With the NFL Scouting Combine wrapped up in Indianapolis, the media is buzzing with the various performances of the invited collegiate players. Perhaps topping the list of all the big questions is: which player will the Houston Texans choose with their first pick?
The Big 3 Players Fighting To Be The #1 Pick
The consensus of scouts and experts going into the weekend was that it would be Defensive End Jadeveon Clowney out of South Carolina, Quarterback Johnny Manziel out of Texas A&M or perhaps Teddy Bridgewater out of Louisville. The Texans are in dire need of a Quarterback, with the writing on the wall after the unsaddling of perennial starter Matt Schaub last season and the implosion of their offense. However, who could pass up a born-to-play football beast like Clowney?
The Texans decision on the matter of Jadeveon Clowney would seem to be the principle variable in the entire process. On Sunday, Clowney disappointed in the bench press by only completing 21 reps within the allotted time. A below average performance in the demonstration of strength for a defensive lineman, when one considers just the day prior Punter Pat O’Donnell out of Miami completed 23 reps (and ran a 4.62 40-yard dash…..Yes, you read that right).
However, the bubble blew apart on Monday when Clowney turned heads by sprinting a 4.53 in the 40 yard dash. This was faster than 14 out of 15 Tight Ends in the combine, 13 Defensive Backs and 12 Safeties!
For a man of 266 lbs, and standing 6’5” tall this is remarkably fast, and aligns more closely with the mythos of heroic achievement that has followed him since his game film from high school began to circulate on YouTube. His reputation as a potentially explosive powerhouse as an outside pass rush grew taller with that performance.
Questions roamed around the media and football analysts prior to the Scouting Combine about his consistency, especially since his own coach did not offer a glowing report on his work ethic. It is a fact that in his last 33 quarters of collegiate football, Clowney only had 1 sack, which brought criticism that his junior year was quite lackluster. However, one could also speculate that he approached the year following his 2012 sophomore year where he was named First-Team All SEC, First Team All-American and finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting with caution after seeing a starting running back on his own team blow out his knee early in the season.
The critical scouting reports on Clowney state that he ‘Does not consistently dominate’. However, there is no doubt in many experts minds that if Houston passes on selecting him #1 overall that he will not slide far down the board. It is doubtful the Rams would pass on such an explosive physical specimen as Clowney, even if he still needs development. In addition to Clowney’s unusual speed for a man of his size, he has almost a seven and a half foot wingspan when he stretches both 34 inch arms outward, making him the ultimate game wrecker and potential Quarterback nightmare.
Supposing Houston does pass on Clowney and decides they want to go with a Quarterback with their first round pick? Who will they choose? Could it be Manziel, AKA ‘Johnny Football’, who only started two seasons in collegiate football and has a reputation as a hard core party animal? Sure, but he has demonstrated an incredible skill at winning and improvising at the most important position on the field. Manziel ran a 4.68 40-yard dash at the combine and can be a dual threat who can extend drives.
Next we could ask: how about Teddy Bridgewater? Do the Texans choose this 6’2” slinger over the 5’11” Manziel? He certainly has a longer playing time of 36 games as a starter over 3 seasons, and has a reputation for demonstrating an innovative willingness to learn as a professional. According to scouting reports, he also lacks the off-the-field concerns that surround his Texas A&M counterpart. Teddy led all QB’s with a 4.20 20-yard shuttle.
Next Best Option Or Diamond In The Rough?
Then there is the possibility that the Texans choose neither of these QB’s and go with Blake Bortles out of Central Florida, the AAC Offensive player of the year and the only UCF QB to throw for 3000 yards in two consecutive seasons since Daunte Culpepper. He is certainly more of the physical profile of an NFL Quarterback, standing 6’5”; the same height as Peyton Manning, Cam Newton and Ben Roethlisberger. His skill level demonstrates a keen sense for evading the pass rush, and one should not forget he was also the architect of two amazing come-from-behind victories against Penn State and Louisville.
Whomever Houston chooses, it stands to reason that it will be a well thought out choice with all of these variables considered. One could logically assume they are going to draft a Quarterback in the draft after the benching of Schaub in 2013. It is highly unlikely that they consider T.J. Yates or Case Keenum (the other two QB’s on their roster) the starter they can build their franchise around.
Keenum lost the 8 games he started in 2013, and Yates lost the 3 that he played in. Combined they went 0-11 as starters in 2013. It is certain that neither gives the fan base a warm and fuzzy feeling going into next season and beyond. It is almost a foregone conclusion that Houston will draft at least one QB in the draft, if not two, and rebuild their franchise.
Everybody Needs A QB
The quandary of course being: If they go with Clowney, will there be a decent QB sitting on the board by the time their second pick comes around at the start of round 2? Or will they have to wheel and deal and move up, taking another teams pick? It is a good guess that the Jaguars at #3, the Browns at #4 and the Raiders at #5 are all in the market for a QB as well. It is not unreal to postulate that Manziel, Bridgewater and Bortles are taken by these three.
What About The Veteran Free Agent QB’s?
There is of course the possibility that the Texans sign a veteran such as Michael Vick or Josh McCown in Free Agency. This would allow them to get back into contention immediately and allow them to use their draft picks on shoring up the other positions.
So the NFL Scouting Combine as usual leaves some interesting questions on the table. The decisions that Houston makes with the first pick will have enormous impact on the rest of the draft. The prospect of Jadeveon Clowney playing opposite J.J. Watt could make for some exciting hard knocks football in the 2014 season. However, the lack of a true QB under center will make it difficult for the Texans to win this year, but perhaps this is a two year plan?
On May 8th when that first pick is called, it may just turn out to be the shock heard around the league. Who knows? As with any NFL Scouting Combine and Draft, there is always gold where you least expect it (look at the Seahawks backfield, most all chosen in the 4th and 5th rounds!). There is also a chance someone will pay big bucks and get a handful of Fool’s Gold (i.e. Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell and Tim Couch to name a few). Anyone remember the last time Texans chose a Quarterback 1st overall in the first round? Franchise first pick David Carr was sacked an NFL-record 76 times in his Rookie season… Ouch!