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Buccaneers, Raiders get high early draft grades

The 2014 NFL Draft is in the books. Now we can spend the next couple of months breaking down what it all means.

More than any league, the NFL thrives because of giving all 32 fan bases hope going into each season. And that hope is never higher than after draft weekend. That's why there are more winners than losers in our draft roundup below. Who can really lose when you are adding new talent?

Some of our our favorite drafts -- and our least favorite -- are below.

WINNERS

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

They have a playoff-ready defense, and needed to add offensive talent to balance out the squad. They are awful in the red zone, and needed to add physical talent. Done and done. Wide receiver Mike Evans, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and running back Charles Sims add explosiveness to a promising offense. They didn't draft a single defensive player, which says a lot about how confident Lovie Smith is in his group. Plus, we liked the decision to hold onto Mike Glennon. He's more promising than any quarterback in this class taken after the first round.

Oakland Raiders

If Khalil Mack was in last year's draft, he would have been the No. 1 overall pick. The Raiders finally got a premier talent to build their defense around, and they didn't fall too hard in love with free-agent pickup Matt Schaub. We have no clue if Derek Carr can deliver as a franchise quarterback, but the Raiders need to keep spending resources on young quarterbacks until they find one who fits. The Raiders then focused on interior muscle with their next two picks.

"I feel like the Raiders have gone four-for-four with their draft selections so far," NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock said during the draft.

Atlanta Falcons


When the Falcons set out to fix a problem, they really fix it. This offseason has been all about upgrading their line play up front on both sides of the line. They continued the theme with offensive tackle Jake Matthews in the first round and defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman in the second round. Fourth-round running back Devonta Freeman adds needed juice to the backfield, but he's just a nice bonus. Atlanta's first two picks continued the team's aggressive bid to get tougher.

Pittsburgh Steelers

This is the first time in seven years the Steelers have taken two defensive players with their first two picks. Linebacker Ryan Shazier (No. 15 overall) and defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt (No. 46) similarly could be a transformative duo to Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley. (The combinations were even taken at the exact same spots in the draft.)

The Steelers needed an infusion of young talent on their defense, and we love Shazier and Tuitt's chances of making a quick impact. Third-round running back Dri Archer adds speed to their backfield, and the Steelers' fourth-round pick, Clemson wide receiver Martavis Bryant, adds needed sized to their receiver group.

It doesn't take a lot for me to consider a Ben Roethlisberger-led team a contender. Then again, this is a wide-open division ...

Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens

Thursday was beyond any wild best-case scenario dreams that Browns fans could think up. They drafted cornerback Justin Gilbert, snagged Johnny Manziel at No. 22, and picked up Buffalo's 2015 first-round pick in the process. This is not any first-round pick Cleveland picked up, either. The Bills haven't won more than six games since 2008 and haven't made the playoffs since 1999. The Browns could wind up back in the top five picks again.

Yes, the news of Josh Gordon's potential suspension is a huge downer, but the team had no control over that. General manager Ray Farmer stuck to his board and decided not to fill the team's receiver need in the middle rounds. Third-round running back Terrance West adds a fun complement to their backfield.

The Ravens, meanwhile, had a classic Ravens draft. They took rock-solid defenders who slid for various reasons. Linebacker C.J. Mosley should make an impact right away and we love second-round defensive tackle Tim Jernigan. Most of the division got better, which isn't great news for ...

LOSERS


Cincinnati Bengals

Cornerback Darqueze Dennard was a fine match of talent and need. After that, we don't see a lot of instant impact players in the Bengals' draft. Mostly we're just unconvinced that Andy Dalton should be treated as a true franchise quarterback, and that's what the Bengals keep doing. Fifth-round pick AJ McCarron won't be a serious threat to Dalton anytime soon, if ever.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs had pressing needs after a rough free agency, and they still have massive questions on the offensive line and at wide receiver. Dee Ford is a nice long-term gamble, but should start his career as a part-time player. Third-round cornerback Phillip Gaines seems more like a developmental prospect. Fourth-round RB/WR/return/cornerback/football player De'Anthony Thomas is a wild card. This was a draft in which the Chiefs needed some instant-impact players, and it's hard to see them here.

Buffalo Bills


Sammy Watkins has to deliver. We're just worried that he won't have the quarterback to deliver him the ball. The Bills essentially gave up a first-round pick in next year's draft to upgrade from Stevie Johnson to Watkins. Watkins is a special talent that should make a difference in Buffalo for a long time, but there's a risk that the next general manager and coach there will enjoy his prime years.

The "Around The League Podcast" wraps up the draft by picking our winners and losers.

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