Let’s take a time machine back to the 2014 draft, shall we? Headlined by two offensive tackles, the trenches showcased awfully well within the first few selections of Day 1 on both sides of the ball. While Aaron Donald (13) and Zack Martin (16) heard their names called right outside the top ten, and Davante Adams had to wait until Day 2, let’s take a deep dive into the top half, ranking each of the first 10 picks and breaking down how each player progressed now eight years into the future.
Jadeveon Clowney, EDGE, Houston Texans
Despite earning three Pro Bowl nods thus far in his career, Clowney has failed to live up to the expectations bestowed upon him out of college. An unblockable force for the South Carolina Gamecocks, Clowney was one of the most dominant prep talents to ever enter the college game and wreaked havoc in the SEC on a weekly basis. In the NFL, he’s amassed the fourth most sacks (41.0) in his draft class but has failed to reach double-digits in a single season during his first eight seasons. Sacks aren’t everything, however, and Clowney can still push the pocket, totaling 53 pressures on 390 rushes (13.6%) last fall. After spending the last three seasons in three different locations, Clowney enters 2022 back in Cleveland to work opposite Myles Garrett.
Greg Robinson, OT, Los Angeles Rams
A massive man with elite movement skills out of Auburn, Robinson became the first tackle to hear his name called during the 2014 draft process. However, the NFL wasn’t kind to the 6-foot-5, 330-pound mountain of a man as he spent just three seasons with the Rams and bounced from the Lions to the Browns before exiting the league following the 2019 season.
Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
While Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo headlined the 2014 draft class of signal-callers, Bortles was first to hear his name called after a meteoric rise on league-wide draft boards during his final two seasons at UCF. A starter in 73 games during his career, Bortles recorded a substandard 24-49 career mark and was relinquished to a backup role during his final season in Los Angeles. Although he had little help around him (on offense) during his tenure in Jacksonville, as the third overall pick, Bortles failed to meet expectations.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills
A resounding start to his career proved to be more of a flash in the pan for Watkins who totaled nearly 2,000 yards combined in his first tandem of seasons for the Bills. Despite his early success, he failed to earn a second contract from Buffalo and has since spent time with the Rams, Chiefs and Ravens before signing with the Green Bay Packers this offseason. After three years of success working alongside quarterback Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City, his rapport with quarterback Aaron Rodgers should develop immediately as two veteran talents within an inexperienced Packers’ receiving core.
Khalil Mack, EDGE, Las Vegas Raiders
Whether you think of him as a Raider, or a Chicago Bear, Mack has been dominant since he first stepped foot onto NFL-branded turf. A two-time All-Pro and 2016 Defensive Player of the Year for Las Vegas (then Oakland), Mack totaled 40.5 sacks in four seasons for the Raiders before signing a mega-deal with the Bears prior to the 2018 campaign. Now a member of the Los Angeles Chargers, he and Joey Bosa make up one of the more imposing pass-rushing duos in the entire NFL.
Jake Matthews, OT, Atlanta Falcons
One of the most consistent players in football, Matthews has missed just one game in eight seasons and none since Week 2 of his rookie season. A 128-game starter, while he hasn’t received the accolades that usually tail a figurehead of an offensive line, Matthews will continue to be a reliable presence at left tackle for the rebuilding Falcons. He’s as consistent as they come in the NFL.
Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Totaling under 1,000 receiving yards in a season just doesn’t exist for Evans who’s surpassed the 1,000-yard plateau in every season he’s played since entering the league via the 2014 draft. A massive man that moves in ways 6-foot-5 athletes shouldn’t, Evans remains one of the more imposing threats in today’s game and will once again holster a massive target share for Tampa Bay this fall.
Justin Gilbert, CB, Cleveland Browns
Oh, the Browns. While their selection of quarterback Johnny Manziel later in the round drew headlines, you probably forgot about Gilbert – and who could blame you? In two seasons in Cleveland, Gilbert started in just three games, recorded one interception and was signed and released by Pittsburgh in 2016. Gilbert was suspended for the 2017 season for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy and has since hung his cleats up for good.
Anthony Barr, LB, Minnesota Vikings
Despite battling injuries the last two years, Barr has been a cornerstone of the Vikings’ defense for nearly a decade. A four-time Pro Bowler, he currently remains unsigned as we creep into the summer months but from a Minnesota perspective only, Barr lived up to any and all expectations out of UCLA as a leading force for their defense.
Eric Ebron, TE, Detroit Lions
A dynamic aerial talent out of North Carolina, while Ebron never became the elite, go-to weapon for quarterback Matthew Stafford while with the Lions, he was a consistent threat in between the 20s for Detroit, recording 186 catches for 2,070 yards and 11 touchdowns in 56 games. A Pro Bowler for the Indianapolis Colts in 2018, Ebron played the last two seasons in Pittsburgh, and – like Barr – is currently unsigned.