NFL Draft 2014: Predictions for Highly Touted Prospects of Round 1

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NFL Draft 2014: Predictions for Highly Touted Prospects of Round 1
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The question on everyone's mind heading into the first round of the 2014 draft is where the most highly acclaimed prospects will wind up. 

With Round 1 just days away, here I'll project where this year's most highly touted players will land. 

*Below are predictions only. 

 

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: No. 1 Overall to Houston Texans 

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The Houston Texans have needs at quarterback, right tackle and linebacker but also need to bolster the edge of their defensive line, where Houston lacks talent and depth behind J.J. Watt.

Therefore, drafting South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney with the top overall pick makes perfect sense.

Not only would the Texans be taking a huge risk by drafting a quarterback No. 1 overall in a year where there are no Andrew Luck- or Robert Griffin III-type prospects, but Clowney is without a doubt the best player available in 2014.

The 6'6", 266-pound pass-rusher is a freak athlete and is extremely versatile. Clowney would be able to play multiple roles for the Texans up front and is every bit as strong defending the run as he is at getting to the quarterback.

While much has been made about Clowney's diminished production with the Gamecocks in 2013, CBS Sports senior NFL columnist Pete Prisco points out why pro scouts aren't concerned, drawing a comparison to the NBA:

Don't get caught up in college numbers. We've seen scores of college stars who couldn't translate to the NFL for a variety of reasons. It's like a 6-foot-5 power forward that puts up good numbers in college basketball, but doesn't have the body, speed or athletic ability to take his game to the NBA.

That's why the hysteria over Jadeveon Clowney's three sacks in 2013 at South Carolina is absurd. Yes, he should have had more with that talent -- he left a bunch out there -- but league scouts care little about that.

All they know is that his game translates to the next level. He is big, strong, fast and can rush the passer. Like [Russell] Westbrook did when he came out, Clowney has all the tools the scouts love.

The bottom line is that you won't find another prospect with the physical tools Clowney possesses, and all of them translate to the pro level. 

It's certainly possible that Houston could trade out of the top spot if it isn't in love with what Clowney brings to the table or feels it has a pressing need that must be met. However, whichever team is drafting No. 1 overall will have an awfully tough time passing on Clowney.

 

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: No. 4 Overall to Cleveland Browns

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The most explosive wide receiver in this year's draft class is Sammy Watkins, who projects to be a top-five pick as a result of his measurables, ball skills and big-play ability. 

Watkins will have to continue to improve as a route-runner at the next level, but his ability to separate from defenders and attack the ball at its highest point is undeniable. His speed is also outstanding and is sure to win over a team like the Cleveland Browns, who are drafting in the top five and are in need of a receiver to complement the dynamic Josh Gordon, as noted by Football.com's Corbin Smith on Twitter:

Unsurprisingly, in early April, Watkins expressed immense confidence in his game, telling 95.7 The Game (via ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez):

I have some freakish talents and ability to make plays. I can jump, run catch, make somebody miss. That's my game.

I'm able to transition myself and work through tough conditions. I understand football and the preparation, so for me, it's getting in with the team I'm with and learn that playbook. That's all I need to do is really learn that playbook, and after that, just adjusting to the speed of the game and how cornerbacks play in the NFL. That would be the next step. I think after the first few games I'll be definitely fine.

There's no question that Watkins understands football. After all, the 6'1", 211-pound wideout caught 101 balls for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior at Clemson in 2013 and rushed for 231 yards on 32 carries as a freshman in 2011.

While a number of teams would love to get their hands on Watkins, the Browns have the advantage of picking twice in Round 1, which will allow them to potentially draft a quarterback later in the round. 

 

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: No. 8 Overall to Minnesota Vikings

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There are a handful of teams in need of a franchise quarterback drafting toward the top in 2014.

But with Central Florida's Blake Bortles possessing the prototypical frame and build that scouts love, and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater boasting an accurate arm and tremendous pocket poise, there's no telling where Texas A&M superstar Johnny Manziel will end up.

It's safe to assume he'll have his name called somewhere in the top 10, and with the Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings in search of a franchise signal-caller this spring, it appears unlikely that Manziel would make it past the Vikings at No. 8 overall.

The Vikings need a quarterback, and the potential of Manziel joining forces with Adrian Peterson in the Minnesota backfield has to excite the Vikings' front office, even if there are doubts about Manziel's size and pro potential.

Manziel's knack for the big play and unparalleled pocket mobility stand out more than any of his other attributes, but his eye-popping production and highlight-reel plays in two seasons with the Aggies have football fans on pins and needles ahead of May 8's first round.

He's certainly a first-round talent, and with so many teams desperate for a quarterback, you have to like the chances of his name being called early on. 

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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