The 2014 NFL draft has been moved from April to May 8-10, and the extra time between the end of the postseason and the actual selection process has helped add even more intrigue to the annual event.
With polarizing prospects like quarterback Johnny Manziel, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and wide receiver Mike Evans projected to go in the first round, where these players land will be the focus of many football fans over the remaining weeks leading into the big day.
Here are the latest projections surrounding the most polarizing prospects of the 2014 class.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
The most polarizing player in the 2014 draft class is former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. The quarterback put up incredible numbers through the air and on the ground during his college career, but his size and durability are question marks.
Johnny Football is a popular superstar that steals headlines with his actions on and off the field, and he could easily be the face of a struggling franchise moving forward.
NFL draft pundit Benjamin Allbright commented on the feeling surrounding Manziel:
Spoken with seven of the top ten teams that will be picking in draft, unanimously prefer Carr to Manziel.— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) March 9, 2014
When Manziel doesn't go nearly as high as most are projecting on draft day, don't worry, I'm not gonna sit here and say I told you so.— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) March 12, 2014
Despite the possible issues, that’s where the Jacksonville Jaguars come into play.
The organization traded former first-round pick Blaine Gabbert to San Francisco last week, and the move has opened the door for the Jaguars to draft a new quarterback. While selecting Blake Bortles or Teddy Bridgewater would be a solid move, neither has the charisma of Manziel.
The transition from college football to the NFL will be a struggle for Manziel—the Jaguars would expect him to start immediately—but he could contribute to the franchise in other ways while blossoming into a reliable starter.
Predicted Landing Spot: No. 3 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
The Houston Texans are reportedly open to trading the No. 1 overall pick, but regardless of which team ends up in the first spot, the player who should be taken is former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
Clowney had a mediocre final season in college, but he dominated the scouting combine with his tangibles. On paper, Clowney is the most skilled player in the 2014 class and deserves to be taken first.
Sports Illustrated’s Peter King revealed that not everyone is sold on Clowney, though; ESPN's Chris Mortensen echoed those sentiments:
A handful of evaluators have greater confidence re: Buffalo LB Khalil Mack than Jadeveon Clowney. Mack's skills, consistency & versatility— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) March 8, 2014
In the pass-happy NFL, a dominant player like Clowney doesn’t come around often. With the raw size, speed and strength to be a force at the next level, Clowney has what Houston needs to add more pressure off the edge and alleviate some of the pressure off fellow defensive end J.J. Watt.
The combination of Watt and Clowney would be devastating.
Predicted Landing Spot: No. 1 overall to the Houston Texans
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The NFL Scouting Combine was Evans’ chance to showcase his tangible abilities, and he has likely earned his way into a top-10 selection when the draft finally arrives.
Which player will be selected highest?
That is why I believe the Buffalo Bills will snag him at No. 9 overall.
With Steve Johnson’s long-term future with the Bills in question and Robert Woods slowly blossoming into a reliable No. 2 target in the NFL, adding a potential star like Evans as a deep threat and a red-zone target will be a huge addition for the franchise.
Second-year quarterback EJ Manuel needs all the weapons he can get on the offensive side of the ball, and Evans would be the reliable target that can bail the growing player out of trouble when needed.
Evans would be a steal for Buffalo.
Predicted Landing Spot: No. 9 overall to the Buffalo Bills