The 2014 NFL draft has been moved back this year to May 8-10 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, and while the excitement is growing each week, there is a feeling of uncertainty surrounding certain boom-or-bust picks.
Teams with a selection in the top 10 need a player that can help turn a franchise around, and that forces organizations to take calculated risks on players that have the potential to be superstars but are far from a lock that they will fulfill those expectations.
Those players are dubbed boom or bust.
All of the following collegiate stars have plenty of risk associated with their selection, but each possesses too much raw talent for franchises in need of a star to pass on early in the first round.
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Whether the Houston Texans believe South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is worthy of the No. 1 draft pick has yet to be determined, but the franchise’s willingness to trade the top selection, according to Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com, will result in Clowney being the first player taken in 2014.
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Clowney should blow teams away with his raw size and skill at the NFL Scouting Combine.
While there is no questioning his drop in production this past season—amassed 10 less sacks and 12 less tackles for a loss in 2013—the focus on Clowney from opposing offensive game plans limited how effective he could be.
Clowney’s performance may raise a red flag for some franchises, but with the size every team desires from a defensive end (6’6” and 274 pounds, according to South Carolina’s website), there is no question that he is worth the risk.
If the defensive end shows the intangibles and mental aptitude during the draft process and proves he is willing to work hard and fulfill the high expectations placed on him, there will be a team that feels Clowney is worthy of the No. 1 pick.
Predicted Landing Spot: Houston Texans (No. 1 overall)
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
There has been plenty of conversation about Clowney as the potential No. 1 overall draft pick, but the most polarizing figure in this year’s draft class is Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Manziel has a similar size and skillset to Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, but Johnny Football has a more accurate deep pass. With the ability to use his legs to get out of trouble, the former Heisman Trophy winner has as much upside as Teddy Bridgewater or Blake Bortles.
NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah agrees:
Manziel has the most upside of any QB in this draft. Plenty of arm strength, accurate & special playmaker..Size/durability is a concern— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 8, 2014
Add in the fact that Manziel played against tough SEC competition and only stayed in College Station for two years, and the possibility for growth as a player on and off the field should have his stock higher than any other QB in the draft.
The Jacksonville Jaguars pick at No. 3 overall and face a dilemma.
It is clear that Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne are not the future of the franchise, but Manziel is anything but a lock to be a star at the next level.
This would be a huge risk for Jacksonville, but with a fanbase looking for a player to call the face of the franchise, Johnny Football would bring mainstream attention to the Jaguars at the very least.
Predicted Landing Spot: Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 3 overall)
Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
There are questions surrounding outside linebacker Khalil Mack due to the fact that he played against lackluster competition at Buffalo, but those downplaying the incredible natural talent of the future star have not seen him play.
Mack is a physical specimen that should translate well to the NFL using his work ethic and unparalleled mixture of finesse, speed and power.
The pass-happy NFL has found a serious need for elite pass-rushers, but Mack is so much more than that.
While he is one of the best edge rushers available in 2014, he also has the ability to stuff the run with his physical play or drop into coverage against tight ends and running backs.
Mack racked up an FBS record 75 tackles for loss and 16 forced fumbles over his career and added another 28.5 career sacks.
With that much success at the college level, the fact that he played at the University at Buffalo, knows the city well and can become the face of the defense as a homegrown hero, the Bills should make this selection at No. 9.
Predicted Landing Spot: Buffalo Bills (No. 9 overall)
*All stats via CFBstats.com.