While 2014 NFL draft prospects Jadeveon Clowney, Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews seem to be universally lauded as can't-miss players, several potential NFL stars enter the draft with question marks surrounding them.
It is understandable that many teams prefer to minimize risk by taking players with high floors, but the true home-run picks often come when selecting a player with a limitless ceiling. Many prospects seemingly fit that description in the 2014 draft class, and it will be interesting to see how that impacts their draft stock.
Here is a look at three of the most polarizing players in the 2014 NFL draft, along with predictions for where they will ultimately land in May.
There is no doubt that Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel will go down as one of the most exciting college quarterbacks of all time. Some talent evaluators believe that his skill set will translate to the NFL, while others seem to think that he has bust written all over him.
There isn't much middle ground when it comes to Manziel, so the team that drafts him will be fully cognizant of the fact that they could be getting a major bust just as easily as they could be getting a legitimate superstar.
Johnny Football certainly has his detractors, but he has some big names on his side as well. Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton is known as one of the most innovative and exciting players to ever take a snap in the NFL, and he sees a lot of himself in Manziel, according to Jim Corbett of USA Today.
Nobody really played like I played. (Manziel) plays like I did more than anybody else ... He's the closest thing I've seen to myself. Russell Wilson has some of it. But Manziel has those similarities even more so than Russell. Manziel is a quarterback savant.
That is high praise from a guy who knows what it takes for smaller, mobile quarterbacks to succeed in the NFL. Also, running quarterbacks are more common and acceptable in the NFL than ever before, so it's likely that some team will agree with Tarkenton's assessment.
Add in the fact that Manziel is already a known brand who will increase fan interest and ticket sales, and it seems quite obvious that he'll come off of the board in the first five picks.
The Houston Texans are an option at No. 1 overall, but ESPN's Todd McShay believes that the Texans will go with Central Florida's Blake Bortles. ESPN analyst Skip Bayless feels as though that would be a big mistake on Houston's part.
McShay now has Bortles going No.1 to Texans. No surprise O'Brien loves him. But is O'Brien more valuable than Manziel would be? NO.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) March 6, 2014
If the Texans pass on Manziel, then the next logical landing spot is the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 3. The Jags have been the NFL's doormat for the past several seasons, and they desperately need to generate some excitement. Drafting Manziel would do that, so look for Jacksonville to take the leap.
When the 2013 college football season came to an end, Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater was viewed as the top quarterback in the class and the prospective No. 1 overall pick.
As is always the case, though, things have changed throughout the scouting process leading up to the draft. It's certainly possible that the Texans could take Bridgewater with the top pick, but it is far from a lock, as the likes of Bortles and Manziel have seemingly bolstered their stock.
Bridgewater enjoyed a fantastic 2013 season that saw him complete 71 percent of his passes for nearly 4,000 yards and 31 touchdowns to just four interceptions. Bridgewater also appeared to be the most pro ready passer. Questions about his NFL potential have cropped up, though, and NFL Network's Albert Breer is reporting that teams don't view him as a superstar-level player:
4) I think personnel folks see Bridgewater like this -- Very good in a lot of areas, but not special. And they worry about his frame.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 3, 2014
The evaluation process is far from perfect, but that is certainly an indictment of Bridgewater if it's accurate. For every scout who is unimpressed with Bridgewater, though, there are others who see something special in him. Future Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner is among his supporters, per NFL Network:
Perhaps Bridgewater doesn't have dynamic talent like Manziel or Bortles, but he appears more mechanically sound, which means that his learning curve shouldn't be quite as steep. The Cleveland Browns need a quarterback at No. 4, and they have already built a defense that can make them competitive in 2014.
Bridgewater is the type of player who should be able to start immediately, and that figures to appeal to Cleveland.
It wasn't long ago that Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio was considered an elite prospect slotted somewhere in the middle of the first round. He wasn't viewed on the same level as Robinson or Matthews, but the belief was that he could be a cornerstone lineman. Perhaps that is still possible, but the red flags are starting to mount.
Firstly, Kouandjio struggled mightily at the NFL Scouting Combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in 5.59 seconds, according to NFL.com, and while offensive lineman aren't asked to run 40 yards down the field very often, it raises questions about his mobility. Also, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Kouandjio's knee is a major concern:
Bad news for #Bama OT Cyrus Kouandjio. I’m told several teams have failed him on his physical. Arthritic knee from failed surgery. “Ugly.”— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 22, 2014
With that said, Dr. James Andrews refuted the report, per Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com:
Dr. James Andrews told me he's sending a memo to all 32 teams refuting an NFL Network combine report about Alabama T Cyrus Kouandjio's knee— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 6, 2014
Who will have the best NFL career?
Ultimately, it's very difficult to know for sure how big of an issue Kouandjio's knee might be moving forward. It's likely to hurt his draft stock to a certain extent, and some team could get major value if he plummets down draft boards.
It's difficult to envision him being selected in the first round based on how much negativity is surrounding him, but some team will bite in the second. If the Jags take Manziel as expected, it would make sense for them to solidify the offensive line. Luke Joeckel is already entrenched at left tackle, but Kouandjio could be a steal if he can develop into a capable player on the right side.
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