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2014 NFL Draft grades: Texans, Browns, Jaguars earn top marks

When Bucky Brooks graded all 32 teams for their 2014 NFL Draft hauls, he identified seven whose exceptional rookie classes were worthy of an "A" mark. Here's what he had to say about the teams that stood out from the rest (click on team names for full draft classes):

Brandt: Instant-impact rookies

Forget about depth-building developmental prospects -- Gil Brandt lists six rising rookies poised to turn heads with their play now. **READ**

CLEVELAND BROWNS: First-year general manager Ray Farmer wants to build a deep team capable of withstanding injuries and extended absences from key players. Heading into the draft, he wanted to stock the lineup with ultra-talented players who relish the opportunity to compete for playing time. Reviewing his initial draft class, it's safe to say Farmer achieved this goal. Of course, the selection of quarterback Johnny Manziel has received the bulk of the attention. But to me, it was Farmer's ability to maneuver up and down the draft board and acquire three top-tier talents (CB Justin Gilbert, OL Joel Bitonio and Manziel) that stood out the most. Gilbert should quickly establish himself as a starter, while Manziel and Bitonio will push hard to get on the field ASAP. Throw in Terrance West as a potential feature back, and it's clear the Browns left Radio City Music Hall with a fine prospect haul -- as well as a boatload of extra ammunition for the 2015 NFL Draft. GRADE: A-

HOUSTON TEXANS: Credit GM Rick Smith and his staff for landing three blue-chip talents (DE Jadeveon Clowney, OG Xavier Su'a-Filo and DT Louis Nix) and a sleeper pick (TE C.J. Fiedorowicz) during the first two days of the draft. All four guys can provide significant contributions as rookies. Meanwhile, Tom Savage gives first-year head coach Bill O'Brien a young, big-armed signal-caller to groom behind Ryan Fitzpatrick for a season or so. Given O'Brien's track record of success with young quarterbacks, Savage could quickly become an intriguing option in Houston. GRADE: A-

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: GM David Caldwell deserves credit for having the conviction to go after his franchise quarterback at the top of the draft. While some critics would suggest that the Jaguars bypassed a few blue chippers to take a chance on a developmental prospect, the fact that Caldwell wholeheartedly believes in Blake Bortles' potential makes the pick understandable at any point in the draft. In addition, Caldwell deserves kudos for surrounding his freshly minted franchise QB with a pair of explosive weapons in Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson. Both playmakers are capable of becoming No. 1 receivers -- they're two fantastic additions to support the young quarterback. Lastly, the Jaguars added Bortles' former teammate, Storm Johnson, to give Bortles a familiar face in the backfield. With the Jaguars committed to building a cocoon around their quarterback of the future, Caldwell and Gus Bradley deserve props for their execution of a well-thought-out plan to improve. GRADE: A-

OAKLAND RAIDERS: After years of draft-day ineptitude in Oakland, it appears the Raiders finally got it right. General manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen added a number of instant-impact prospects on both sides of the ball. Mack is a special talent with the speed, strength and power to create chaos off the edge. He will team with Sio Moore to give the Raiders an intriguing, young combo on the second level. Derek Carr is not only the Raiders' quarterback of the future, but he could become a Pro Bowl-caliber playmaker in the team's West Coast offense. Arguably the most talented passer in this draft class, Carr also displays the athleticism and movement skills evaluators covet in a quarterback directing a quick-rhythm scheme. Gabe Jackson is a plug-and-play starter at offensive guard, which made him a tremendous value pick in the middle of the third round. Keep an eye on Keith McGill as a press-man corner in Allen's defensive scheme. GRADE: A

Silver: Spirit of St. Louis


Having spent the draft embedded with the Rams, Michael Silver provides an inside look at the selection of Michael Sam. **READ**

ST. LOUIS RAMS: Head coach Jeff Fisher and GM Les Snead have built a squad that's primed to compete for a playoff berth in 2014. No. 2 overall pick Greg Robinson is a big (6-foot-5, 332 pounds), physical offensive tackle who can be plugged into the lineup as a Day 1 starter. As he isn't quite ready to play left tackle, the Rams could ease his transition to the pro game by following the Tyron Smith model (Dallas had Smith start at right tackle as a rookie before moving him to the left side prior to his second season). Donald is a disruptive penetrator with the first-step quickness and burst to wreak havoc on the interior. With him in the fold, the Rams have a devastating front line possessing the collective size, strength and power to overwhelm opponents at the point of attack. Lamarcus Joyner (Round 2) is a hybrid safety-corner with the potential to contribute as a sub-package defender on obvious passing downs. Michael Sam has garnered a lot of attention as a pioneer; the Rams are counting on the Missouri standout to make the squad as a situational pass rusher/special-teams star to shore up the bottom third of the roster. GRADE: A+

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: The 49ers entered the draft with enough ammunition to make some major moves, and while GM Trent Baalke didn't do as much wheeling and dealing as many anticipated, he did assemble an impressive haul that included a number of blue-chip prospects. Jimmie Ward is an ideal nickel defender with the instincts, awareness and ball skills to be a difference-maker in the secondary. Although he was slightly over-drafted at No. 30, there is little doubt Ward will be a key contributor to the 49ers' defense from Day 1. As I mentioned previously, Hyde is a fantastic match for the Niners' attack. Third-round picks Marcus Martin and Brandon Thomas will add size, strength and athleticism to an offensive line that's already loaded at every position. Linebacker Chris Borland lacks ideal size, but he's a tackling machine with the potential to become a fixture on special teams. Overall, the 49ers upgraded their roster with a collection of talent that should keep them in contention for the next few seasons. GRADE: A

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS:Buccaneers newbies GM Jason Licht and head coach Lovie Smith were expected to focus on building a defensive juggernaut in Tampa -- based largely on Smith's reputation as one of the game's top defensive minds -- but the Bucs are quietly constructing an offensive powerhouse. The team added some basketball-type athletes on the perimeter, using their first two picks on receiver Mike Evans and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Both guys are red-zone weapons with the size, strength and ball skills to overwhelm undersized defenders near the end zone. Throw in Charles Sims' diverse skill set out of the backfield, and it's not hard to envision new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford creating numerous matchup problems. After finishing at the bottom of the league in total offense last year, the Bucs now have the potential to make a major turnaround in 2014. For that, Tampa's draft effort deserves top honors from evaluators. GRADE: A-

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks

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