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Cleveland had one of the best drafts, including making a wise move by gambling on Texas A&M phenomenon Johnny Manziel.

PHIL MASTURZO • Akron Beacon Journal/MCT,

Craig: Trying to sort out the NFL draft winners and losers

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG
  • Star Tribune
  • May 11, 2014 - 12:02 AM

“You have to create the angle when you rush the quarterback. Most big ends can’t do that. They don’t have the speed to create an angle. That’s why Reggie White was so unique. He had the power and strength to create an angle. This kid can create an angle.”

These are the kind of draft-day words that have been said every year for decades, or at least since the process of NFL teams selecting unproven players became a national obsession followed by immediate proclamations of success or failure.

This particular quote came on April 17, 1999. The man who said it was then-Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson. The player who created this much springtime optimism?

Dimitrius Underwood.

So, yeah, we strongly suggest mixing multiple grains of salt with three years of patience before believing or disbelieving anything that anyone has said the past three months or so. Including the Star Tribune’s 2014 NFL Draft “Likes” and “Don’t Likes.”

Patriots (Like): Bill Belichick is one of the best defensive minds in NFL history. But even he knows where his career would be without a quarterback. So don’t suggest that a second-round pick for Jimmy Garoppolo was too high. Or that it came too soon after Ryan Mallett was taken in the third round.

“With the situation we have at quarterback... I think you’re better off being early than late at that position,” Belichick said.

When Garoppolo’s contract is up, Tom Brady will be 40. As for Mallett, at worst, he’s high-grade New England trade bait. Remember, the Chiefs gave Belichick a second-rounder for Matt Cassel once upon a time.

Colts (Don’t Like): This draft was blown last year when the Colts traded their first pick for running back Trent Richardson. Not only is Richardson of little use, the Colts also didn’t make a pick until taking a guard 57th overall.

Browns (Like): Hindsight is the only way to view anything the Browns do, but, what the heck, they had a great first day. They got a 2015 first-round pick from the Bills, the best cornerback in the draft (Justin Gilbert) and Johnny Manziel.

Yes, Manziel is a giant risk. But if I’m Cleveland and I’ve stumbled down all those wrong quarterback paths, I’d rather be wrong again in taking Manziel than wrong in not taking Manziel.

Bengals (Don’t Like): A.J. McCarron in the fifth round would have been great value for a team with a stopgap quarterback. For the Bengals, all it does is disrupt Andy Dalton’s progress with a player who won’t be good enough to beat him out anytime soon.

49ers (Like): The Kneejerk MVP of the 2014 draft has to be 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke. The most active trading team of the draft took 10 of the top 180 players, 12 overall and acquired Bills receiver Stevie Johnson and a 2015 fourth-round pick. Baalke also had the ammo to trade away two picks to move up to No. 57 and take the best running back in the draft in Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde when the run on running backs started.

Jaguars (Don’t like): With 11 picks entering the draft, the Jaguars should have taken receiver Sammy Watkins No. 3 and then used that arsenal of picks to trade back into the first round and take Blake Bortles at a spot that came closer to matching his value.

Vikings (Like): The overall grade is closer to “who the heck knows” than anything else. But, in theory, the first round was handled very well for a third consecutive year. The Vikings addressed the most immediate need — athletically elite linebacker for a league-worst scoring defense — and their No. 1 long-term concern — someone better than Christian Ponder to groom as a future franchise quarterback. In three years as GM, Rick Spielman has seven first-round picks. Seven.

Around the NFC North: Packers (Like): Filled their biggest need with the best safety (Ha Ha Clinton-Dix). Lions (Don’t Like): Took only one defender in top three rounds. Bears (Like): Used top three picks and four of top five to rebuild the league’s worst run defense.

 

Mark Craig • mcraig@startribune.com

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