Lots of winning teams coming out of NFL draft

The story lines that dominated the 2014 NFL draft included Johnny Manziel falling all the way down to the 22nd pick by the Cleveland Browns and Michael Sam being picked by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round.

But what’s being overlooked in this draft is how many teams improved a lot because of what they did in the draft.

Cleveland, St. Louis, Dallas, Jacksonville and San Francisco each came out of the draft as vastly improved teams with their smart selections.

First it was Cleveland, who was the biggest mover in the first round of the draft. The Browns moved out of the fourth pick back to the ninth spot, then moved up to the eighth to select defensive back Justin Gilbert to the surprise of many and officially beginning the Manziel fall. But then Cleveland moved up from their 24th pick later in the first round to the 22nd spot and then picked Manziel, adding another quarterback to their list. It will be interesting to see what happens at the quarterback position with the Browns as Brian Hoyer actually had a pretty good start with the team last year before getting hurt; however, having too many quarterbacks may be a good thing for the Browns.

Then comes St. Louis, who may be now known as the team that drafted Michael Sam, but they also improved a bunch in the draft as well. With their first two picks in the first round, the Rams selected offensive tackle Greg Robinson and defensive lineman Aaron Donald, both of whom were at the top of many people’s boards and also sure up already strong offensive and defensive lines. Then, with the pick up of running back Tre Mason and quarterback Garrett Gilbert, the Rams are going to be a team to be reckoned with the  NFC West for years to come.

You know it’s an odd draft when Jerry Jones makes the smart decisions. In the first round with the 16th pick, the Cowboys had a chance to take Manziel, which many thought Jones would do; however, he made the smart move, going for offensive tackle Zack Martin. Then, in seven of their next eight picks, the Cowboys selected defensive players–the side of the ball that they need the most help. They might have gotten a steal in the seventh round when they picked safety Ahmad Dixon. And with a very talented offensive line and an improved defense, the plight of the Cowboys should be interesting this year.

Even Jacksonville got in on the improvements. With their first pick, the Jaguars took quarterback Blake Bortles, somewhat controversially. But then with their two picks in the second round, Jacksonville gave Bortles some talented receivers with Marquise Lee and Allen Robinson. Maybe this will be what it takes to get Jacksonville back to relevancy in its own city.

Finally, the 49ers, who were already a strong team, got even stronger with the draft. San Francisco went all over the field with their picks, going both offense and defense, but still got a lot better. Running back Carlos Hyde and receiver Bruce Ellington will definitely help Collin Kaepernick and Frank Gore on that side of the board. And the 49ers’ first round pick, safety Jimmie Ward, will be a big reassurance to the defense. Definitely look for San Francisco to be again contending for the Super Bowl.

The draft this year was dominated by the player headlines, especially Manziel and Sam, but where it matter the most–the teams trying to get better for the 2014 season–it was quite impressive as a number of teams got substantially better during the past weekend.