2014 NFL Draft: Best-Case, Worst-Case Scenarios for Every Top Prospect
We are less than a month away from the 2014 NFL draft. We have come a long way this draft season, but there is plenty of time left to dissect each prospect like we are in ninth grade biology.
The top prospects have been chopped up and reconstituted ad nauseam, and they remain the top prospects. Where they land is anybody's guess, however, and some landing spots are better than others.
What are the best- and worst-case scenarios for each top prospect in the draft? Click through to find out.
Jadeveon Clowney: Best Case—Houston Texans
It's easy to say the best-case scenario for a prospect to be drafted No. 1 overall. But nowadays, the rookie wage scale makes that feat far less meaningful.
For defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, it would mean great things are in store.
Much has been made about Clowney's poor statistical 2013 season at South Carolina and purported work ethic issues, though the latter may have been put to bed with a fantastic pro day showing. If the Texans take him No. 1 overall, it will show all of it was hogwash.
While a potentially miscast outside linebacker might not seem like a big need for the Texans, Clowney could make that defensive front a nightmare for opposing offensive lines.
Texans owner Bob McNair thinks highly of Clowney to boot, calling him a "once a 10 years physical specimen," per CBS Sports' Ryan Wilson, comparable to Mario Williams, whom the Texans drafted somewhat surprisingly No. 1 overall in 2006.
Houston's faith in Clowney would be repaid immediately with the dynamic pass-rusher teaming up with defensive end J.J. Watt—arguably the best defensive player in the NFL at this point—to wreak havoc on opposing offenses.
Jadeveon Clowney: Worst Case—Buffalo Bills
There are plenty of places where Jadeveon Clowney can go and make an immediate impact. There are a few where he might get lost in a rotation.
Buffalo is one of them.
The Bills featured one of the league's best pass rushes last season, finishing second in sacks and sack percentage. Outside linebackers Jerry Hughes, Mario Williams and Manny Lawson all rated highly over at Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Hughes had the highest pass-rushing productivity, according to PFF, and Williams was 10th. So where would Clowney fit in?
The Bills would surely find ways to get him on the field, but it might not be nearly as much as he would be with other teams. His development could be stunted, though a man of Clowney's talents may be stunt-proof.
Furthermore, falling to Buffalo—assuming the Bills stay put at No. 9—would be an indictment of Clowney, validating the questions that surround the athletic freak of nature.
Teddy Bridgewater: Best Case—Houston Texans
Once again we find ourselves pitching the top overall draft slot as the best-case scenario for a prospect. Once again, it has little to do with ascending to the top of the heap.
Teddy Bridgewater has come under plenty of fire this draft season, but much of the criticism stems from silliness. He's too skinny? Last we checked, weight rooms and food exist.
Bridgewater made waves for all the wrong reasons at his pro day, too, putting forth an unimpressive showing while the rest of his peers shined.
No matter for the Texans here, though, who need a quarterback in a big way. Matt Schaub is gone, and Ryan Fitzpatrick is no lucky charm.
Bridgewater would step into an excellent situation in Houston. Sure, the Texans own the No. 1 pick because of a precipitous and unexpected fall from grace, but the team is chock full of talent. On offense, Bridgewater will have plenty to work with.
Teddy Bridgewater: Worst Case—New York Jets
What's worse than stepping into a quagmire under a microscope?
That is what Teddy Bridgewater would be getting into if the New York Jets somehow decide to draft him in the first round.
It would be an extraordinary surprise for multiple reasons should this happen. Why would Bridgewater fall so far? Why would the Jets draft a quarterback in the first round after having drafted Geno Smith in the second last year? Who starts?
New York signed Michael Vick this offseason to compete with Smith for the starting job. Adding a third quarterback with first-round expectations makes for a volatile mix. The New York media might be salivating at this improbability.
The truth is there aren't too many bad situations for Bridgewater. Either he will step in as a rookie with a good chance of success based on his college tape, or he will sit for a year behind a veteran from which to learn.
New York would offer neither of those.
Sammy Watkins: Best Case—Atlanta Falcons
This isn't going to happen, but it's still fun to imagine.
The Atlanta Falcons have several fish to fry in the NFL draft, and wide receiver isn't on the menu. The offensive and defensive lines need help, mostly, and it would be a bit of a waste to take a receiver with a top-six pick.
Indulge yourself. Imagine if Sammy Watkins landed in Atlanta.
The talented Clemson product would be the No. 3 receiver in the offense, initially, but he would have a big impact. Throwing to Julio Jones and Watkins would be a dream for quarterback Matt Ryan, and the Falcons offense would be rather difficult to stop.
Watkins would thrive. Alas, the Falcons wouldn't, necessarily, due to big needs elsewhere. The same can be said about the Houston Texans, where Watkins would team up with aging Andre Johnson and former Clemson teammate DeAndre Hopkins.
Sammy Watkins: Worst Case—Jacksonville Jaguars
It wasn't easy finding a worst landing spot for Sammy Watkins.
Most of the teams at the top of the draft have issues at quarterback, and Watkins is projected to be a top pick. Hence, the odds are he will land on a team without a good quarterback.
Which is the worst of these? Right now, the Jaguars fit that bill.
Granted, things could certainly change over the next few months or year, but Jacksonville is not exactly a dream landing spot for the top receiver in this year's class. The Jaguars currently sport the tantalizingly pedestrian Chad Henne as their top quarterback, and Watkins would be the de facto top receiving option with little help elsewhere.
Of course, that could change in a hurry if the Jaguars snag a falling quarterback—Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel, if lady luck graces their war room on draft day—and Justin Blackmon could be reinstated from his suspension sooner than later.
Right now, though, Jacksonville is the least palatable spot among the top teams in the draft.
Greg Robinson: Best Case—Atlanta Falcons
This one is rather elementary.
Of all the teams at the top of the draft, the Atlanta Falcons need help at offensive tackle the most.
Sam Baker was knocked out for the season in 2013, so the line will improve by virtue of a healthy Baker returning to form. Right tackle is another matter, however.
The Falcons got horrible play out of the tackle position, particularly from Lamar Holmes, who was the second-worst rated player at his position last season, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Sure, he was thrown into the fire at left tackle with Baker injured, but he was bad enough that his future role with the Falcons is in doubt, according to ESPN's Vaughn McClure.
Robinson could benefit from playing right tackle out of the gate. He is fantastic in the running game, but his pass protection needs some refining. That is not to say playing right tackle is a picnic, but it's a bit less pressure to deal with than playing on the blind side.
Greg Robinson: Worst Case—Jacksonville Jaguars
There are few real "worst case" scenarios for an offensive tackle—perhaps a team with a bad offensive line coach or one with two starting-caliber tackles in the fold.
For Greg Robinson, few places could be bad landing spots in the top 10. Jacksonville is one of them.
Taking Robinson with the No. 3 pick would mean the Jaguars spent two top-three picks on offensive tackles in consecutive seasons. While Robinson would team up with Luke Joeckel—last year's No. 2 pick for Jacksonville—the pick would be more than a curious one for a team with needs elsewhere.
Namely at quarterback.
Picking Robinson would draw the ire of many a Jaguar fan. It shouldn't matter if the team is winning, but how can the Jaguars move forward when they are standing still at the top of the draft?
Blake Bortles: Best Case—New England Patriots
Blake Bortles to the Patriots? Crazier things have happened in the NFL.
Tom Brady is 36 years young. While he could have a Brett Favre-like end to his career where he plays well three years longer than everyone expects, he could just as easily retire after the 2014 season.
That means the Patriots could be looking for their quarterback of the future sooner than we think, and New England could be the perfect landing spot for Bortles.
Of course, this would likely mean one of two things—Bortles fell much further than the pundits expected or the Patriots made a big move up to get him. The former is a likelier scenario.
As for why this would be the best-case scenario for Bortles—who would be stuck behind Brady and even Ryan Mallett for at least a year—well, why not take an opportunity to learn from the best?
By many accounts, Bortles needs some seasoning. A year on the bench under the tutelage of arguably the best quarterback of his generation is better than a year of confidence-smashing at the hands of opposing NFL defenses.
Blake Bortles: Worst Case—Houston Texans
Here is an instance where being drafted No. 1 overall is not the best thing in the world.
Houston was reportedly leaning toward quarterback Blake Bortles, according to Russ Lande on Sports on Earth. He impressed Texans staff at UCF's pro day, according to the Houston Chronicle's John McClain:
Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles impressed a contingent of NFL people, including Texans coach Bill O’Brien and general manager Rick Smith, at his pro day inside the Nicholson Fieldhouse.
Bortles (6-5, 232 at the combine) made every throw during a workout that lasted about 30 minutes.
“I was very impressed,” O’Brien said. “He made every throw I wanted to see, and he showed good footwork.”
O’Brien and Smith met with Bortles on Tuesday night.
“I like what he did,” Smith said. “I was very impressed with him.”
Drafting him would be a mistake, however.
Bortles was good in college, to be sure, and he possesses an enticing combination of size, athleticism and potential. But was he good enough to take with the top pick in the draft?
If your name isn't Andrew Luck, you have some flaws heading into the NFL. Every quarterback in this class has flaws. Unlike some of his peers, Bortles is more tantalizing for his potential than his polish, however, and that's the kind of thing that can get a team in trouble.
Taking Bortles with the top pick would create instant expectations for a raw player. Indeed, that would be the case for any quarterback taken at the top of the draft, but guys like Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel are more polished products who could better handle that kind of pressure.
Bortles could well turn out to be a great quarterback at the next level. He could also be vaporware, though, and getting taken No. 1 could accelerate his professional demise.
Johnny Manziel: Best Case—Cleveland Browns
Draft season has put Johnny Manziel through the ringer, and we still have no idea how highly teams think of him.
Some pundits think he is too small or that he panics too much in the pocket to succeed at the next level. Others think he is an electrifying playmaker with plenty of tools for success.
If the Cleveland Browns take him, Manziel would be validated and vindicated, not that the Texas A&M product needs that sort of thing. Assuming the Browns take him at No. 4 and not 26, that is. They were rumored to be willing to trade up for him at the outset of draft season, according to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora, but hearsay is like a dandelion in the wind.
Even if he falls all the way to the back of the first round, though, Cleveland is a great landing spot for Manziel. Depending on what else the Browns do in the draft, they have several nice pieces on that offense.
The chief of these is Josh Gordon, the receiver who set the NFL on fire last season. Pairing him with a solid No. 2 in the draft will help immensely, but talented tight end Jordan Cameron and running back Ben Tate are also there to garner attention from opposing defenses.
The offensive line is also solid in Cleveland, anchored by stalwart Joe Thomas at left tackle.
Johnny Manziel: Worst Case—Dallas Cowboys
If Manziel falls out of the top 10 in the draft, where will he land?
There has been some debate about whether the Dallas Cowboys should seriously consider the former Aggie if he is available at No. 16. The question is whether this would be a bad move or a terrible one.
Not only will Manziel have to deal with all of the baggage that comes with being a big name with the Cowboys, but a team mired in mediocre dysfunction is just not an ideal fit for Johnny Football.
Dallas came away from Texas A&M's pro day impressed with Manziel, according to The Fort Worth Star-Telegraph's Charean Williams
The Dallas Cowboys sent quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson and scouts Chris Hall and Walt Juliff. The Cowboys have the 16th overall pick.
I was very impressed he played under center on all the throws. He showed movement throws. He showed throw-back throws,” Wilson said. “He threw the ball over the field, so I was very impressed. He was accurate and showed plenty of velocity on the throws.
He's a fantastic playmaker. You can tell the charisma that he has with the interaction with his own guys. He's got a very infectious personality.”