Vikings among the winners from 2014 draft

It’s still early in the process (most teams wait three years to evaluate a draft class), but the 2014 draft provided some early winners and losers.

The impact of a new draft class can never be underestimated in the NFL. With a new coaching staff coming in last year, Anthony Barr and Teddy Bridgewater were the stars of the show, but far from the only ones.

Nine of the Vikings’ 10 draft picks made the final roster and all but one of them (sixth-round pick Kendall James) ended up making the team. Of those, six played in 10 or more games – Bridgewater, Barr, Jerick McKinnon, Antone Exum, Shamar Stephen and Jabari Price. Four of those – Bridgewater, Barr, McKinnon and Stephen – combined to start 33 games.

But that isn’t all that unusual in the NFL. The draft is often used to address both needs and depth. If teams swing and miss on a draft class or two in a row, it can set the franchise back for several years.

While one year isn’t a concrete indication on the success or failure of a draft, Vikings fans are optimistic about the harvest that was drafted. Around the league, there were other teams that had to feel good about their drafts and a bunch more saying, “Wait ’til next year when these guys pan out.”

As we start preparing for the three-day exercise that will take place five weeks from now and teams add hundreds of young players to their rosters, teams have stopped dwelling on last year’s draft. Considering the Vikings are extremely happy with what they did last year, they will have a bit of a swagger heading into this year.

They aren’t alone. Here’s our take on the draft winners and losers one year removed, in terms of rookies who made significant contributions. It doesn’t always pertain for teams that have core veterans where rookies will have a hard time cracking the lineup, but these were the best and worst 11 months after the fact.

THE WINNERS
Tennessee – The Titans had just six picks in last year’s draft, but not only did all six make the final roster, they all started at least one game – combining to make 35 starts.

Jacksonville – These numbers may be a bit skewed because the Jags were so awful the last few seasons, but they made the most of their selections. All nine of their draft picks made the team, six of them played in 10 or more games and each of those players started eight or more games.

Oakland – Each of their first four picks became full-time starters, combining to start 58 of the 61 games they played.

Green Bay – Of their top six picks, four of them played in all 16 games – safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, WR Davante Adams, TE Richard Rodgers and center Corey Linsley – and combined to start 42 games.

New York Giants – The G-Men had just seven picks, but six of them made the team, five of them played in 12 or more games, four of them made six or more starts and two of them – WR Odell Beckham Jr. and center Weston Richburg – became full-time starters.

St. Louis – Only five of their 11 draft picks made the 53-man roster, but of those six, four of them started nine games or more and all four of them – OT Greg Robinson, DT Aaron Donald, RB Tre Mason and DB E.J. Gaines – were full-time starters when they saw the field.

THE LOSERS
Philadelphia – Of their seven draft picks, only one player became a starter – wide receiver Jordan Matthews, who started 10 of 16 games. The other six guys had a combined zero starts.

Chicago – The Bears had eight picks, but the only player to start more than five games was 14th overall pick CB Kyle Fuller. For an aging team, more was expected from their infusion of young defensive talent, which included four of their top five picks.

New Orleans – Of their six picks, only one player started a single game – WR Brandin Cooks, who started seven of the 10 games he played.

Denver – Having a veteran-laden team, there wasn’t much of an opportunity to get rookies into the lineup, but of the six rookies selected, they combined to start just three games.

Washington – Of their eight picks, three of them didn’t make the roster and the only player to start more than half of Washington’s games was fourth-round cornerback Bashaud Breeland.

San Francisco – Five of their 12 picks didn’t make the final roster, nobody started more than eight games and neither of their top two picks – safety Jimmy Ward and RB Carlos Hyde – started a single game.

Cleveland – All six of their draft picks made the roster and had at least one start, but the only player to start more than half their games was OT Joel Bitonio.

New York Jets – The Jets had 12 picks in the draft, but only two – first-round safety Calvin Pryor and second-round TE Jace Amaro – started a single game and combined to start 15 of the 30 games they played. The other 10 combined to play just 50 games and made no starts for a pretty bad team.

Atlanta – The Falcons were looking to rebound last year after having home field in the 2012 playoffs, only to fall hard the last two seasons. While five of their nine picks suited up for 15 or more games, the only starter they got out of the group last season was sixth overall selection Jake Matthews.

Houston – Of their 10 picks, including the No. 1 overall pick, TE C.J. Fiedorowicz was the only to be a regular starter. The other eight that made the roster, including the first two picks of the first two rounds, combined to start 11 games – with eight of those coming from late-round RBs Alfred Blue and Jay Prosch.

San Diego – Of the five picks that made the final roster, they combined to play in just 45 games and made just 10 starts.

Pittsburgh – Four of their nine picks didn’t make the final roster and, of the five that did, they combined to start just 13 games, with nobody having more than five.

Detroit – Of their eight picks, only two started any games and the one with most – 10th overall pick TE Eric Ebron – was viewed as a major disappointment.

The Vikings have the right to brag up their draft class from the last few years, but what is past is prologue and the process of building the franchise never stops. Past success is not a guarantee of future success, but, for the teams coming off a less-than-stellar draft class in 2014, the heat will be on to make the big moves that are remembered fondly years from now.

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