New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - The first night of the 2014 NFL Draft is in the rear-view mirror, so it's time to put on the pundit hat and draw some early conclusions.
Here are The Sports Network's winners and losers from Day 1:
ST. LOUIS RAMS: The Rams were expected to tab the draft's best offensive tackle in Greg Robinson at No. 2 overall but they followed that up by snaring the best defensive tackle with the 13th pick, Pittsburgh three-technique Aaron Donald.
Donald is a bit undersized but has such great quickness and athleticism that some have compared him to John Randle, the former Minnesota Vikings star who is now enshrined in Canton.
Teaming Donald, who should have been a top-10 pick, with ends like Robert Quinn, perhaps the best pass rusher in all of football, and Chris Long is sure to give Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick some sleepless nights in the ultra-tough NFC West.
"We're a lot better now," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "We all know what Greg (Robinson) is capable of doing. He's an outstanding young man. We'll plug him in where we feel he's got the best chance to be successful right now. We don't know exactly where that is, but he may start out inside before we move him back outside. You talk about an athlete. Powerful, quick, great quickness and strength. He's got a chance to be a dominant player inside initially.
"Then of course, Aaron (Donald) is very, very productive; he's an outstanding young man. He's way ahead in hand use on the line of scrimmage. He does an outstanding job with his hands."
JADEVEON CLOWNEY: Andrew Luck's dominance of the AFC South is about to be challenged.
Criticize the work ethic all you want and lambaste Clowney's subpar performance at times during his final season at South Carolina. It never really mattered. NFL scouts knew just how talented Clowney was physically and his ceiling as a player reaches far higher than anyone else in what has been described as the deepest draft in years.
Arriving in Houston and playing alongside the best pure defensive lineman in football right now, J.J. Watt, is also the best-case scenario for Clowney. Watt's professionalism and non-stop motor is often contagious and Clowney has already asked the All-Pro to stay on him like a big brother.
"I'm looking forward to it," Clowney said. "I've been watching (Watt) since I was in college and now I get to play beside him, so that makes it even better for me, helps me to improve my game to where I want to be, take my game to the next level. And I'm just looking forward to getting to learn from him.
"He says he's going to stay on my butt when I get there."
Clowney would have been No. 1 in 2013 and he is No. 1 in 2014.
"I feel great," Clowney said. "It's been a long time. I've been dreaming about this my whole life."
RICK SPIELMAN: The Vikings' general manager has been criticized a lot for missing so badly on Christian Ponder with the 12th overall pick in the 2011 draft.
Now it's time to give him credit for learning from his mistakes.
Spielman has now amassed seven first-round picks in the last three NFL drafts -- Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith in 2012, Shariff Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and the explosive Cordarrelle Patterson from last year, and now Anthony Barr and Teddy Bridgewater in 2014.
"You can't coach what he has," Spielman said of Barr, the ninth overall selection on Thursday. "It was the same conversation last year with Cordarrelle (Patterson). You just don't pass up these athletic-type players because they're too rare and too hard to find."
"I've never had a linebacker, even thinking back to my Dallas days, that has the size and speed and all the things that this guy has," added Vikings first- year head coach Mike Zimmer.
The key, though, is Bridgewater because Minnesota needs the answer at the game's most important position. That said, getting a player with the 32nd overall pick who was once considered a top-five-level prospect is a prudent gamble.
"There is no pressure on this kid to come in and play," Spielman said. "We're very comfortable with Matt Cassel right now. We're very comfortable with Christian Ponder. He'll come in and compete and then the coaches will determine if he's even ready to play this year."
JOHNNY MANZIEL: The draft's A-List star got passed over 21 times before Cleveland traded back up and selected him. That's a steep fall for a player most had projected as a top-10 pick and some had going in the first five.
And consider this ominous history: The Browns drafted both Brady Quinn (2007) and Brandon Weeden (2012) with the 22nd overall pick. Ouch.
"There are a lot of teams that did pass me up," Manziel said. "Just like I think with anybody in this draft that a team didn't select them that they thought they might go to or thought that there was a possibility, you do grow a little bit of a chip. For me, (it's) just continue to try and get better and become a good football player."
RUNNING BACKS: Think the running back position hasn't been devalued in the NFL?
For the second straight year, one of the game's former marquee positions was ignored in the first round. Prior to 2013, at least one running back was taken in the first round since the common draft was established in 1967.
SENIORS: With a record number of underclassman in this draft, perhaps it was no surprise that only 17 of the 32 players selected Thursday spent four years in college.
That's also a trend that figures to continue in the years to come because the current crop of prospects understands the current CBA's rookie salary scale has created a baseball mentality. Players want to start the clock on their careers as quickly as possible so they can hit the lottery on their second deal.
OH, YOU DIDN'T KNOW:
- Clowney's selection as the No. 1 overall pick marked the first time a defensive lineman has been chosen first overall since 2006 when Houston scored on Mario Williams by choosing him over higher-profile options like Reggie Bush and Vince Young.
Clowney is also the 14th defensive lineman in NFL history to be selected with the No. 1 overall pick and only the second player from South Carolina to be chosen No. 1 overall (running back George Rogers, 1981).
- Buffalo jumped up to No. 4 to take Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, a year after Houston took former Tigers WR DeAndre Hopkins with the 27th overall selection. Clemson is just the fifth school in draft history to have a wide receiver selected in the first round in consecutive years.
- The Matthews NFL legacy continued on Thursday when Jake was selected sixth overall by Atlanta. Matthews became only the 10th son of a Pro Football Hall of Famer to be drafted into the league. Jake follows his father Bruce Matthews, an offensive lineman who was drafted out of Southern California by the Houston Oilers in the first round (No. 9 overall) in 1982 and enshrined in the Hall in 2007.
Jake Matthews is also the fourth son of a Hall of Famer to be drafted in the first round, joining Chris and Kyle Long, and Kellen Winslow.
- New Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles was selected earlier (No. 3) than any other player in Central Florida history. He joins ex-Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper (1999, No. 11 overall) as the only players in school history to be chosen in Round 1.
- Linebacker Khalil Mack was the first player from the University of Buffalo to be drafted in Round 1 when Oakland took him with the fifth pick.
- Three Louisville players were selected in Round 1 of an NFL Draft for the first time in history -- safety Calvin Pryor (No. 18, New York Jets), linebacker Marcus Smith (No. 26, Philadelphia) and Bridgewater (No. 32, Minnesota).
BY THE NUMBERS:
-Nine defensive backs were selected in Round 1 of the 2014 NFL Draft, the most of any first round in NFL Draft history. The previous record of seven occurred three times (1998, 2006 and 2013).
- As usual the powerful SEC had the most players selected in Round 1, 11. Since 2000, the SEC leads all conferences with 607 total draft choices.
Here The Sports Network's top players still available:
1. Derek Carr, Fresno State
2. Zach Mettenberger, LSU
3. Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois
4. A.J. McCarron, Alabama
5. Tom Savage, Pittsburgh
1. Jeremy Hill, LSU
2. Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
3. Bishop Sankey, Washington
4. Tre Mason, Auburn
5. Andre Williams, Boston College
1. Marqise Lee, USC
2. Cody Latimer, Indiana
3. Allen Robinson, Penn State
4. Donte Moncrief, Mississippi
5. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
1. Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
2. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
3. Troy Niklas, Notre Dame
4. C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa
5. Colt Lyerla, Oregon
1. Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
2. Morgan Moses, Virginia
3. Jack Mewhort, Ohio State
4. Antonio Richardson, Tennessee
1. Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLA
2. Joel Bitonio, Nevada
3. Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
1. Marcus Martin, USC
2. Travis Swanson, Arkansas
3. Weston Richburg, Colorado State
1. Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
2. Kony Ealy, Missouri
3. Trent Murphy, Stanford
4. Scott Crichton, Oregon State
5. Kareem Martin, North Carolina
1. Louis Nix, Notre Dame
2. Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
3. Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
1. Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State
2. Kyle Van Noy, BYU
3. Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech
1. Chris Borland, Wisconsin
2. Preston Brown, Louisville
3. Shayne Skov, Stanford
4. Max Bullough, Michigan State
1. Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State
2. Keith McGill, Utah
3. Phillip Gaines, Rice
4. Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska
1. Terrence Brooks, Florida State
2. Brock Vereen, Minnesota
3. Dion Bailey, USC