Four years have come and gone. 2014 was an entire Olympics ago. The conversations we had regarding Teddy Bridgewater’s hands and calves, whether Houston should take Jadeveon Clowney or the hipster’s choice Khalil Mack, Sammy Watkins’ route running, what Cleveland and St. Louis would do with their two first round picks, and who the first quarterback would be selected have reached their end conclusion. Speculation has given way to reality. All of that soothsaying, extrapolation, and scouting is over.
Everyone knows who these players are now. They’ve grown up. The first round picks have had their fifth round options exercised, and everyone selected in the rounds after has either been re-signed, found another team, or is already out of the league to make room for those even younger than them.
At the end of four years, conclusions can be cemented about the 2014 NFL Draft class. The best around isn’t Mel Kiper, Jr. grading tests behind an ESPN Insider paywall. Objective measures like approximate value and games played can give a basic understanding of the value each player has had, give an exact measurement of how often these players played, and can be combined to compare decisions made back in 2014.
First off, this draft was spectacular in the first round. It wasn’t of the 2011 vintage, but comparing anything to that class is like scrolling through Facebook. In the 2014 first round, there were only seven players who failed to have a career approximate value of ten. Those players are all guys you can now safely call busts: Justin Gilbert (4), Johnny Manziel (5), Darqueze Dennard (8), Marcus Smith (3), Dominique Easley (6), and Jimmie Ward (9). Each of those guys is either playing for another franchise or is out of the NFL.
The first round has produced three All-Pro players in Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack, and Zach Martin. Donald was named to that prestigious group three times; Mack and Martin have been named to it twice. 13 of the 32 first round selections ended up making at least one Pro-Bowl so far. The other twelve were players like Blake Bortles, Ja’Wuan James, Kelvin Benjamin, and Dee Ford, all of whom have been capable starters without making an appearance. Only two players with an AV of ten can be considered busts—Calvin Pryor and Greg Robinson. One bounced around multiple teams, and the other kept getting, and will keep getting, chances because of his draft pedigree.
13 great players, 9 busts, and 10 competent starters is a great first round.
Outside of the first round, there have been eight Pro-Bowlers. Derek Carr, Jarvis Landry, Trai Turner, Devonta Freeman, DeMarcus Lawrence, Davante Adams, Allen Robinson, and Telvin Smith. Smith was the latest selection to make the Pro Bowl after being drafted in the fifth round. The rest of these players, aside from Turner and Freeman, were second round selections.
This is typically how it works. All-Pro players are found in the first round, Pro Bowlers are found in the first and second round, and competent starters are hoped to be found from there on out. The 2014 draft class wasn’t different or special in that way. Players drafted in the first round were better than players drafted in the second round, and on and on and on and on.
2014 NFL Draft By Round
|Round||Total AV||Average AV||Total Games||Average Games|
|Round||Total AV||Average AV||Total Games||Average Games|
As far as individual players go, the most interesting thing about this class is the approximate value leader for each round. Aaron Donald led the draft class and the first round with 57, while Marcus Smith was last with 3. In the second round, Derek Carr is first with 38, and Stanley Jean-Baptiste was the only player with 0. In the third round, both Preston Brown and Trai Turner had 29; Louis Nix, Dri Archer, and Brandon Thomas were the only players with zero. The best players for the rest of the draft were Devonta Freeman with 37 in the fourth round, Telvin Smith with 35 in the fifth round, Zach Fulton with 23 in the sixth round, and Charles Leno with 21 in the seventh round.
Four teams saw their entire franchises change after this draft. Oakland, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, and Atlanta transformed their team with this class. Jacksonville found a starting quarterback in Blake Bortles, a great defender in Telvin Smith, and competent skill players in Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee. Oakland found an All-Pro edge defender in Khalil Mack, a franchise quarterback in Derek Carr, and a centerpiece of their offensive line in Gabe Jackson. The Rams found an all-time great interior defensive lineman and the best player in this draft in Aaron Donald and a starting safety in Lamarcus Joyner. The Falcons found two integral members of their Super Bowl run in left tackle Jake Matthews and running back Devonta Freeman. Those four teams led the NFL in average approximate value per player—Oakland at 18.3, Jacksonville at 16.8, and Los Angeles (then St. Louis) and Atlanta at 14.0. Both Oakland and Jacksonville had the most games played by players in this class with 391.
2014 NFL Draft By Team
|Team||Total AV||Average AV||Total Games||Average Games|
|Team||Total AV||Average AV||Total Games||Average Games|
All four of these franchises used the 2014 NFL Draft as a launching point off to playoff appearances and relevance.
On the other end of the spectrum, New Orleans, Los Angeles (then San Diego), and the New York Jets had the worst draft classes. The average AV for a player the Saints drafted was 3.8, 4.0 for the Chargers, and 4.5 for the Jets. As for totals, the Saints had an AV of 42, the Chargers 24, and Jets 27.
All of the production for the Saints came from Brandin Cooks, who they ended up shipping to New England last offseason. The rest of New Orleans’ selections played only 47 games, and Ronald Powell was the only player with any value. He had an AV of 1.
Like the Saints, the Chargers had only one player provide anything to their team. Jason Verrett has an AV of just 12, but he was a Pro Bowler last season and was one of the best defensive backs in football. Injuries happen. It takes time for cornerbacks to develop in the professional game. Jeremiah Attaochu was their only other player to do anything. He had ten sacks in four seasons and recently signed a one-year deal with the 49ers.
The Jets drafted 12 players in 2014. Look at these names.
New York Jets 2014 Draft Class
Being traded for Demario Davis was the best thing Pryor did for the Jets. I saw Jace Amaro buy four shots at a bar once; he has caught two touchdowns as a red zone target in the NFL. Dakota Dozier is a slophouse oil field bathroom attendant. Sixth round pick Quincy Enunwa is the best player from this class for the Jets. See kids? This is why you try to get as many shots at the draft wheel as you possibly can.
Surprisingly, Cleveland isn’t in the bottom of this study. They finished 22nd in average approximate value despite making the infamous Marcus Gilbert and Johnny Manziel selections. Gilbert played 35 games and had an AV of 4. Manziel played in 15 games and had an AV of 5. Luckily Joel Bitonio, Terrance West, and Christian Kirksey were around to be the center pieces of the past putrescent Browns teams. Together these three, plus fourth round pick Pierre Desire, combined to have 55 AV and have played in 424 games.
For the Texans, this class will always be unforgettable. It was the chance for Houston to (1) pair J.J. Watt, who was then the best player in football, with a possible all-time great edge defender and (2) find a quarterback. Coming off a 2-14 season, the Texans did the safe thing and selected Jadeveon Clowney with the first overall pick. But when the quarterbacks fell, they decided to get bigger at the line of scrimmage instead and picked Tom Savage in the fourth round. The names chosen by the Texans will forever be etched in history. Jadeveon Clowney, Xavier Su’a-Filo, C.J. Fiedorowicz, Louis Nix, Tom Savage, Jeoffery Pagan, Alfred Blue, Jay Prosch, Andre Hal, and Lonnie Ballentine.
This Texans class was lauded by the draft nerds at the time. It often received A grades. You, loyal reader, gave it as such.
Mel Kiper, Jr. even had the following to say:
Houston Texans: A-
Top needs: QB, OLB, RT, DE
Needs: A- Value: A-
Summary: The Texans drafted a generational talent in Jadeveon Clowney, safely the top prospect in the entire draft, and somehow the focus was on what they would do at quarterback. Swing a trade? Draft another Carr? Well, they did end up getting a potential starter in Tom Savage, and I liked the value -- they grabbed Savage in Round 4 when I wouldn’t have been surprised to see him go a round earlier. Make no mistake: Savage is no short-term savior. But the potential is there. The Texans got stronger in the trenches. Xavier Su’a-Filo is the best guard in the draft, and not only is C.J. Fiedorowicz an underrated athlete at tight end, he can actually block somebody, which isn’t common in this tight end class. On defense, Louis Nix III is a steal at No. 83 if he’s in decent shape, and with him, J.J. Watt and Clowney around, the Texans look awfully versatile up front. Jay Prosch is a bruiser at fullback, and I think Andre Hal could be a decent depth addition at CB soon. The Texans really could have gone a few different directions with that No. 1 pick and justified it. But they put aside questions of scheme, need, and everything else and simply took a potentially great player. I did think they could add a tackle, but Su’a-Filo makes them better up front, and will help the run game. if Nix and Savage pan out, this could be a great class.
Objectively and currently, the Texans’ 2014 draft class ranks 10th with 10.9 AV per player, a total AV of 86, 286 games played, and 40.6 in average games played.
The Texans’ draft ended up being similar to the Rams. Except Houston ended up with worse players. Hal isn’t as good as Joyner. Clowney isn’t as good as Donald. Both highly drafted offensive linemen were often maligned. And the rest, well, the rest didn’t work out.
Houston Texans 2014 Draft Class
Houston’s class is uplifted by the home run that’s finally rounding third. Clowney has made the debate about who’s better between him and Mack interesting. Clowney is better now, but Mack has been better throughout the entirety of his career. The rest of the class has been whatever. They played a lot, but were never really great. Su’a-Filo never figured out his hands. Fiedorowicz could never block; in the passing game, he just ran out into the flat and caught four yard passes. Nix never played and was famously cut after just one season in Houston. Savage is the worst quarterback I’ve ever seen. Pagan was drafted by Houston. Blue plodded more than he ever should have, accounting for 13 AV and 56 games played, therefore proving the limitations of this exercise. Prosch has scraped his way to competent, but with only ten fullbacks in the game and how long it took him to reach that point, Houston should have moved on long ago instead of re-signing him. I expect big things from Ballentine this year.
It’s four years later. The Texans only have Clowney, Prosch, and Hal remaining from a draft class where they had ten selections. Savage was never a value pick with potential. The attempt to get bigger just brought in underwhelming players. Objectively, Houston got use out of its 2014 class. Subjectively, it was worse than it actually was and never met the expectations initially given.
As of right now, the failure to meet expectations is the legacy of the Texans’ 2014 draft class.