The NFL draft is always a spectacle worth watching, and that's going to be more true than ever in 2014.
From Blake Bortles and Jadeveon Clowney to Johnny Manziel and Teddy "Steamin' Willie Beamen" Bridgewater, this feels like one of the more polarizing draft classes in quite some time. No one really seems to have a firm grasp as to when some of the biggest stars will hear their names called, and as such, anticipation for this year's draft is larger than usual.
Here's a look at when and where to watch every pick unfold, as well as a forecast for the top selections.
|Thursday, May 8||8 p.m.||1||NFL Network|
|Friday, May 9||6:30 p.m.||2-3||NFL Network|
|Saturday, May 10||Noon||4-7||NFL Network|
Note: ESPN and WatchESPN will also have coverage
1. Houston Texans Select Jadeveon Clowney
Jadeveon Clowney is a game-changing prospect. At 6'5" and 266 pounds, the former South Carolina superstar has an unbelievable blend of size, strength, athleticism and quickness. He is explosive off the snap and dang near impossible to contain with single coverage.
In the nicest way possible, he is a freak of nature, possessing a combination of tools that is extremely rare to see.
As we get further away from last seeing him play in an actual game, the silly narratives are starting to pile up. One NFL executive, via Mark Eckel of NJ.com, called him "spoiled" and "lazy." Another scout said his decision to stop working out individually for NFL teams was "gutless":
None of the criticisms really have any merit, though, and Clowney's workout decision hasn't rubbed everyone the wrong way, as NFL.com's Ian Rapoport noted:
Just asked an @NFL top executive if he cares that Jadeveon Clowney won’t do private workouts. “No. He did everything at his pro day.”— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 15, 2014
Some worry about Clowney's ability to fit in Houston's 3-4 defense, but he is versatile enough, and defensive schemes across the league are becoming fluid enough. A base defense shouldn't be a major concern.
Ultimately, this is the best player in the draft, and Houston won't let him slip away.
2. St. Louis Rams Select Greg Robinson
There are options here for the Rams. They could think about adding a quarterback and putting some pressure on Sam Bradford to improve. They could take a card out of the divisional rival Seattle Seahawks' book and stock up on pass-rushers to go with Robert Quinn and Chris Long. They could reach slightly for dynamic playmaker Sammy Watkins, giving Bradford a necessary extra weapon to play with. They could trade the pick.
But Greg Robinson's potential is going to be hard to pass up. Sports Illustrated's Greg A. Bedard put it simply:
Robinson has all the tools and has shown the potential in the pass game; if teams feel he can learn and work at his craft, then Robinson could be an all-time great. It’s a question of how long that will take, and where do you play him in the interim (Robinson would be a devastating left guard for a year or two).
The Rams are an intriguing case. They have immense talent on both sides of the ball and are clearly improving, but they have the unfortunate task of having to play the Seahawks (defending Super Bowl champions), San Francisco 49ers (three NFC championship appearances in a row) and Arizona Cardinals (10 wins last season) six times.
Do Les Snead and Co. believe the playoffs are a year away, or do they keep building for the future?
It's a difficult decision, but considering the elite pass-rushers inside the division, the Rams would be smart to go with the most gifted offensive lineman.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars Select Blake Bortles
Many believe that the Jacksonville Jaguars, who re-signed Chad Henne in the offseason, will wait a year to select a future quarterback—and if not that, at least wait until the second round of this year's draft.
Still, if they get their pick of the entire QB crop at No. 3, expect the Jags to pull the trigger.
When will Blake Bortles be drafted?
Blake Bortles, who many believe will be selected with the first overall pick, is big (6'5", 232 lbs), has a strong arm and is very mobile inside the pocket. He can make every NFL throw and is adept at escaping pressure and making plays on the run.
Choosing between Bortles, Manziel or Bridgewater simply comes down to personal preference, but the Central Florida standout has seemingly been regarded highest for most of the offseason and will be the first QB off the board.