New England Sports React

Assessing The Draft

Blake Bortles, not Johnny Manziel, was the offensive face of the 2014 NFL Draft, having been selected at No. 3 overall.

If it weren’t already, it is now glaringly obvious how highly offense is valued in today’s NFL.

Besides first pick Jadeveon Clowney, this year’s draft was all about the offense. Six of the first 10 picks were on the offensive side of the ball, with two wide receivers, two offensive tackles, a tight end, and, last but not least, a quarterback, taken. Blake Bortles was the first QB to go of the elite gunslingers in this year’s group, with Jacksonville choosing the traditional pocket passer over the scrambler (a.k.a. Johnny Manziel). In fact, ‘Johnny Football’ didn’t get taken until the 22nd pick, far surpassing his expectations, going to Cleveland. Even teams with glaring needs at the quarterback position (most notably Tampa Bay and Minnesota, who filled that void later in the first with Teddy Bridgewater) chose to pass on the highly-touted Manziel.

Needless to say, I’m not surprised that so many teams passed on the Texas A&M product. His me-first attitude and on-field antics (as well as off-field nonsense) are enough to give headaches to any organization, so it seemed realistic that he’d drop to the second round. But, of course, Cleveland, who recently used the 22nd pick to draft future busts Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden, decided to once again take their chances with a QB. With an already stout defense boosted by first-round corner Justin Gilbert, combined with the loss of WR Josh Gordon due to a violation of the substance abuse policy, the Browns are going to be heavily reliant on the performance of their ‘D.’ Meanwhile, the Jaguars, who already had a decent defense to begin with, are attempting to achieve balance with the addition of Bortles as well as second-round standout Marquise Lee and fellow wideout Allen Robinson. Dominance on one side of the ball and mediocrity on the other, or an overall balanced approach? I’ll take balance over dominance any day. Sure, defense wins championships, but without a decent offense in today’s NFL, you’re not going anywhere.

While the lure of improving on the defensive side of the ball dominated the remainder of the first round, the offensive picks outnumbered the defensive, 18-14. QBs, WRs, and ‘O’-linemen made up the majority of those choices, with a couple TEs sprinkled in there. Running backs remained obsolete, with HB Bishop Sankey being the first off the board at pick 54. That pick seemed to start a trend of halfback selections, with two of the next three picks being at the position. Still, the ‘H’-back continues to be a dying breed in the NFL, with the protection of QBs in the league as well as concussions being the main contributing factors, and teams throughout the league seem to have recognized that. The running game does flourish during the colder months into the postseason, however, so maybe the benefits of achieving offensive balance will sway these same teams into valuing the position once again and building a more complete squad. One thing’s for sure: the upcoming season will showcase an even greater emphasis on offensive efficiency. From a fan’s perspective, it should be a very entertaining year on the gridiron.

-Ryan Hartley

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