2014 NFL Draft: Best Fits for High-Profile Early Entrants

Brian Mazique@@UniqueMaziqueCorrespondent IIIJanuary 9, 2014

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31:  Quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies rolls out and looks downfield to pass 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

Without a system catered around his talents, Peyton Manning might not be the Hall of Fame quarterback we see weekly. This is no knock on Manning. Many consider the reference to system as a factor in an NFL player's greatness as a slight toward their talents. It's anything but.

Every player in the NFL is a "system" player to a degree. Each will thrive when placed in the scheme that best fits what he does well. Some just have skills that are potentially adaptable to multiple systems.

For the newest crop of high-profile early entrants into the 2014 NFL draft, fit will be imperative to their early success. Each hopes to land in an environment and system that allows him to thrive and display his talents.

Here's a look at the best fit for three of the most well-known prospects who have chosen to forego the rest of their college eligibility. 


Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

Declared: Jan. 8, per NFL.com's Chase Goodbread

Best Fit: Minnesota Vikings at No. 8

As much of a prime-time performer as Manziel proved to be in two years at College Station, putting him with the Houston Texans is probably too much pressure to place on anyone—even if that someone's nickname is Johnny Football.

Having to translate his collegiate success in the same football-crazed state is a bit much, especially considering the mess the Texans were during the 2013 season.

Because Houston has the No. 1 overall pick and a need at quarterback, it isn't a crazy thought. Manziel's stock could rise, or the Texans could trade down a few slots and still get him.

In either case, it's a bad idea.

Manziel would be better off landing with the Minnesota Vikings. The team has an offensive line on par with the Texans, (allowed 44 sacks in 2013 compared to 42 for the Texans) and a running back in Adrian Peterson, who can be the focal point of the offense.

Manziel wouldn't have to carry the enormous pressure of being the savior of a franchise so early in his career. His winning attitude and fire would be a welcomed addition to an offense in need of a leader.

While some have Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater penciled in as the top pick, ESPN on NFL says Manziel was at least as good in 2013:

Whether Manziel stays on the board until the eighth selection when the Vikes pick remains to be seen, but Minny would be the best place for him.

At least one Vikings great agrees with the notion.


Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Declared: Jan. 1, per Goodbread

Best Fit: Houston Texans after trading down

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

Clowney made his NFL intentions known on New Year's Day and discussed them in the video below from Go Gamecocks on YouTube:

He has the rare size (6'6", 250 pounds) and speed combination that has forced comparisons to the likes of Julius Peppers. In fact, NFL.com's Bucky Brooks called Clowney a "meaner, nastier version" of the Chicago Bears defensive end, though Brooks backed off the statements later.

Concerns about his motor—the one on the field and in his car—have arisen, but he's still a big-time prospect. 

Clowney's production dipped this season. He recorded just three sacks after notching eight as a freshman and 13 as a sophomore.

While some may say it was due to a lack of effort, it could have been caused by a decline in his supporting cast. Unlike his freshman and sophomore seasons, Clowney didn't have the likes of Melvin Ingram, Devin Taylor and Aldrick Fordham on the defensive line.

With defenses hell bent on stopping him, Clowney struggled to live up to his very high billing.

The Texans would likely receive hate mail from fans if they used the No. 1 pick on Clowney, but trading down and grabbing him lower in the top 10 could be a great value.

Having Clowney in the front seven with J.J. Watt is an amazing thought. The team seems to want to stay with the 3-4 scheme, as evidenced by interviewing former defensive coordinator and head coach Romeo Crennel. 

Clowney has the frame to hold the size needed to be a defensive end in the scheme, but he also has the athleticism to play outside linebacker in a 3-4. Clowney could have an impact similar to the one Mario Williams had when he played for the team from 2006 to 2011. Williams had 53 sacks during that time.


Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Cleveland Browns

Declared: Jan. 1, per Mike Huguenin of NFL.com.

Best Fit: Cleveland Browns at No. 1 after trading up

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 probably won't make it by the Texans, or whichever team has the No. 1 pick if Houston trades down, but if the Browns are smart, they will make sure it's them holding the first selection.

Scouts are seemingly split on Bridgewater's potential. Per Albert Breer of NFL.com, one AFC scout said this about Bridgewater:

A second-rounder. Shorter and smallish in size, but he has solid arm strength, he's a good athlete, solid accuracy. Not dynamic or a special talent, but he has NFL starter-caliber skills, and he's a good kid with all the intangibles.

That's one opinion, but what seems undeniable is Bridgewater's confidence, intelligence and leadership skills. This is something the Browns organization is desperately missing.

The team hasn't had stability at quarterback since Tim Couch led the team in passing four years in a row. Most wouldn't consider the Couch era the glory years. Cleveland made the playoffs one time in the aforementioned span, but it's the best stretch the Browns have had as a team, or at quarterback unless you go back to the mid 1980s with Bernie Kosar.

Cleveland needs to solidify itself at the game's most important position. Bridgewater gives them the best chance to do that in this draft.

Bleacher Report's NFL draft guru Matt Miller likes Bridgewater and Central Florida's Blake Bortles, but he also gives Teddy his stamp of approval.


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