Looking back at best 3 and worst 3 picks of 2014 NFL Draft
Editor’s note: In conjunction with the Trib’s coverage leading up to the April 25 start of the NFL Draft, we’ll look back at the three best — and three worst — picks of each draft across the league over the past five years.
Offensive players made up five of the top seven and eight of the top 12 picks of the 2014 NFL Draft. But it is defense that it will be known for.
Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack have claimed the past three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards; they are part of a group of seven of the top eight defensive players taken in that draft who have made a Pro Bowl. One was the Steelers’ pick, Ryan Shazier.
A rare draft in which just two quarterbacks were taken among the first 31 picks (largely forgettable ones in Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel), the top pick was South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to the Houston Texans.
Clowney has been a dominant defender at times — but he lags well behind Donald and Mack as the best defensive players from this draft.
A look the best and worst of the selections of five years ago:
Three best 2014 draft picks
1. Aaron Donald, DT, 13th overall, Rams
The Pitt and Penn Hills alumnus continues to amaze and out-do himself. He had 20½ sacks this past season to give him 31½ over the past two seasons, each of which ended with an NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. He has made the Pro Bowl all five seasons and has been first-team All Pro each of the past four years.
2. Odell Beckham,WR, 12th overall, Giants
In a wide receiver-heavy draft in which five went in the first round and 11 were picked before the end of Round 2, Beckham has rather easily stood out as the best of the bunch. Beckham averaged 96 catches, 1,367 yards and 11.7 touchdowns over his first three seasons. Starting in 2019, he’s the Steelers’ problem – the Cleveland Browns acquired Beckham in a trade.
3. Khalil Mack, OLB, 5th overall, Raiders
Mack has 53 sacks and 15 forced fumbles over his first five seasons, including 2018 after a trade to the Chicago Bears that invigorated that franchise. Perhaps the only red flag about Mack heading into the draft was that he played at Buffalo of the Mid-American Conference; any fears he could adjust to the NFL game were clearly unfounded.
Three worst 2014 draft picks
1. Justin Gilbert, CB, 8th overall, Browns
Gilbert, for whatever reason, clearly did not adapt to the NFL level after a sterling career at Oklahoma State. He could barely get onto the field for two years for talent-starved Cleveland, which dumped him off to the Steelers for a late-round pick a week before the 2016 season began. Gilbert never found a role in Pittsburgh, either, and was out of football by 2017.
2. Johnny Manziel, QB, 22nd overall, Browns
Fitting that the only two members of the NFL’s draft class of 2014 that were out of the league by 2017 both were taken by the Browns. Manziel’s career trajectory is well-documented. Off-field troubles have contributed, but even stints in the CFL and AAF didn’t go overly well.
3. Greg Robinson, OT, 2nd overall, Rams
Robinson is still around — ironically with the Browns, with whom he had something of a career renaissance late last season. But when the second pick of the draft only lasts three seasons with the team that took him and is then traded away for a sixth-round choice … it’s safe to say things did not go as planned.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .