2014 NFL Draft: Pros and Cons of Draft's Most Notable Prospects
Free agency is in full swing in the NFL, but there is still plenty to talk about with regard to the NFL draft.
Like any year, there is no shortage of big names with plenty of uncertainty to go along with talent.
What are the pros and cons to the top prospects in the draft? These are some of the most prominent names in the upcoming draft, many of which are polarizing to varying degrees.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
For all the scrutiny he has drawn, Johnny Manziel had a rather magical college career.
He amassed 7,802 passing yards, 63 passing touchdowns, 2,169 rushing yards and 30 rushing touchdowns in two seasons with the Aggies, winning the Heisman Trophy as a rookie and getting back to New York City as a finalist his next season.
Manziel is simply electric.
The biggest knock on Manziel is his size.
The dynamic quarterback came in a tick under 6'0", which is just between Russell Wilson and Drew Brees. That sounds like excellent company, but it's important to note that correlation is not causation. That is to say, just because Manziel is relatively short like those two doesn't mean he will necessarily succeed.
Perhaps a bigger concern has been Manziel's playboy lifestyle—as a college student, no less—and how much he truly left behind, as he has claimed when interviewed by The Houston Chronicle's John McClain when he decided to go pro.
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
What isn't there to like about Jadeveon Clowney's upside?
The 6'5", 266-pound monster out of South Carolina is just a freak of nature athletically. That much is evident on film, but he showcased his athleticism at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Clowney ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds—reiterating that he is 6'5" and 266 pounds—faster than a host of receivers and running backs. He also had a 10'4" broad jump and 37.5" vertical jump, both huge numbers as well.
Clowney elevated his teammates in college, sometimes merely by his presence on the field. Opposing teams were so keyed on him or he was so disruptive that his teammates often reaped the statistical benefits he sowed.
Perhaps being so gifted has caused Clowney to rest on his laurels a bit.
The incoming rookie has been called out for an iffy work ethic by his former college coach no less, per CBS Sports' Jeff Reynolds.
Asked to evaluate the 6-foot-5, 274-pound pass rusher's work habits after three years in the Gamecocks' program -- South Carolina totaled 33 wins -- Spurrier might have added to the ammunition for scouts ready to interrogate Clowney at the NFL Scouting Combine this week.
"He was OK," Spurrier said on NFL Network, the implication being that Clowney didn't exactly wear out the alarm clock or tax the hinges on the weight-room door. "It wasn't like Marcus Lattimore, you know, every player is a little different. His work habits are pretty good, they're not quite like Lattimore, a Stephon Gilmore, Melvin Ingram, some of those guys, but when the ball is snapped he's got something no one else has.
Clowney's junior season wasn't nearly as productive as his previous one, which has also raised concern for some in the draft community.
Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
When healthy, Louis Nix III is a force to be reckoned with in the middle of the defensive line.
The 6'3", 342-pound tackle just eats up space in the middle, making him a great nose tackle prospect. He is also versatile enough to move out into a 3-technique position and disrupt the offense from there.
Perhaps his best trait is his personality. Known as "Irish Chocolate," Nix has a good sense of humor and a colorful social media presence.
His biggest issue heading into the draft will be health.
Nix was bothered by a bum knee last season, an injury that ultimately shut him down, so he could have surgery to repair his meniscus. As Bleacher Report's Matt Miller points out in the video above, Nix also had weight concerns in college.
He did weigh in at the combine a svelte 23 pounds lighter, though, and he was healthy enough to run at the combine. Will he be able to keep the weight off?
Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
Dominique Easley might be the best defensive tackle in the draft from a talent standpoint.
In his first mock draft of the year, ESPN analyst Todd McShay projected Easley to be taken No. 21 overall by the Chicago Bears, calling him “a guy that can penetrate and get up the field and disrupt.”
“Prior to the knee injury, I thought he was the most dominant defensive lineman in college football this year,” McShay said.
He is also versatile, able to play inside and out.
The biggest problem with Easley is, of course, the knee injury he suffered last season to his ACL.
It was the second major knee injury for the big lineman, which is the main reason he is not being discussed at the top of the draft. He injured his knees separately, and other players have come back from matching ACL tears to have great NFL careers.
Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Perhaps the biggest thing Blake Bortles has going for him is his size.
The 6'5", 232-pound quarterback out of UCF is far bigger than his peers at the top of his draft, Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel. The 6'2" Bridgewater had weight concerns dogging him until he dispelled them at the combine, and Manziel's biggest problem is he doesn't crack six feet.
Partially because of his size, Bortles is being compared to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Of course, size isn't everything. Just ask Jared Lorenzen.
Bortles also compares to Roethlisberger with his athleticism and escapability, two hallmarks of the Pittsburgh quarterback's game.
As with any highly touted quarterback prospect, how high is too high?
For every Andrew Luck there is a Blaine Gabbert and JaMarcus Russell. There are no sure things in the draft.
That goes double for a guy like Bortles, who enters the league a bit raw. His need for development is evident in his faulty footwork, passing inconsistency and need to better scan defenses.
Perhaps the biggest con for Bortles is where teams will have to take him. Is a quarterback who needs development worth a top-five pick on potential alone? He will be a big risk at the top of the draft.
Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Like Jadeveon Clowney, Anthony Barr is one of the most athletically gifted players in the draft.
The 6'4", 250-pound outside linebacker ran a disappointing 4.66 in the 40-yard dash at the combine, but he dramatically improved it to 4.44 seconds at UCLA's pro day. The latter time is more consistent with what he showed on tape.
The problem with Barr is that size and athleticism are just about his main assets.
Barr is still relatively new to the position. He played fullback prior to the 2012 season, though he transitioned quickly.
He is more potential than proven commodity at this point.
Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Marqise Lee was fantastic two years ago when he caught 118 passes for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns.
He outshined fellow receiver Robert Woods, who was destined to be a high-round draft pick with the Buffalo Bills, and put himself at the top of the list for this year's draft at his position.
The dynamic receiver has good technique, and he can run away from defenses.
Everything Lee did well in his sophomore season was washed away in a letdown of a junior season, when he had less than half the statistical totals from 2012.
Of course, going from Matt Barkley to Cody Kessler at quarterback had something to do with it, but Lee's draft stock found a drag last year. It didn't help that he had issues with drops.
Lee is also not the biggest wide receiver heading into the NFL at 6'0" and 195 pounds. That may not matter much if he is productive.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
As Bleacher Report's Matt Miller alludes to in the video above, Kelvin Benjamin has quite a bit of upside.
He is the biggest receiver in the draft at 6'5" and 234 pounds, and the Alshon Jeffery comparisons aren't far off from that standpoint.
The huge target could be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses, particularly in the red zone. We saw what Jeffery was capable of in his sophomore season, which could be enticing enough for a team to snag him early in the 2014 draft.
Well, for starters, Benjamin doesn't seem to be as athletic as many hoped. He had rather pedestrian results at the combine—relatively speaking, of course—sparking concerns that he might be little more than a glorified tight end at the next level.
Benjamin ran the 40-yard dash in 4.61 seconds officially, which wasn't blazing by any means.