The first night of the 2014 NFL draft is in the books. Who seem to be the early winners and losers? USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis drafts his opinions:
Jadeveon Clowney: There's no doubt he would have been the No. 1 pick in last year's draft, too, had he been eligible. But he weathered injuries, criticism, triple teams and reduced production with South Carolina in 2013 before finally landing in the catbird seat.
Blake Bortles: A virtual unknown a year ago, the Central Florida star surprisingly rocketed up to the No. 3 pick as the first quarterback off the board.
EJ Manuel: As a rookie in 2013, the Buffalo Bills quarterback got little production from his wideouts. So GM Doug Whaley coughed up next year's first rounder to get WR Sammy Watkins, who could make an impact on the scale of A.J. Green or Julio Jones, according to some general managers.
Cleveland Browns: They entered Thursday with two first-round picks. At the end of the night, rookie GM Ray Farmer had also ensured he'll have a pair in Round 1 next year, too, after dealing with Whaley. A franchise that's been a doormat since its NFL return in 1999 is definitely amassing the assets (and an intriguing quarterback) for a long-awaited return to glory.
Jake Locker: The Titans opted not to pick up the fourth-year quarterback's option for the 2015 season last week, but they also didn't draft an heir apparent. Not yet anyway.
St. Louis Rams: Little surprise they snared the draft's best tackle, Greg Robinson. But landing the top defensive tackle, Aaron Donald, was a somewhat unexpected bonus. Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick can't be thrilled, but convalescing Rams QB Sam Bradford sure is.
Tony Romo: He was spared seeing the Johnny Football show come to town and instead watched Jerry Jones add a blue-chip blocker (Zack Martin) in Round 1 for the third time in four years. Prior to 2011, Jones had never taken an offensive lineman with his initial pick.
Miami Dolphins: After jettisoning 80% of the O-line that brought so much unwanted scrutiny and embarrassment in 2013, the rebuild continued with the addition of Ja'Wuan James, who should anchor the right side opposite free agent pickup Branden Albert.
Kevin Sumlin: Three of the first 22 picks (T Jake Matthews, WR Mike Evans, QB Johnny Manziel) were Aggies, and T Luke Joeckel went second overall in last year's draft. Want to play in the NFL, youngster? Go to College Station and play for Coach Sumlin.
Johnny Manziel: It seemed like he just might tumble out of the first round before Cleveland snared him with its second choice of the night. Though there will be pressure to play Manziel right away, the Browns have the luxury of letting him learn behind scrappy and cerebral Brian Hoyer for a team that has five Pro Bowl holdovers from 2013.
Johnny Manziel: He probably didn't expect to get bypassed 21 times, including snubs by both Texas teams. And consider this past history: the Browns drafted both Brady Quinn (2007) and Brandon Weeden (2012) with the 22nd pick. Oops. Maybe the third time will be the charm.
Teddy Bridgewater: Forecast as the first pick of this draft's firs round once upon a time, he ended up as the final one in the aftermath of his horrid pro day showing. Still, Bridgewater should be stoked to simply join Louisville teammates Calvin Pryor and Marcus Smith as Round 1 choices. It wasn't a banner night for quarterbacks in general with Manziel slipping 19 spots after Bortles was taken. The recent success of Day 2 passers like Wilson, Kaepernick, Andy Dalton and Nick Foles seems to be giving clubs the courage to pass on passers whose value is often overinflated.
Running backs: Prior to 2013, at least one member of this former glory position had always cracked the first round since the common draft was instituted in 1967. Now it's been two years in a row with a Round 1 devoid of ballcarriers. Carlos Hyde, Bishop Sankey, Jeremy Hill and Co. will have to wait to hear their names called. Mamas, raise (and feed) your babies to be offensive tackles or receivers — five at each position were selected.
Colts: They didn't pick a player Thursday after officially paying the freight for last September's acquisition of disappointing RB Trent Richardson from Cleveland. But QB Andrew Luck, who's still waiting for blocking help, officially learned he'll be seeing Clowney twice a season.
Calvin Johnson's fantasy owners: He'd probably already surrendered some stats to free agent addition Golden Tate. Now comes rookie TE Eric Ebron with the 10th pick. The Lions will probably never trade Megatron, but maybe you should.
Football factories: Neither Miami (Fla.), Penn State, Texas or USC contributed to the first round. And Florida and Florida State had as many selections as Central Florida, which stole far more headlines thanks to Bortles.
Seniors: With a record 102 players renouncing their eligibility to enter the draft, it's no surprise that they stole much of the spotlight from the upperclassmen. Just 17 of Thursday's selections were seniors, a trend likely to continue as younger players try to get a jump-start on the NFL's lucrative post-rookie contracts.
NFC West teams not based in Seattle: Yes, the Rams are still winners. But neither they nor the 49ers or Cardinals could be thrilled to see the champion Seahawks drop out of the first round, where they've failed to hit recently on players like G James Carpenter and LB Bruce Irvin. But watch out Friday and Saturday, because that's when GM John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll do their best work, finding gems like QB Russell Wilson, CB Richard Sherman, S Kam Chancellor, LB Bobby Wagner and Tate.
Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis