Meadville Tribune

Sports

May 4, 2014

Commentary: No consensus on No. 1 pick makes 2014 draft intriguing

The 2014 NFL Draft comes a few weeks later than usual. Will that make teams better prepared to make the selections that could define the future of the team for years to come? It should, but don’t count on it. Chances are, the extra time will just make the selections that much harder to decide.

Heading into Thursday’s draft, there is a lot of talk about quarterbacks. There is no consensus on which QB is the best, although several key names pop up. The biggest of those being Johnny Manziel, the former Heisman winning QB from Texas A&M.

Manziel might be the most polarizing figure in the draft. He has shown a penchant for making big plays at big times while in college. He has also shown a penchant for being a bit of an egotist, a quality that does not fly as well in professional locker rooms.

For me, the biggest issue is his size.

As a running quarterback, his 6-foot, 210 pound frame is just not big enough. I know many say he can bulk up, but how will that effect his play? There are also those that say he can learn to avoid the hits he so quickly sought out in college. I don’t buy that argument as instinct will inevitably take over and, instead of sliding, Manziel will once again lower his shoulder and try to take the linebacker out.

That is the style of play “Johnny Football” is used to. Personally, I like it. It is exciting and refreshing compared to the Tom Bradys and Eli Mannings that look for a flag every time they even get brushed the wrong way. But it is not the gateway to a long NFL career.

There has also been a lot of talk about South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

Clowney began to make a name for himself as a freshman when he registered 8.0 sacks. He returned to his sophomore season to post school-records for sacks (13.0) and tackles for losses (23.5). But Clowney did not become a household name until a hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter of the 2013 Outback Bowl. The hit forced a fumble that Clowney himself recovered, which then set up a touchdown on the next play. Clowney won the 2013 ESPY Award for best play for that hit.

Naturally, big things were expected for the Gamecock for his junior season. But rumblings began that he should just sit out and he would still be the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft. Also, teams began to gameplan specifically for him this season. The end result — just three quarterback sacks.

Now Clowney has had to fight back speculation that he is lazy or does not have a good motor. I would argue that he still has some seasoning to do and some bulk to add. But the complete package is there for one heck of a defensive lineman and someone is going to get a steal, even if Clowney is taken with the No. 1 overall pick.

While Manziel and Clowney have gathered the most press, my two guys have kind of passed under the radar.

Offensively, I think Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins is as good as they come. I know, the former Tigers star is not the biggest (6-1, 211 pounds), nor is he the fastest (a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash). He also needs to polish his rout running and get better at holding onto the ball once he has caught it.

That said, get him the ball and watch good things happen. Watkins is a playmaker. Yes, he has faults just like everyone else in this draft. But I think he is the one skill position prospect that can make an impact from day 1.

Defensively, I like Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack.

Yes, Mack has question marks. How will he handle going from a small Division I college like Buffalo to the bright lights of the NFL? Can he put up the big numbers day in and day out against teams that are far better skilled than most he played against in college? And, can a guy from Buffalo really be the No. 1 pick?

These are certainly legitimate concerns. I feel, however, Mack will answer them all with a resounding yes. Mack is simply the best defensive player in this draft. He can play outside linebacker and drop into coverage with ease. He can be played as a 4-3 defensive end and has the skill to get to any quarterback. You could move him to middle linebacker and he would be the best tackler on the team. His versatility alone makes him an asset to any team that drafts him.

Personally, I would love to see teams fall for the question marks and watch him fall to my Miami Dolphins at No. 19. I know the Dolphins’ biggest needs are on the offensive line, but there is no way they could pass on Mack. None of which matters because he will be long gone by then.

I also have a dark horse in this draft. His name is Adham Talaat and played at Gallaudet University, a school for the deaf and hard of hearing in Washington, D.C. Talaat is a talented defensive end who is deaf, though he can hear with hearing aids. And while I don’t suspect he will have his name called on Thursday, I do believe a team will take him and he will be a steal when he is chosen. So pay attention to which team calls his name, then prepare to hear it often when your teams plays him.

As for the rest of the 2014 Draft class, they should go here:

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