2014 NFL Draft Superlatives: Taking a Look Back at one of the Most Volatile Drafts in Recent Memory

The 2014 NFL Draft had it all from future hall of famers (Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack) tantalizing what ifs (Odell Beckham, Ryan Shazier) to spectacular busts (Justin Gilbert, Johnny Manziel, Marcus Smith). Here’s how the entire first round played out:


Biggest Hit: Aaron Donald. Well, you knew this was coming. Aaron Donald is the best defensive player of our generation and perhaps the most dominant defender of all time. The 2014 defensive rookie of the year has made the pro bowl in each of his 7 seasons, and has won defensive player of the year in over half of his seasons, winning the award 4 times. Donald is able to line up and wreck the game for every position on the dline and is going to go down as one of the greatest players in NFL history.

Honorable Mention: Khalil Mack. The Raiders used the 5th pick on Khalil Mack out of mid major Buffalo. Mack won defensive player of the year for Oakland in 2016. In 2018 he was traded to the Bears for 2 first round picks and his all pro season helped take the Bears to the playoffs. Mack is a 3 time all pro and one of the best edge defenders in the league.

Biggest First Round Miss: Justin Gilbert. The Browns traded up to the #8 overall pick to select Oklahoma State defensive back Justin Gilbert. After 2 bad seasons with the Browns he was traded in the division to Pittsburgh for a 6th round pick. Gilbert was cut after the season and hasn’t played since.

Honorable Mentions: Johnny Manziel. Another Browns draft pick via trade, the former Heisman trophy flamed out in the NFL, only making 8 starts. Funny enough, the draft picks traded for Manziel became Marcus Smith and Louis Nix 2 other guys whose NFL careers are considered to be huge disappointments.

Best overall draft haul: Packers. The Packers came out of the draft with 3 big time players, safety HaHa Clinton Dix, superstar wide receiver Davantae Adams, and center Corey Linsley. On top of that the Packers drafted 2 players who are now legends in Green Bay, Richard Rodgers and Jeff Janis.

GLENDALE, AZ – JANUARY 16: Wide receiver Jeff Janis #83 of the Green Bay Packers catches a 41-yard touchdown on the final play of regulation against cornerback Patrick Peterson #21 of the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 16, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Best 1-2 draft punch: Cowboys. The Raiders had a great first 2 rounds drafting Khalil Mack and Derek Carr, but I’m going to give the nod to the Cowboys. The Cowboys came out of the first 2 rounds with Zack Martin and DeMarcus Lawrence who have combined to make 8 pro bowls. Zack Martin is a 4x all pro and one of the best guards in the game.

Biggest What If: Odell Beckham Jr. Some people maybe surprised to see this distinction go to Odell, but to me this is a tantalizing what if. Through his first 3 seasons, Beckham was on pace to smash the record books and become one of the greatest wide receivers of all time. His unreal combination of route running, hands, and after the catch movement made him by far the most dynamic and entertaining wide receiver in the league. I’ll never forget watching OBJ as a rookie tear up the Legion of Boom in Seattle. Now Odell is entering his age 29 season and is already starting to be forgotten about. I’m not willing to close the book on Odell because he is so talented, but after all of his injuries it is unlikely that he ever returns to his previous form.

Honorable Mention: Chris Borland. The Niners drafted linebacker Chris Borland in the third round and he had a really good rookie season tallying 108 tackles and 2 interceptions despite only starting 8 games. Towards the end of the season Borland was placed on injured reserve and in March of 2015 he retired from the NFL citing his prior history of concussions. Honors from his rookie season include Defensive Rookie of the Month for November, NFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 11 and Pepsi Rookie of the Week in Weeks 10 and 11. Today he is a neuroscience student at King’s College in London, England, and teaches for SearchInsideYourself, a Google nonprofit.

Best Value Pick: Bears, Charles Leno Jr. The best value pick goes to the Bears who found Boise State tackle Charles Leno Jr in the 7th round. Pick number 246 has made a pretty good career for himself making 94 starts for the Bears over the last 7 years. Leno has a career added value of 43 which compares nicely with first round tackle Taylor Lewan (career AV of 46).

Worst Draft Pick: Lions, Nate Freese. Only one player in this entire draft class provided their team with a negative added value during their career. The Lions took kicker Nate Freese out of Boston College in the 7th of the 2014 draft. In 3 games as the Lions kicker Freese went 3 for 7 with a long of 30 yards. He has not tweeted since 2014.

Biggest 1 Game Wonder: Kony Ealy. The biggest one game wonder goes to Panthers second round pick Kony Ealy, Ealy only had 15 career sacks and hasn’t played since 2018, but in Super Bowl 50 he had the game of his life. In a losing effort, Ealy had 3 sacks, 2 tackles for loss, an interception, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. If Carolina had just won the game, Ealy might’ve become one of the most absurd Super Bowl MVPs in NFL history.

Craziest Draft: Rams. I’m not sure we will ever see a draft crazier than the 2014 Rams. The Rams had 2 first round picks and took Greg Robinson (bust) and Aaron Donald (defensive goat?). Later in the draft the Rams took running back Tre Mason who quickly retired and joined Al Queda (more on this later) and they selected the first openly gay player in NFL history, Michael Sam. In between these selections the Rams found some good value on defensive backs and they drafted LaMarcus Joyner, Maurice Alexander, and EJ Gaines who all have had solid careers.

Best QB: Jimmy Garoppolo. In a weak quarterback class this distinction came down to Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo, and ultimately Jimmy G’s Super Bowl appearance with the Niners propped him up to the #1 spot.

Worst QB: Zach Mettenberger. There were a lot of contenders for this spot but the award goes to Zach Mettenberger who made 10 starts for the Tennessee Titans. The Titans went 0-10 in his 10 starts and Mettenberger’s NFL career ended with 12 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, and a QB rating in the 20’s.

Biggest Miss: Saints, Stanley Jean Baptiste. A second round pick by the Saints at cornerback, Jean Baptiste only played 8 defensive snaps in his entire NFL career. He finished his NFL career with 1 tackle and has been out of the league since 2017.

Crazy Stories:

Johnny Manziel: Does anyone remember when Johnny Manziel was spotted living it up in Las Vegas wearing a wig and a fake mustache and telling people his name was Billy DURING the season? Yes that really happened.

Tre Mason: In 2016 Mason mysteriously didn’t show up to Rams training and was later reported missing by the police.

Via TMZ sports

According to the report, filed by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office … cops say Tre’s mother had called because her son was “acting unusual and making irrational statements.”
When Tre saw the cops, he threatened to call the White House and have them all fired — and made bizarre statements about Al Qaeda … so says the report.

Upon inspection, cops noticed a hole that had been punched in the wall of Tre’s bedroom and a broken vase and lamp. Tre also had a cut on his hand, but was refusing medical attention.
The officer who filed the report made it clear Tre was in no position to make decisions on his own.

“I believe that Trence does not have the [redacted] ability to make decisions at this time and therefore he was transported to [redacted] where he was treated for the laceration and admitted for evaluation under the [redacted].”

Tre Mason was released by the Rams in March of 2017

Cyrus Kouandijo: After a dominant career at Alabama, Cyrus was drafted by the Bills in the second round of the 2014 draft. Kouandijo spent a couple years in and out of the lineup and then was involved in a bizarre incident in March of 2017.

 Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio was the subject of a bizarre incident involving Erie County police on Tuesday, April 18th, according to a report by Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News. Kouandjio was not arrested, but was taken to the Erie County Medical Center for observation, per the report.

Kouandjio was found running in a field, “not fully clothed,” after climbing over an electric fence. When a sheriff went to detain him, the offensive tackle yelled “Shoot me!”

Kouandjio’s abandoned vehicle was found with his Bills gear and later his license was found, confirming his identity. The site of the incident was close to a separate vehicle accident where police and rescue crews were already on the scene with lights flashing.

After this incident Cyrus floated around the league a little bit, and most recently played with Denver in 2018.