tackle Greg Robinson. Snead followed up that selection by drafting one of the fastest rising prospects in Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald. On Day 2 is where they filled some major needs. Florida State's Lamarcus Joyner has the versatility to play either safety or cornerback. Auburn's Tre Mason is a tough runner, who will spell Zac Stacy from the beginning.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
So, who said Lovie Smith is a defensive-minded guy. The Bucs first-year head coach used all six selections on offensive players. By adding wide receiver Mike Evans, quarterback Josh McCown has two big targets reminiscent of his days in Chicago. They also added a technician in Wyoming wide receiver Robert Herron. Keep an eye on West Virginia's Charles Sims to slowly take carries away from running back Doug Martin. He has great lateral quickness and brings some value in the passing game.
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Taylor Lewan, a four-year starter at Michigan, uses his quickness to take away the edge. Without a need at the position, this selection seems like a value pick, but Lewan’s versatility will be key. Offensive tackles Michael Roos and Michael Oher aren’t elite players and Lewan could leapfrog one of them by the end of training camp. The Titans also got Chris Johnson’s replacement in Bishop Sankey. The Washington product fits head coach Ken Whisenhunt’s offense and will look to handle a majority of the load. Whisenhunt also got good insurance on Locker by selecting LSU's Zach Mettenberger.
The Redskins made a savvy move by trading down in the second round, which netted them another pick. Outside linebacker Trent Murphy was consistently one of Stanford’s most dominant pass rushers and he’ll rotate in with Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. How's that for a pass rush? These selections were more about development than immediate impact. Clemson cornerback Bashaud Breeland failed to show long speed during the draft process, which resulted in him tumbling down the draft board, but he plays much quicker on the field. They also found a gem in the sixth round by selecting Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk.