Although the 2014 NFL draft class features an uptick in depth compared to recent years, it isn't characterized by a ton of star power. There are plenty of prospects capable of making an instant impact, but only a select few come to the NFL with an "it" factor.
That doesn't mean other players won't be able to become superstars once they reach the league. Top prospects like Khalil Mack and Mike Evans could certainly start generating more hype if they produce at an elite level, but they will have to earn that added attention.
Some players, such as the ones listed below, enter the NFL with the spotlight already following their every move. Whether that's a positive, negative or non-factor is up to the teams with early picks. So let's check out those marquee prospects and predict where they will land on draft day.
Clowney is a remarkable athlete who registered 21 sacks over his first two seasons at South Carolina. His combination of size and athleticism, paired with the increased importance of edge-rushers in today's NFL, makes him exactly the type of player front offices and coaching staffs crave.
He struggled in his third and final season at the collegiate level, however. He tallied just three sacks, which led to questions about his work ethic and whether he truly warranted going first overall. What didn't change was his immense natural talent, as illustrated by comments from draft analyst Mike Mayock, via NFL.com's College Football 24/7:
Mayock: I fully believe Clowney is most talented player in this draft ... last draft ... and next year's draft.— CollegeFootball 24/7 (@NFL_CFB) April 2, 2014
The Houston Texans seemingly have two options with the top pick. They either go with the top-ranked quarterback on their board or Clowney. While the QB need is immense, it hasn't sounded like they fell in love with any of the available options, leaving the star defensive end as their best bet.
Projection: Texans at No. 1
"Johnny Football" seems to enjoy the spotlight. The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner posted monster numbers at Texas A&M (93 total touchdowns over two seasons) and was constantly making headlines for what he did both on and off the field.
One question raised about his on-field ability is his size. He checks in several inches shorter than his fellow top quarterback prospects. It led to one of the best quotes from the entire draft process, which came from him at the NFL Scouting Combine and was passed along by the NFL on ESPN:
"I play with a lot of heart, I play with a lot of passion, I feel like I play I like I'm 10 feet tall." - Johnny Manziel at the Combine— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) February 21, 2014
Where the top incoming quarterbacks will land is one of the draft's biggest question marks. Given Manziel's playmaking ability, it's hard to imagine him staying on the board for too long. A team needing a QB is going to take a chance, and the Cleveland Browns would be a good fit.
Projection: Browns at No. 4
Watkins racked up 240 catches for nearly 3,400 yards and 27 receiving touchdowns in three seasons at Clemson. He also added one touchdown on the ground and another on a kick return. He's the complete package capable of joining Calvin Johnson, Josh Gordon and the rest of the upper-echelon receivers.
Which of these players will have the best NFL career?
The one thing that always stands out about him is his acceleration. He can make a catch over the middle and then find another gear to make the first wave of defenders miss before turning it upfield for a big gain. Add in his ability and vision, and it becomes easy to see why he made so many game-breaking plays in college.
He should be a lock to go inside the top 10, but exactly where is still up in the air. He could go as high as No. 2 (St. Louis Rams) and shouldn't last beyond No. 9 (Buffalo Bills). The most likely landing spot in that range is the Oakland Raiders, who need more playmakers on offense.
Projection: Raiders at No. 5