2014 NFL Draft: An Early Look at the Favorites to Go No. 1 Overall

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2014 NFL Draft: An Early Look at the Favorites to Go No. 1 Overall
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Yes, the 2014 NFL draft is still a year away. It's almost impossible to say who the top prospects will be, and no one can accurately project the first round.

But that hardly seems relevant. 

It is obviously incredibly early, but two prospects have solidified themselves as the best options for the No. 1 overall pick in 2014. Any college football fan has heard of South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, and he is clearly an option. 

Teddie Bridgewater is just a better option.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Bridgewater may not be the household name Clowney is, but he is just as unanimously considered a top-five pick. Oh, and he happens to play quarterback.

That is a factor.

It is no coincidence that, in four of the five past drafts, the No. 1 overall pick was a quarterback. The lone exception, obviously, is Eric Fisher, who was drafted No. 1 by the Kansas City Chiefs in April.

The question, though, is whether the gap in position importance between quarterback and defensive end is great enough for a team to justify passing on the transcending talent that is Clowney.

To establish that, let's take a look at what both Clowney and Bridgewater offer their NFL teams.

 

Bridgewater

More than any quarterback in the past two drafts, Bridgewater can throw the ball. Yes, he is better at throwing the ball than Andrew Luck was coming out of college.

That's not to say Bridgewater is a better prospect than Luck was. A huge part of Luck's status as a prospect was his incredible intellect and experience in an NFL offense.

Bridgewater doesn't offer those same abilities, but man can he throw the ball. Take this play, for instance:

Bridgewater displays exceptional ball placement and touch.

Though Bridgewater makes it look effortless, this is not an easy throw by any means. Working off his back foot away from pressure, the Louisville quarterback drops the ball in the perfect spot, where only his receiver can catch the ball.

This pass didn't require a rocket arm, but it does require accuracy and touch. Bridgewater has both.

But can Bridgewater play deep? Take this play as evidence:

Bridgewater shows the ability to play deep.

On the run, off his back foot, facing pressure, Bridgewater delivers this pass to the only acceptable location. Anywhere else, and this ball is, at best, incomplete and, at worst, an intercepted. Instead, it is a gain of 28 yards. 

In 2012, Brigewater was a sophomore. He threw for 3,718 yards and 27 touchdowns while completing 68.5 percent of his passes. The 6'3", 220-pounder still has plenty of room to grow, and it is safe to assume he will improve with more experience.

Then, of course, there is his competition. 

 

Clowney

The top-rated prospect out of high school, Clowney had eight sacks as a freshman and 13 as a sophomore. He has combined for 35.5 tackles for loss in his two years of college football.

At 6'6", 270 pounds, Clowney has ideal size to complement terrific athleticism. He is an outstanding pass-rusher with great length, power, burst and quickness. But don't take my word for it:

What needs to be said about this play?

No, that wasn't a pass play, but it shows just how insane of a player Clowney is. He explodes into the backfield before laying out the Vincent Smith and forcing a fumble. These are the types of plays Clowney makes now and will continue making in the NFL.

Want to see Clowney rushing the passer? Here is what he can do there:

Clowney is refined as well as talented.

On this play, Clowney shows great burst off the snap, a dangerous pass-rush move and exceptional closing speed. These attributes combine to help him pick up a sack and force a fumble. And this is far from a rare occurrence.

Like Bridgewater, Clowney was just a sophomore last year. He is still learning, developing and adding to his dominant physical ability. In 2013, as hard as it is to believe, Clowney should be even more dominant.

 

Conclusion

Clearly, both Bridgewater and Clowney are special players. Clowney is perhaps a bit more elite, but again, there is the position gap. 

In the NFL, Teddy Bridgewater will touch the ball on every offensive play. As dominant as Clowney is, he can't hope to make that type of impact on defense. He would have to be the greatest player in NFL history to have the impact of a top-level quarterback.

Maybe Clowney will be that player. In all likelihood, he will be one of the NFL's defensive ends. He could easily be the best defensive player in the NFL. 

Who Should be the No. 1 Overall Draft Pick in 2014?

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Again, though, a quarterback makes an impact unlike any other position in sports. He is in charge of the offense, and an elite one truly turns around a team. In the NFL, there simply aren't bad teams with elite quarterbacks.

There are bad teams with elite pass-rushers. DeMarcus Ware, perhaps the NFL's most prolific sack artist over the last five years, hasn't always been on a great Cowboys team. Remember the last time Peyton Manning's team wasn't good?

The owner of the No. 1 pick will obviously have a huge effect on who is drafted first. If it is the Carolina Panthers, for example, Clowney will likely be the first pick. The Jacksonville Jaguars? It's Bridgewater.

Many will continue to argue for Clowney as the draft approaches. It's understandable. Rare is an overused word, but Clowney is a rare talent.

That doesn't mean Clowney should go No. 1 overall, though. For one simple reason:

A great quarterback beats a rare defensive end.

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