By DANA REYNOLDS – STAFF WRITER
It is hard to believe that the National Football League (NFL) draft is less than a month away. Unlike in years past, the draft is filled with many players who could potentially snag the top spot.
NFL general managers and their staffs are adjusting their draft boards based on activities that have taken place over the past six to seven weeks including pro-day results, private workout results, and visits.
This year’s first round has the potential to be dramatically different than in previous years. Although Buffalo’s EJ Manuel was the lone quarterback selected in in the first round last year — the lowest since 2001 — this year’s top round is predicted to feature a handful of quarterbacks. There are as many as four, possibly five, first-round selections at the game’s most crucial position.
The five players include: Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Derek Carr, and Jimmy Garoppolo. If each of them are chosen within the top 32, it would be the most quarterbacks chosen in the first round since 1999. The 1999 class featured Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, and Akili Smith — who snagged the first, second, and third spots respectively.
“Teams that are looking for a quarterback to start right away will pick them up early in the first round,” junior Tristan Conroy said. “If they want a quarterback to shadow someone with more experience, they will wait to trade off.”
There has been a lot of debate regarding who the Houston Texans will choose as the top pick for the upcoming draft. Both defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and quarterback Johnny Manziel are believed to have non-debatable potential. Even though the Texans are in dire need of a quarterback, passing up Clowney, especially after his pro-day performance, will be hard to do.
Junior Spencer Vetter thinks Clowney should be the top pick in the first round. “I would have to take Jadaeon Clowney over any other player,” Vetter said.
“Even though the Texans need a quaterback, Clowney is a once-in-a-generation talent. People question his work ethic, but if you study his game and stats from last season, it is obvious that he was the most-schemed-against defensive player in college football. Pretty much every play, teams ran away from him or dedicated three to four players to block him. I think all the quarterbacks in the draft have potential, but they are all risky when it comes to being franchise quarterbacks. Clowney is a sure-fire Rookie of the Year candidate and has the greatest upside and talent in the entire draft,” Vetter said.
First-year Texans Head Coach Bill O’Brien recently hinted at the possibility of drafting Clowney, stating that if they do draft Clowney that they will use him in a lot of different ways. Clowney has been described by ESPN as “one of those rare game changers in defense.”
Senior Eric Gantzer believes that the Texans will draft Clowney. “I think that Clowney will go first,” Gantzer said. “He had a really good pro-day and his junior year was really successful. I think a lot of people are questioning his work ethic, but as a Bengals fan I have faith in him. Two years ago, the Bengals picked up Vontaze Burfict. He was not even drafted because of his character conflicts. He was selected for the Pro-Bowl his rookie and second year.”
Conroy agreed that the Texans are going to draft Clowney. “I think they will pick Clowney,” he said. “They could trade for another quarterback after the first round.”
On the other hand, Johnny Manziel, also nicknamed “Johnny Football,” was recruited by Texas A&M as a dual-threat quarterback and has performed at a high level since arriving in College Station. During his first season in the SEC, he became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, Manning Award, and Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award. He also had an excellent performance on his pro-day. Manziel completed 64 out of 66 passes to six different receivers.
However, Manziel has also been subject to criticism, being labeled by some coaches as arrogant. During the pre-draft season, there were reviews of Manziel ranging from “undraftable” to “rare-competitor.” Former NFL coach Barry Switzer criticized Manziel on a personal level, saying that he simply does not like his antics.
Senior Brent Joplin agreed that while Johnny Manziel is impressive on the field, he does need some maturation. “I think he’s going to need to go into a veteran locker room,” he said. “He has a lot of growing up to do, but you definitely cannot deny his talent.”
Another player to look out for during this draft season is University of Louisville’s quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater. As a junior for the Cardinals in 2013, he completed 303 out of 427 for 3,970 yards with 31 touchdowns and four interceptions.
“I think that the Texans should pick Bridgewater as the first round draft pick,” Joplin explained. “They need someone to replace their previous quarterback, Matt Schaub. I have seen him play and he can really pull together in a game.”
Regardless of who is taken with the coveted number one pick, this year’s draft is full of potential and perhaps even a few late-round surprises.