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Point/Counterpoint: Who will be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft?

BY DI STAFF | MAY 08, 2014 5:00 AM

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Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

This is a no-brainer. The way to build a franchise in the NFL is around a dynamic, playmaking quarterback. Who is dynamic and playmaking? Johnny Manziel.

It almost makes too much sense for Houston to take Johnny Football. The Texans are a season removed from their best season in franchise history, when they went 12-4. Last year, a slew of injuries and generally horrible football occurred, and Houston fired head coach Gary Kubiak; Bill O’Brien is now the head man in Houston.

Just because that horrible season took place doesn’t mean the Texans are in a bad spot. Assuming he’s healthy, Arian Foster is a top-tier running back and a force to be reckoned with. Andre Johnson is getting up there in age, but I’d still want to throw to him. Those are two potent offensive weapons for Manziel to work with.

He’s not walking into a pile of flaming garbage, which he would if he went to another team with an early pick (read: St. Louis, Jacksonville, Cleveland). There will be attention on him, but it’ll be alleviated.

Then there are the naysayers that think drafting Manziel is toxic and bad for a franchise. Even if a little of that shines through, O’Brien did a marvelous job cleaning up the mess that came with coaching Penn State after the infamous sex scandal. As an added bonus, Foster’s Zen ways can help with that, if you’re into that kind of thing.

In all seriousness, Manziel is the perfect fit for Houston, and Houston is the perfect fit for Manziel. A Texas kid in Texas, not too much pressure, and the Texans get to address their biggest need after one bad season. Every Houston kid will line up for a (legal) autograph.

— Danny Payne

Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

We’ve been waiting for this draft for several years: the draft of Jadeveon Clowney. He was the most highly-touted high school player in recent memory and hyped to be the next generational defensive lineman.

Then something weird happened. After some began to question whether he was giving 100 percent this past season, it became the popular thing to do to try to critique Clowney and be the one to pinpoint his fatal flaw.

But let’s get serious. Here are the facts: At the NFL combine in February, Clowney stood 6-6 and weighed 266 pounds, ran a 4.5 40-yard dash, and had nearly a 40-inch vertical leap. To compare him with everyone’s new favorite lineman, he’s an inch taller than J.J. Watt, 20 pounds lighter, and 0.3 seconds faster.

In terms of production, in a season in which some assert he was “saving himself” for the NFL, Clowney was still ninth in the SEC in tackles for loss with 11. His last season was not his best, however, and his sophomore numbers should prove to be much more telling.

As a sophomore in 2012, Clowney had 23.5 tackles for loss, 54 total tackles, and 13 sacks in 13 games. That was also the time he was receiving double-team attention on most downs.

Did he take it easy this year so he wouldn’t get hurt? Maybe. Probably. It kind of seems like it. But in the long run, that’s just a blip on the radar. Clowney has long been identified as a generational talent, and saving his body from unpaid concussion ball for the sake of several million dollars isn’t going to knock his character too much.

Ian Rapaport tweeted on Tuesday that NFL executives told him if Clowney doesn’t pan out, his floor is Julius Peppers. If that is the case, we’ve wasted a lot of time critiquing him.

A year from now, we’ll just wonder why we were so hesitant on such a guaranteed superstar.

— Kyle Mann

Trade it

Full disclosure. Jadeveon Clowney is going No. 1 overall in tonight’s NFL draft.

He’s a special talent. And he has been for a long time.

But if the Texans were to entertain dangling that No. 1 pick for a bounty of players and extra picks, it might not be such a bad thing.

Call me crazy, but remember what St. Louis did just a few years ago? The Rams, locked in at the No. 2 pick with no real desire to select or spend that much on a player, offloaded it to Washington for a king’s ransom.

The rest is history; Robert Griffin III was special and even momentarily great until a knee injury altered the upward trajectory of football in the greater D.C. area. Meanwhile, the Rams have utilized the picks they received three years ago and have turned them into a number of defensive starters in a division that calls for strong defensive play in order to be successful.

Michael Brockers, Janoris Jenkins, and Alec Ogletree all came in the form of the 2012 draft-day trade for St. Louis and appear to be part of a nucleus that has the potential to be exceptional when teamed up with All-Pros such as Robert Quinn.

Isaiah Pead and Stedman Bailey are also products of 2012’s blockbuster trade who have contributed in St. Louis. Not to mention the Rams still have Washington’s pick to use tonight.

I’m not saying I would do it, but hey, why not?

— Joshua Bolander


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