2014 NFL Draft Projections: Likely Landing Spots for Biggest Stars

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistJanuary 2, 2014

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31:  Quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies argues a call during the the Chick-fil-A Bowl game against the Duke Blue Devils at the Georgia Dome on December 31, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

There isn't a shortage of star power at this year's NFL draft. There's that guy that won the Heisman. There's that other guy who had the top play on SportsCenter for months. There are dynamic playmakers, stout defenders and the possibility of a very deep quarterback class.

But where will the big stars end up? Which franchises will potentially be transformed by these top options at the 2014 NFL draft?

I'm glad you asked. 


1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

LOUISVILLE, KY - NOVEMBER 23:  Teddy Bridgewater #5 of the Louisville Cardinals throws the ball during the game against the Memphis Tigers at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on November 23, 2013 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Bridgewater isn't the sexy pick. He doesn't have one particular quality that makes you drop your jaw. He's not particularly big or strong, though height isn't an issue. He doesn't have a statement game or moment that we've seen from players like the two that will follow him on this list.

So what makes him worthy of the top overall pick?

His mind, that's what. As Greg A. Bedard of The MMQB writes, Bridgwater already has the responsibilities of an NFL quarterback every time he strides to the line of scrimmage, with options to kill one of three options called in the huddle or completely audible into an uncalled play:

Most of the recent top drafted quarterbacks, like E.J. Manuel, Geno Smith and Robert Griffin III, came from systems that called for quarterbacks to only read half or a quarter of the field. Bridgewater has the ability to direct the ball to any part of the field on every snap.

“I study pro ball, that’s what I do, that’s my passion, my love. (NFL coaches) are the best at what they do, so I’ve made it what we do,” [offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach] Watson said. “Most of these kids in college, the coordinator calls it from the press box and then there’s a signal system once the defense declares. The quarterback never gets developed, never gets taught. Teddy’s been taught from day one that I want him to be the coordinator at the line of scrimmage because he can be far better than me. And he can put the ball wherever he thinks is right.”

Bridgewater’s been doing that for two years. This past season, he made just three mental mistakes when it came to adjustments at the line of scrimmage.

That's really impressive, and it's something that Bill O'Brien—who coached Tom Brady, remember—will surely appreciate.

From day one, Bridgewater has the technique, polish and mental acuity to be a franchise quarterback. He's a plug-and-play option. He's detail-oriented. He's a student of the game. His worth ethic isn't in question. He's an extremely accurate passer (71 percent completion percentage this year).

If you were giving out grades for intangibles, he'd get an A+.

That's what stands out about Bridgewater and will likely lead the Texans—a team that is a quarterback and a few key players returning from injury away from competing for a playoff spot—to make him the top overall pick. 


3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jadeveon Clowney, DE

ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 01:  Jadeveon Clowney #7 of the South Carolina Gamecocks walks off the field at the end of the first half of their game against the Wisconsin Badgers at the Capital One Bowl on January 1, 2014 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Ha
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

One would guess the St. Louis Rams will do one of two things with the No. 2 selection: either trade it to a team desperate to land Clowney or one of the remaining quarterbacks, or select offensive tackle Jake Matthews out of Texas A&M.

Since trades are basically impossible to predict at this point, let's assume they do the latter. That means the Jaguars will have a very interesting choice on their hands—either draft arguably the most talented player in this entire draft or roll the dice on one of the quarterbacks not named Bridgewater.

With a defensive coach in Gus Bradley, I'm guessing they'll do the former.

Clowney would represent a safer commodity at this point than the remaining quarterbacks—and in a potentially deep draft at the position, they could trade back into the first round or look to add one in the second—he fills a huge need at defensive end and has the potential to become the most dynamic defensive player in the NFL.

Don't expect him to get past the Jaguars.


4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M 

Call this a hunch. It has to be one, since the Browns don't even have a quarterback yet, but this is an organization that needs a game-changer.

Manziel is just that. 

Yes, some folks will worry about his size and stature, or whether he can sit in the pocket and make plays down the field while resisting the urge to scramble. But if you ask Bucky Brooks of NFL.com, Manziel has all the tools to be an excellent passer at the next level:

Watching Manziel pick apart the Blue Devils, there's no doubt in my mind that he can make every throw in the book. He attacked every area of the field with a variety of fastballs and rainbows to open receivers. Additionally, Manziel showed the ability to squeeze the ball into tight windows between the hashes. While those traits are expected of a franchise quarterback, I believe Manziel's unique ability to deliver accurate throws from various throwing platforms separates him from the pack. He will use a sidearm or three-quarters release to avoid rushers in close proximity, yet the ball still hits receivers in the strike zone. This characteristic makes him a threat to create big plays against the blitz from anywhere on the field.

Given the relentless blitz tactics favored by the majority of NFL defensive coaches, Manziel's unique arm talent could make him indefensible as a pro.

High praise indeed.

If the Browns agree with that scouting report, he's a no-brainer pick. He'll sell tickets and jerseys, he'll make the Browns difficult to game-plan against and he has all of the tools to become a dynamic player at the next level.

Some people aren't sure if he'll crack the top 10 given his question marks. I doubt he makes it past the No. 4 pick. And, yes, he'll enter the draft—he outgrew Texas A&M a year ago.


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