Here’s an interesting angle for the 2014 draft.
Jadeveon Clowney is the best defensive physical specimen to enter the NFL since Mario Williams and Julius Peppers.
The one thing all three have in common?
Houston owned the #1 overall pick when they all turned pro.
In 2002 the Texans were an expansion franchise and passed on Peppers to take David Carr.
You can see the thought process. They felt they needed a quarterback to launch the team. In hindsight it was a big mistake. Carr flopped with no supporting cast and a bad offensive line. Peppers is an eight-time Pro-Bowler with 119 career sacks.
In 2006 they passed on two quarterbacks — Vince Young and Matt Leinart — plus Reggie Bush, to take Williams. This time the plan worked.
Now they face a familiar dilemma.
Once again they need a quarterback. It’s why they ended up with the #1 pick in the first place. They already have without question the best defensive player in the NFL in J.J. Watt. There’s enough playmaking talent on the offense — including an elite running back and two excellent receivers.
Better playcalling, better schemes and a new quarterback and Houston could quickly get back into contention in a weak AFC South.
They’re bringing in Penn State’s Bill O’Brien to replace Gary Kubiak. The next task will be to get a quarterback.
And this is where the situation gets complicated.
If they like Teddy Bridgewater (or Johnny Manziel) enough, they’ll just make that pick. Often with time, teams will talk themselves into liking a quarterback. There’s every chance that happens here.
At the back of their minds though will be the lingering presence of Clowney.
Put him alongside Watt, and you could be looking at an outrageous superstar double-act.
When Clowney gets to the combine — assuming he works out — he’ll put on a masterclass. That’s when people will remember what all the fuss was about at the start of the year. He really is the kind of rare physical talent that only comes around 2-3 times in a decade.
The Texans need a quarterback, but they don’t need to invest in the wrong one for the sake of it.
They might be able to do a deal for a veteran, just like Kansas City a year ago. What is Jay Cutler’s future in Chicago? That’s the big question. How easy would it be to do a deal there, if the Bears are even interested? Would the #33 pick and a high 2015 selection be enough? It’d be comparable to the Alex Smith trade.
Alternatively can they find an option in round two? Whether that’s A.J. McCarron or Brett Hundley or whoever.
I think it’d be wrong to just assume Houston will just take a quarterback first overall and that’s that. Clowney has to be in play. And if there’s any doubt about Bridgewater, they need to take him and try to turn the #33 pick into a quarterback, even if it involves a trade.
One other note before we get into it — the Rams are already making it known they want to deal the #2 pick. They’ll struggle to get the treasure-trove they received from Washington in the RGIII deal, but I can definitely see interest emerging.
Either Clowney or Bridgewater is going to be there when they’re on the clock. Someone is going to pick up the phone. So although Bridgewater is at #2 here, I fully expect St. Louis to make a trade. This isn’t me projecting Bridgewater to the Rams. I just don’t think he’s special enough to expect he’ll be any better than the already average Sam Bradford.
So here we go.
And Happy New Year.
|#1 Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
Take Clowney at #1, put him next to J.J. Watt and enjoy. Do whatever it takes to turn the #33 pick into a QB you can win with.
|#2 Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
I don’t expect the Rams to draft Bridgewater. But I do expect someone to trade into this slot for the top QB or Clowney.
|#3 Anthony Barr (DE, UCLA)
Gus Bradley could use a great edge rusher. I have my doubts about Barr, but physically he has a ton of upside.
|#4 Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
If they really do have a lot of interest in Manziel, they might as well take him here.
|#5 Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
He could shoot up boards by the combine. Oakland also needs a quarterback and should target one at the top of round two.
|#6 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
The type of player Atlanta typically goes for. They need a tackle. Matthews might be better suited on the right side.
|#7 Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
Fantastic prospect. Elite athletic qualities. Looks like a complete stud. He’s a better prospect than Matthews for me.
|#8 Blake Bortles (QB, UCF)
What are they going to do next at quarterback? They wasted a pick on Ponder, brought in Cassel and then signed Freeman. Shambles.
|#9 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
The more I watch Evans, the more convinced I am he’s a top ten pick and a true #1 receiver.
|#10 Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
Just a really good, competitive football player. Would look great alongside Megatron.
|#11 Cyrus Kouandjio (T, Alabama)
Kouandjio and Robinson are the top two tackles for me. If he lasts this long it’d be a steal.
|#12 Antonio Richardson (T, Tennessee)
Massive tackle prospect with a ton of potential. If he finds a level of consistency, he could be another Anthony Davis.
|#13 Tyler Lewan (T, Michigan)
Solid if unspectacular tackle prospect. Just a good, honest football player.
|#14 Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
He will dominate at the Senior Bowl and secure a place in the top-20 next May.
|#15 Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State)
The best corner in a very average class.
|#16 Khalil Mack (LB, Buffalo)
I’m not completely sold on Mack, but the Ravens have a lot of needs including adding another pass rusher.
|#17 Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)
He’s not dominated in 2013 and it’s a concern. Has he added too much bad weight?
|#18 Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)
Modern day tight end. Would provide a much needed weapon for the Jets offense.
|#19 Cedric Ogbuehi (T, Texas A&M)
Reports say he’ll stay at A&M for another year. If he chooses to declare he’ll likely be a first rounder.
|#20 Cameron Erving (T, Florida State)
Converted defensive lineman. Having a good year. One to coach up and mould into a competent left tackle.
|#21 C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
Green Bay’s defense badly needs an upgrade. Mosley would be a nice presence at inside linebacker.
|#22 Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State
He’s had a productive year. I’ve only seen one of his games but came away impressed
|#23 Brent Urban (DE, Virginia)
Chip Kelly likes defenders with length and speed.
|#24 Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama)
Is he a first round pick? Possibly. The Chiefs don’t have any glaring needs.
|#25 Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
Roby didn’t have a great 2013 season but I’m a believer.
|#26 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
Could provide a dynamic double threat with Josh Gordon.
|#27 Xavier Su’a-Filo (G, UCLA)
Big upside prospect with his best years ahead.
|#28 Austin Seferian-Jenkins (TE, Washington)
Big, orthodox tight end. Could go in round one, but it wouldn’t be a shock if he dropped into the second.
|#29 Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
I’m not a huge fan. Too inconsistent. But he’s the big bodied wide out Carolina currently lacks.
|#30 Zack Martin (T/G, Notre Dame)
I really, really like this guy. He can play tackle in the NFL for me. Top-20 grade.
|#31 Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
Forget the numbers and concentrate on the upside. He could be another Josh Gordon. See the video at the top of the article.
|#32 La’el Collins (G, LSU)
I think he’ll end up at guard in the NFL, despite playing tackle this year.