NFL Draft 2014: Bold Predictions for Divisive First-Round Talents

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NFL Draft 2014: Bold Predictions for Divisive First-Round Talents
Patric Schneider

In a perfect world, every NFL draft prospect would have an easy path to stardom. Teams spend months evaluating the best college players in the country, yet, whenever you read mock drafts or scouting profiles, there are often a number of talents who draw very divisive reactions. 

Some of this can be attributed to watching college football. There's so much exposure at the collegiate level on national television so the assumption is what worked there will translate to the next level. 

Sometimes fans just can't accept hearing that a player from their favorite school doesn't have a guaranteed future in the NFL. Whatever the reason for divisive opinions, they are always prevalent. 

This year, in particular, seems to have more players in the first round who are dividing analysts and fans. With just over two weeks before draft day, here are our bold predictions for where these talents will go. 

 

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Depending on what mock draft you are looking at, Johnny Manziel is going to go anywhere from No. 4 to Cleveland or No. 26...to Cleveland. It's also possible that a quarterback-needy team like Minnesota (No. 8) or Tennessee (No. 11) picks him up in the interim. 

There was also an ESPN report on Monday that stated Manziel was meeting with the Houston Texans, who own the No. 1 overall pick, but that seems more like a team doing pre-draft diligence than anything substantial. 

No quarterback in this year's class is as exciting to watch on film as Johnny Football. He can do things that Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr just aren't physically capable of, but there's also the great unknowns that come along with a player like him. 

Manziel plays to the beat of his own drum, on and off the field. He's catching footballs while riding a jet ski, which surely makes his future employer happy, and he had that fiasco at the Manning Passing Academy last year, which he attributed to oversleeping. 

Even though his NFL talent doesn't suggest a player worthy of a top-10 pick, especially in a draft as deep as this one, Manziel just needs one team to fall in love with him. Given all the speculation about Cleveland, the Browns are going to pop him early to avoid losing him later. 

Prediction: Manziel to the Browns, No. 4 overall

 

Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

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There's a lot to be said for a player who spent his first two years at college on offense before transitioning to the defensive line for his last two years. Anthony Barr's performance on defense was fantastic, with 41.5 tackles for loss and 23.5 sacks. 

Those numbers paint the picture of an elite edge-rusher in an era of football where that kind of player has more value than ever. Barr certainly has the ceiling to get there, which may be enough to get him in the first round. 

ESPN's Todd McShay has been vocal in his pessimism regarding Barr as a first-round talent, dating back to January. 

McShay's ESPN draft cohort, Mel Kiper, also has Barr sliding down to San Diego at No. 25 in his most recent mock (Insider required) because the "senior tape didn't live up to the production, and I think he can often be too tentative in his reads and reactions."

As raw as Barr still is, there are a number of teams picking early in this draft who need help off the edge (Atlanta, Tennessee, Dallas), so it's hard to imagine him lasting until the second half of the first round. 

Prediction: Barr to the Titans, No. 11 overall

 

Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama

Unlike Manziel and Barr, whose concerns are related more to their on-field ability, Cyrus Kouandjio faces an uphill climb to get in the first round following an offseason where numerous questions were raised about his health. 

The big Alabama offensive tackle was reportedly failing numerous physicals for teams at the combine, according to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport

Injuries are a completely different animal than what Manziel or Barr are dealing with. Kouandjio did play in 27 games the last two years against SEC competition, so perhaps some of those concerns are getting overblown. 

There's a lot to be said for a 6'6", 322-pound monster on the offensive line who is quick off the snap and a nightmare for opponents to move. Plenty of teams need help at the tackle position, especially later in the first round, so expect the talent to win out over injury concerns. 

Prediction: Kouandjio to the Panthers, No. 28 overall

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 


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