By Justin McCahren
The highly anticipated 1st round of the NFL Draft didn’t disappoint last night. Football fans had been salivating over one of the deepest draft pools in NFL history since last season ended. No matter who your team is, your franchises future fortunes all lead back to a draft war room.
This is a draft that includes some potentially transcendent talents. From the limitless potential of pass rushing monster Jadeveon Clowney to the game changing speed of Sammy Watkins. From the prowess of Khalil Mack to the red zone size of Mike Evans. From the trench stuffing boulder Aaron Donald to Johnny Football himself. The term “best player on the board” is all just a matter of perspective.
Houston entered 2013 on the AFC short list of Super Bowl contenders. After a 2-0 start, all seemed to be going to plan. 14 losses in a row later, the Texans were on the clock.
With an offseason of housecleaning, Houston starts fresh in 2014 with new coach Bill O’Brien. O’Brien is widely regarded as a quarterback guru. Even a guru like him knows that a quarterback’s worst enemy is the pass rush. With an eye on some later round QB’s, the Texans couldn’t pass up one of the highest rated draft prospects in NFL history, Jadeveon Clowney.
Clowney’s Legendary “Michigan Hit”
Selecting Clowney first overall to team with an already finished product in JJ Watt instantly gives Houston a pass rushing plethora. With a number of holes on both sides of the ball, drafting anyone other than Clowney just didn’t add up. Many consider the South Carolina defensive end the best prospect since Bruce Smith entered the league in 1985.
The only way that Houston or anyone else can close the gap on Andrew Luck and the Colts is to put him on the ground. (Savage, but accurate) If Clowney even briefly scrapes the ceiling of his potential, Houston will be happy. He’s Jason Taylor spliced together with Reggie White. Houston hopes they just penciled in an easy 15 sacks per season from Clowney for the foreseeable future.
THE REST: STEALS
Pick 4, Rd1; Buffalo- Sammy Watkins, WR >> The Bills offense just selected a jet pack. If EJ Manuel is the QB of the future, he just got a super snugly security blanket. In a draft full of wide receiver talent, perhaps the deepest crop ever, Watkins surpasses them all. He doesn’t have Mike Evans size, but he has the ability to jump as high as Evans can reach. As for speed, the Ralph Wilson Stadium grounds crew may need to have replacement turf on site. Watkins could set the surface on fire.
Watkins 2013-14 Highlights
Pick 7, Rd 1; Tampa Bay- Mike Evans, WR >> The Buccaneers went out and snagged veteran deep ball slinger Josh McCown. Already having Vincent Jackson, McCown had to be pretty pumped to be heading South. McCown may have spontaneously combusted when the Bucs drafted red zone goliath Mike Evans. Johnny Manziel’s crutch is like Jimmy Graham, Orande Gadsden, Marques Colston and Terrell Owens got together and formed like Voltron. Google Gadsden if you need to. I’ll wait. Throw in Doug Martin and you have the foundation to a potentially deadly offense down the road. Evans is a DB’s worst nightmare. Tampa Bay instantly becomes more lethal.
Evans 2013-14 Highlights
Pick 13, Rd 1; St. Louis- Aaron Donald, DT >> He’s a force in the middle of the defensive line. He had nearly double the amount of disruptive plays than Jadeveon “can’t miss” Clowney did last season. He’s got a high motor for a gigantic specimen.
Pick 16, Rd 1; Dallas- Zach Martin, OT >> Martin graded just below the trio of Robinson, Matthews and Lewan on most draft boards. Martin however, may have a future that’s brighter than any of them. He’s big, he’s smart and his game is polished. He uses his hands better than #2 pick Greg Robinson and may be a better brawler in the trenches than Matthews or Lewan.
Pick 22, Rd 1; Cleveland- Johnny Manziel, QB >> I’m going to come right out and admit it, I’m drinking the Johnny Football Kool Aid. http://youtu.be/2iE4uEsaBF0 I think every team that passed on him will regret it. Now that he heads to the Browns to form a partnership with superstar WR Josh Gordon and big TE Jordan Cameron, teams may be regretting it sooner, rather than later. With Manziel’s raw playmaking ability combined with a relentless work ethic makes him just what Cleveland fans have longed for. I believe that the off-field incidents awhile at Texas A&M won’t be an issue in the NFL. I think Manziel is going to tattoo Blake Bortles on his brain and utilize his own fall in the draft as motivation. I think that motivation will turn him into a future Pro-Bowler.
Manziel 2013-14 Highlights
“Steals” Honorable Mention: pick 12, Rd 1; Odell Beckham Jr.- NY Giants, pick 24, Rd 1; Darqeeze Dennard- Cincinnati, pick 26, Rd 1; Marcus Smith- Philadelphia, pick 28, Rd 1; Kelvin Benjamin- Carolina
ROUND ONE WRAP
Key & Peele, Courtesy Comedy Central
At #21 in the first round, Green Bay snagged the Key & Peele name of the draft, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. That’s right, Ha Ha. We’ll see who’s laughing, him or opposing wide receivers.
In the “Up To Their Old Tricks” category, we look at perennial AFC draft heavyweights New England, Pittsburgh & Baltimore. No matter where these teams draft each year, they always get difference makers that fit their schemes to a t. This year was no different.
Pittsburgh grabbed Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier at #15. Shazier has game wrecking speed. He closes on ball carriers and quarterbacks perhaps faster than anyone else in the draft. He looks like a classic Steelers bounty. Don’t be surprised if he wins AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year.
If Shazier doesn’t win that honor, rival Baltimore may have that guy. CJ Mosely went two picks later to the Ravens. The middle linebacker from Alabama just feels like the next Ray Lewis. He’s tough, fiery and the Ravens got supreme value when he fell in their lap. Had it not been for the hype of Khalil Mack, Moses could’ve been a top-5 pick.
New England always gets a “Big Nasty” somewhere in round one. Bill Belichick knows how to build the trenches. With veteran pro-bowler Vince Wilfork coming back from injury and on his last legs of his NFL career, why not get an understudy? #29, DT Dominique Easley from Florida is like most Pats picks. He isn’t going to be the name you notice on draft day, but he’ll be another guy in New England that you notice big time when the games start.
The rest of the first round: http://www.nfl.com/draft/2014/tracker/by-round
Check back with us for more draft coverage all weekend.
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