NFL Draft 2014: 5 Bold Predictions for Round 1
Each and every year something happens in the first round of the NFL Draft that leaves many scratching their heads.
Sometimes a player falls from their projected spot in the top 10 and sometimes someone leaps into the first round that was never anything more than a second-round projection.
As much as analysts and writers try to determine where each and every player is going to wind up, it is difficult to truly gauge what a general manager is thinking when they are in their "war room."
This year will be no exception to the rule as some picks will leave many scratching their heads and wondering why.
Here are five bold predictions for the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Darqueze Dennard Drops out of the First 25 Picks
The 2014 NFL Draft is heavy with cornerback talent but thin at the top of the draft.
Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert is the odds-on favorite to be the first cornerback selected in this year's draft and Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has not been shy about his praise of him.
For the new followers, my love of Justin Gilbert may become annoying to you. But he's a freak. Top 10 talent on my board.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 25, 2014
While Gilbert may be getting much of the attention at the top of the draft, the next closest cornerback to him in terms of ability has been Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard.
At the combine he officially ran a 4.51 40-yard dash, slower than many of his peers at the position. He plays physical and quicker on film and has the ability to matchup with many wide receivers but he often gets too physical and can miss tackles.
Really worry about Darqueze Dennard as a tackler. He consistently let Stanford runners get outside him and make big plays. Poor angles, too.
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 9, 2014
Heading into the combine he was viewed as a likely top 20 pick and while his combine was not terrible, it proved that teams picking that high may have their concerns and he could drop to the back half of the first round.
Blake Bortles Goes No.1 to Houston
It is no secret that the Houston Texans are weighing two options with their No.1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft: South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney or one of the talented quarterbacks.
Clowney makes sense considering he is a freakish athlete that was touted as the No.1 overall pick in the 2014 draft over a year ago when he was not eligible to leave South Carolina after his sophomore year.
Lining Clowney up opposite of J.J. Watt on the Texans' defensive line or using him as a pass-rushing 3-4 outside linebacker likely has defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel chomping at the bit.
Despite the fact that it would be difficult for the Texans to pass on Clowney, both Bleacher Report's Matt Miller and CBS Sports' Dane Brugler seem to think Central Florida's Blake Bortles will be Houston's No. 1 overall pick.
Miller states right off of the bat that Bortles would not be his pick at No.1 for the Texans but he feels that is the way the team is leaning.
Brugler most notably pegged Eric Fisher No. 1 overall to the Kansas City Chiefs last season, tweeting:
I know I'm in the minority, but I'm still sticking with OT Eric Fisher at No. 1 to KC and LB Dion Jordan at 2 to JAX #JustFeelsRight— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) April 3, 2013
Again this season, Brugler has been ahead of the curve, pointing out back in January that he thought Bortles was the best quarterback in this draft writing, "the Texans need a new face at quarterback and Bortles has several traits that make him a logical fit in Houston."
While it may not come as a surprise if you follow Miller or Brugler that Bortles goes No. 1, it will be a shock to many as names like Clowney, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater have stolen the spotlight.
Calvin Pryor Is the First Safety Taken
For months the general consensus has been that Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was destined to become the first safety chosen in the 2014 draft.
Clinton-Dix still stands a good shot at being the first safety picked but Louisville's Calvin Pryor has been quickly rising up team's big boards.
He is a hard-hitting safety who has the ability to come up in the box and make tackles as a strong safety but also possesses the athleticism and ball-hawking abilities of a free safety. He plays with great instincts, has fluid hips that allow him to turn on the ball and is one of the most feared hitters in this draft class.
Both Pryor and Clinton-Dix ran identical 4.58 40-yard dash times which will force teams to look at each safety based solely off of whose playing style fits their team the best.
NFL.com's Gil Brandt was very complimentary of Pryor after the combine saying, "Pryor looks like a carbon copy of Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas; he really punishes people as a tackler and has great coverage skills."
If the rest of the league views Pryor the way that Brandt does, it is very likely he gets picked ahead of Clinton-Dix.
Jadeveon Clowney Drops to Falcons at No. 6
After a terrific sophomore season in 2012, it was all but assured that South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney would be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Clowney had his share of up and down moments in 2013 but he continued to prove that he had the ability to be taken No. 1 overall in the draft.
He was impressive at the NFL Scouting Combine, posting an official 4.53 40-yard dash, according to NFL.com. At 6'5" and 266 pounds, he combines impressive size with strength and speed. There is no doubt that he is the best pass-rusher in this draft but he may not find himself getting drafted until the Atlanta Falcons pick at No. 6.
I already suggested that the Houston Texans could select Blake Bortles with their No. 1 pick, leaving the St. Louis Rams as the next most logical choice. While Clowney could help bolster a pass-rush that already features Robert Quinn and Chris Long, the team may be better off going after Auburn's Greg Robinson to help shore up their offensive line.
The next three picks (Jacksonville, Cleveland and Oakland) all have needs at the quarterback position. Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr could all be in play, as could dynamic wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
Some are not convinced of Clowney's ability to catch on quickly at the next level and that was evident from this tweet from Lance Zierlein of Sports Talk 790 in Houston:
Spoke with AFC oline coach who is studying SEC OTs & he thinks Clowney will struggle his rookie year as OTs will play him for inside move— Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) March 13, 2014
His ability to adapt in his rookie season is not the only concern as former Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage is fearful of his lateral movement, telling Chase Goodbread of NFL.com:
The question on Jadeveon Clowney in a nutshell is how much lateral change of direction does he have in space? Because there are films from this past year where he missed sacks when the quarterback moved and escaped on him.
Clowney may slide, not nescessarily because of his skill but more because of the needs of the teams at the top of the draft. If he slides to No. 6, the Atlanta Falcons and their fans will be dancing in the streets.
Jimmy Garoppolo Sneaks into the First Round
A virtual unknown heading into the 2013 season, Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo has skyrocketed up many big boards after his strong showings in both the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl.
Garoppolo, who was the Walter Payton Award-winner last year as the top offensive player at the FCS level, threw for 5,050 yards, 53 touchdowns and just nine interceptions for the Panthers.
After his strong performances at the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl, he had a large contingent of NFL teams come to his pro day at Northwestern earlier this month.
WGN Radio's Jordan Bernfield tweeted out that both the San Francisco 49ers' Jim Harbaugh and the Houston Texans' Bill O'Brien were in attendance for his pro day.
ESPN analyst and former Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Polian is very high on Garoppolo, commenting on ESPN's NFL Insiders program:
Former Colts GM Bill Polian just said on ESPN's NFL Insiders that he projects Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo to be a first-round pick.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 24, 2014
There is a strong possibility that the Texans would view him as a guy they could grab with the first pick in the second round but given how much his stock has risen in recent weeks, someone may grab him before the first round ends.