NFL Draft 2014: Breaking Down This Year's Top Game-Breakers

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NFL Draft 2014: Breaking Down This Year's Top Game-Breakers
John Bazemore/Associated Press

A great football team has a collection of varied personalities and playing styles on it.

You need quiet leaders and vocal leaders. Big personalities and guys who just get to work. World-class athletes and players who squeeze every ounce of ability out of the limited talent they have.

Grinders. Intelligent students of the game. And, of course, game-breakers.

Every team needs a player who, with one touch of the ball, can completely change the outcome of a game. A guy that can take it to the house every time they touch the ball. A guy that can make plays even when it doesn't seem there is a play to be made.

As you might expect, there are a couple of these players in this year's draft. Let's take a closer look at the game-breakers.

 

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

You can question if Johnny Manziel's body will be able to take the punishment that the NFL game bestows upon a running quarterback. You can question his off-the-field decisions if you like. But one thing you can't question is this: Johnny Football is a playmaker.

Manziel couldn't repeat as the Heisman winner this season, but he was actually a better passer this season. Take a look at his numbers from this year compared to last:

Johnny Manziel Texas A&M Stats
Year Pass Yds Pass TD INT PCT Rush Yds Rush TD
2012 3,706 26 9 68.0 1,410 21
2013 4,114 37 13 69.9 749 9

What Manziel has that NFL scouts will love is the ability to extend plays with his feet while keeping his eyes down the field.

He has the escapability of a Tony Romo, the gun-slinging mentality of a Brett Favre and the ability to tuck it and run, making plays with his feet like a Robert Griffin III.

If he continues to evolve as a passer and can avoid taking too many big hits, Manziel could be one of the most entertaining and compelling quarterbacks to watch in years.

  

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Few players are more fun to watch with the ball in their hands than Sammy Watkins.

He can beat you over the top like Mike Wallace (think Wallace in the Pittsburgh days). He can make plays as a runner like Percy Harvin (though Clemson used him in that role much less this season). He's an excellent route runner. He goes up and gets the ball. And any time he touches it, he's a threat to take it to the house.

Plus, bless him, he certainly isn't wanting for confidence:

He's earned the right to be confident after catching 101 passes for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns this past season. The best wide receiver in this year's draft is going to be a game-changer at the NFL level.

 

Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

Mike Davis is certainly the most raw player on this list, but he also might have the most upside.

After an impressive 2012 season (82 receptions for 1,105 and five touchdowns), Evans really blew up the past year, catching 69 balls for 1,394 yards and 12 touchdowns.

For those scoring at home, that's 20.2 yards per catch. Not too shabby.

But where Evans really impresses is his combination of size and speed.

Evans has the ability to beat defenders deep and make plays down the field, while also providing a great red-zone threat. Bleacher Report scouting guru Matt Miller provided the following breakdown of Evans' game:

Players like Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and others have made the big, box-out style wide receiver en vogue right now, and rightfully so. Each of the three played at an All-Pro level in 2013 with varying styles of play but one thing in common—they were able to out-jump and out-position defenders for the ball. Throw it up, and they're coming down with it. And usually in the end zone.

That sounds an awful lot like what Evans did at Texas A&M. The 6'5", 225 pound athlete has a knack for getting open without great open-field agility, and he uses his frame like a forward posting up in the paint. That works because he's strong, has great length and is crazy good at catching contested passes.

Evans isn't the well-rounded or polished receiver that Watkins is, nor does he have his dangerous, after-the-catch ability. But when the ball is in the air down the field, there isn't a receiver in this draft class more likely to go up and get it than Evans.

 

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