More than a few knowledgeable football people out there have, over the past several weeks, told me that it is hardly a lock that the Houston Texans will take a quarterback with the first pick of the 2014 NFL Draft. The owner of the team hinted that very notion in comments made on Tuesday.
Bob McNair had the following to say on South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney: “He is a remarkable player. He's one of these players that is really a once-in-every-10-years kind of physical specimen that comes along. Mario Williams was that way. I think Clowney is actually a better athlete than Mario, so that kind of tells you what kind of player he can be.”
“Like many of these fellows who have these great physical attributes, they didn't have to work as hard in junior high school, in high school, and in college, to be a superlative athlete, because they had this natural ability.”
Houston grabbing Clowney, who may enter the draft as the highest-rated defensive prospect of the past decade, is hardly a new idea. Teaming the South Carolina star up with J.J. Watt could make for the most formidable 1-2 defensive line punch in the NFL.
Three NFL Mock Drafts that were updated on Tuesday (January 14) – Walter Football and two on CBSSports.com – all had the Texans using the first overall pick to grab a quarterback. Walter Football and Rob Rang predicted that Houston will choose Teddy Bridgewater out of Louisville. Dane Brugler believes Houston will go with UCF QB Blake Bortles.
There is also the possibility of Houston trading down in order to stock up on additional draft picks and then grab Clowney later on in the first round. That could prove to be risky business. The St. Louis Rams, sitting at the No. 2 spot in the draft, have, in some mocks, been linked with Clowney.
Houston playing it safe and choosing Clowney first overall would make the draft pick of the Rams worth less as it pertains to possible trades. The Jacksonville Jaguars (3rd) and the Cleveland Browns (4th) both need quarterbacks, and Houston not taking a QB would mean that either Bortles, Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel from Texas A&M would fall down four spots; unless, that is, the Rams do shop their pick to a team looking for a QB.
Outside of Jacksonville and Cleveland, the Oakland Raiders (5th) and Minnesota Vikings (8th) could both use upgrades at the quarterback position. While Houston likely would not want to move down seven spots, the Rams could make such a drop and still bolster the team's offensive line or grab one of the top WR prospects in the draft.
Don't be so sure that the Houston owner was trying to smokescreen what the Texans are actually thinking regarding the upcoming NFL Draft with his comments. There is a wide belief that Clowney's stock will experience a meteoric rise following the NFL Scouting Combine and NFL workouts. He could enter May atop multiple draft boards.
Teams are not waiting until after the Super Bowl to engage in a little NFL Draft gamesmanship. It appears that somebody within the Browns is talking out of school, as multiple reports from reputable sources are linking Cleveland with the Texas A&M star known as Johnny Football. If certain mock drafts and Internet rumors are to be believed, the Rams would be more than happy to sell the second pick to the highest bidder.
Some, such as Rang from CBS, are suggesting that Cleveland will go offensive line and not QB with the team's first of two first round picks.
Free agency begins on March 11. Expect any and all speculation about draft picks potentially being traded to only grow from now until then.