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2014 NFL Draft Re-Grade: NFC North

by Joshua Doering

Perhaps the only thing more impressive about the NFL draft than the amount of time it takes to complete all seven rounds is the amount of grades produced in the aftermath of each selection. The draft’s winners and losers are decided before any pick plays a down of professional football. 

For all the immediate evaluation that is done, it is impossible to fairly assess a draft class without data and the gift of time. Starting with 2010, 110 Sports is going back and grading every NFL draft of the past decade on a team-by-team basis. 

These grades are based first and foremost on production. Other factors were taken into consideration, but the primary goal is figuring out how successful teams were at identifying talent.  

The NFC North marks the halfway point of the 2014 NFL Draft Re-Grade.

*All stats courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and accurate through the end of the 2019 season.

Chicago Bears

Picks: DB Kyle Fuller (14th overall), DT Ego Ferguson (51), DT Will Sutton (82), RB Ka’Deem Carey (117), DB Brock Vereen (131), QB David Fales (183), P Pat O’Donnell (191), OT Charles Leno Jr. (246)

Best pick: Charles Leno Jr. 

Generally speaking, a first round pick with two Pro Bowl appearances and a First Team All-Pro selection like Fuller takes this spot with ease. However, an exception must be made for a seventh round pick who’s started every game the past four seasons and made the Pro Bowl in 2018. The last time Leno did not appear in a game was his rookie season back in 2014. Fuller and Leno are tied for the most games started in the group with 78. 

Worst pick: Ego Ferguson 

Ferguson’s 16 appearances as a rookie accounted for 80% of the games he played in his career. He landed on injured reserve in 2015 after seeing action in four games and was then suspended four games for a violation of the NFL’s performancing-enhancing drugs policy. Ferguson’s 2017 season ended after the preseason thanks to a shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery. In four years, he was signed and waived in some fashion by every NFC North team except the Vikings.  

Grade: A-

Not many teams can claim to have selected a future Pro Bowler with their first and last picks of a draft. The rest of the group has a total of 24 starts, though that number is deceiving. O’Donnell’s served as Chicago’s punter the past six seasons and Fales is still hanging around as a backup quarterback. This was very much a hit-or-miss draft for the Bears, and the hits were much more significant than the misses.  

Detroit Lions

Picks: TE Eric Ebron (10), LB Kyle Van Noy (40), C Travis Swanson (76), DB Nevin Lawson (133), DE Larry Webster (136), DT Caraun Reid (158), WR T.J. Jones (189), K Nate Freese (229)

Best pick: Kyle Van Noy

The best two players Detroit selected are Ebron and Van Noy, both of whom improved dramatically after joining other teams. The slight edge goes to Van Noy based on his two Super Bowl rings. In three full seasons with the Patriots from 2017 to 2019, Van Noy compiled 221 tackles, 15.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and an interception. This is also your friendly reminder New England got Van Noy and a 2017 seventh round pick for a 2017 sixth round pick. 

Worst pick: Larry Webster

The son of an 11-year NFL veteran, Webster was released after one season with the Lions. His lone appearance came with the Panthers in 2016 following a stint on their practice squad. That was the last time Webster would be on an active roster. He was released from the Buccaneers’ practice squad on Oct. 24, 2017. 

Grade: B

The four players the Lions took before Webster all have 65+ appearances and more than 45 starts. It took another team to get the most out of Detroit’s top two picks though. Ebron caught more touchdowns in his first season with the Colts than he did in four seasons with the Lions. Even with a Pro Bowl selection, he has never been dynamic enough to warrant being drafted in the top 10. Freese and Webster were the only two in the eight-person class not to last at least five seasons. 

Green Bay Packers

Picks: DB Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (21), WR Davante Adams (53), DT Khyri Thornton (85), TE Richard Rodgers (98), LB Carl Bradford (121), C Corey Linsley (161), WR Jared Abbrederis (176), WR Demetri Goodson (197), WR Jeff Janis (236)

Best pick: Davante Adams

It’s a toss-up between Clinton-Dix and Adams, and the tie goes to the player still with the team that drafted him. Adams is 15th in receptions (431), 17th in receiving yards (5,194) and fifth in touchdown receptions (44) since joining the Packers in 2014. In that time, he has caught more touchdowns than Julio Jones, Travis Kelce, Rob Gronkowski, A.J. Green and T.Y. Hilton. From 2016 to 2019, Adams averaged 86 receptions, 1,066 yards and 10 touchdowns while making the Pro Bowl three times. 

Worst pick: Carl Bradford

Bradford did not make his NFL debut until 2016, his third season with the organization. He was inactive for his entire rookie year and on Green Bay’s practice squad for all of 2015. The Packers let Bradford go again in 2016 before signing him to the practice squad. He got promoted to the active roster on Nov. 19, 2016, and played in four games before Green Bay released him. He appeared in two games for the 49ers later that season and has since played for teams in the Canadian Football League, Alliance of American Football and XFL.  

Grade: A

The Packers put together quite the draft: eight players with at least 22 appearances, three players with over 75 starts and two future Pro Bowlers. Clinton-Dix ranks in the top 20 in both tackles and interceptions over the past six seasons. Linsley played every offensive snap of every game in 2014, 2017 and 2018, all for Green Bay. There are plenty of questionable personnel decisions made by the Packers in the last handful of years one could point to. The 2014 draft is not one of them. 

Minnesota Vikings

Picks: LB Anthony Barr (9), QB Teddy Bridgewater (32), DE Scott Crichton (72), RB Jerrick McKinnon (96), OG David Yankey (145), DB Antone Exum (182), DE Kendall James (184), DT Shamar Stepher (220), LB Brandon Watts (223), DB Jabari Price (225)

Best pick: Anthony Barr

Barr’s numbers have been remarkably consistent over his six seasons as a pro. He registered 70 tackles and four sacks in 2014 and was invited to the Pro Bowl each of the following four seasons. Pro Football Focus named him to its first team in 2015 thanks to a 68-tackle, 3.5-sack campaign with an interception and three forced fumbles. Barr has started all 85 of the games he’s appeared in. 

Worst pick: Scott Crichton

Crichton’s career comprised of 21 games over three seasons, two of which ended with him on injured reserve. He recorded two tackles in eight appearances as a rookie. His playing time increased in 2015 until a concussion ended his season 13 games in. On Aug. 31, 2016, Crichton was placed on injured reserve after clearing waivers. He failed a physical with the Bills when they claimed him off waivers in 2017. 

Grade: A-

Sure, half of Minnesota’s 10 picks did not turn out well. The elite linebacker and top-25 quarterback the Vikings got in rounds one and two makes the misses rather insignificant. Did you know Bridgewater has a higher winning percentage than Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Dak Prescott, Cam Newton, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz since 2014? He also made the Pro Bowl in 2015, the only time he played all 16 games. 

Click here to see the entire draft grades series. 

Photo by Matthew Deery / Flickr

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