2014 NFL Draft: Highlighting First-Round Prospects with Most to Prove

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2014 NFL Draft: Highlighting First-Round Prospects with Most to Prove
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Even though the 2014 NFL draft's first round will come to fruition on Thursday night, all we can do is guess where prospects will land based on film and expert analysis.

There will certainly be surprises along the way.

Some prospects have been given solid first-round pedigrees. These players will absolutely go on Day 1 of the draft and will be expected to become major contributors to their respective teams.

With an early selection comes plenty of responsibility.

Players taken at this point of the draft must take on the role of being a face of the franchise—no matter their position. Living up to expectations on and off the field is crucial.

Based on what we currently know about such prospects, let's take a look at which ones have the most to prove after they are selected in the draft's first round this year.

 

Blake Bortles, QB, UCF

Blake Bortles may be this year's most unknown first-round quarterback prospect.

After a stellar 2013 season at UCF, he quickly found himself in the spotlight and became a consensus first-round pick. Plenty of analysts suggested the notion that Bortles may even go first overall to the Houston Texans.

As the draft approaches, it is becoming unlikely he goes with the top selection; however, he is still a bona fide Day 1 pick.

In 2013 with UCF, Borltes completed 67.8 percent of his passes for 3,581 yards, 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions. It was an impressive season, indeed.

Although, upon watching his tape, plenty of changes in his technique are required for NFL success.

Mike Tanier of Sports on Earth summed up Bortles perfectly:

Bortles is just gifted enough to be a success story but just flawed enough to become more kindling in some franchise's bonfire of disappointment. In a draft class that features the mercurial [Johnny] Manziel and vexing [JadeveonClowney, the big-strong-bright-fast kid is somehow the biggest risk on the board. Though if Bortles slides just a bit, the risks diminish, and the rewards become great.

Bortles will be selected by a franchise hoping he can become an instant starter. That may not be an ideal situation for the quarterback as he continues to develop his skill set.

If he's not given the chance to sit and learn under veteran tutelage, Bortles could find himself struggling early in the NFL ranks.

He must prove he's worth a high pick. He must show consistent development and assure his new team that he's the guy going forward.

 

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

We all know Jadeveon Clowney is just an athletic freak of nature.

At 6'5" and 266 pounds, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. That's just nuts.

However, how much of his athletic workouts will translate to on-field prowess in the NFL?

After all, we saw a major dip in performance from his 2012 season to his 2013 season. Here's a side-by-side look at his production in each of those two seasons:

Jadeveon Clowney's 2012 and 2013 Statistics
Year Tackles Sacks FR FF
2012 54 13 1 3
2013 40 3 0 1

Sports-Reference.com

That's a severe drop-off in production.

So, what happened?

Obviously, after his monster 2012 season, opposing teams began to focus on him in a big way in 2013. He was often double covered and was a constant target of chips from running backs.

Sure, that makes things more difficult; however, the same can be expected against him in the NFL—against far superior competition.

Clowney's motor has been questioned on several occasions. Statements that the defensive end "quits" on the field have run rampant.

It's simple for Clowney to silence doubters. He'll clearly be a top-three pick—and possibly the top-overall selection. When he hits the field in the NFL, he must show endurance, dedication and the willingness to be great.

All of the physical attributes are there. He just needs to produce at a consistent level going forward.

 

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

Undoubtedly, you've heard Johnny Manziel referred to as "the draft's most polarizing prospect" more than once. 

That's with good reason.

He's certainly an exhilarating player to watch on the field, as he has a knack of creating yards when none seem available. That makes him an intriguing prospect for any quarterback-needy team.

His off-the-field antics have also been heavily documented—there's no need to go into that here.

However, Manziel has shown a vastly improved, mature attitude throughout the draft process. He's impressed more than one NFL team with his willingness to succeed and desire to become the face of a franchise.

In a time of year when smoke screens are everywhere, Manziel must simply prove his new attitude isn't one of his own.

Manziel needs to certify himself as a team leader from Day 1. He must come into training camp with the mentality that his new team is his team. He must act as a leader for fellow rookies and gain the trust of veterans.

The former Texas A&M standout is still considered a bit of a risk by some analysts; however, if Manziel can come in with a great attitude—and maintain it through adversity—his doubters will be silenced quickly.

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