With the 2014 Senior Bowl in the books and the NFL Combine looming on the horizon, this is an excellent time for my first mock draft. To make sure we go through each pick and it’s reasoning thoroughly enough, I’ll go pick by pick in a series format, obviously starting with the Houston Texans. Disclaimers note: I’m not going to be calculating trade possibilities, of which there are unlimited. I’m going to assume each team will use their pick. Also, I’m not trying to predict the order of the draft and who I actually think will go where, but who I would take if I was their GM (in some distant fantasy world).
So we start with the Texans, who hold the number one pick in the draft for the third time in the last 13 years. Who would I take with this pick? South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney.
Obviously quarterback is their biggest need. If there was a prospect that I was completely convinced would be an elite franchise quarterback, like Andrew Luck of 2012, I’d take that route. However, there isn’t a quarterback prospect like that in this class. And considering the new head coach I’ve just hired, Bill O’Brien, is a proven quarterback developer, the need to spend the top pick on a QB feels even less needy.
Look at what O’Brien did with Matt McGloin at Penn State. McGloin doesn’t have a stitch of athletic ability and has a wet noodle for an arm, yet under O’Brien’s tutelage, McGloin turned into an NFL quarterback. Not good enough for a starting gig, mind you, but a solid backup at worst. Think O’Brien needs the number one pick in the draft to get production from the QB spot? Or do you think he could do just as well with someone like Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois) or A.J. McCarron (Alabama), whom I’d target in the second round?
Again, if there was a top flight QB prospect who I was convinced was going to be a superstar, I’d take him. But I don’t think there is a prospect like that, and that O’Brien can do just fine with someone taken at the top of round 2.
So I’m taking Clowney with the top pick, the only truly transcendent talent in this class.
The possibilities are endless with Clowney. 4-3 or 3-4, he’s completely scheme friendly. Put him at the 7, 5 or 3, it doesn’t matter. Put him at stand up OLB in your odd fronts. Swap him from strong to weak sides to capitalize on match ups. Put him in one on one situations or one on four, it doesn’t matter. He’s going to get to the quarterback, no matter what, especially when you consider who’s rushing opposite of him, arguably the best defensive player in all of football, DE J.J. Watt.
Think about what having those two guys on the field at once can do for your defense. You can’t just put a single blocker on either of them, so you’ll have to double them. That’ll cut an offense’s playbook to about a third. Most of the sets then are going to have to be double tight with an ace back, and most drop backs are going to have to be 3-steps to account for the lack of pocket time. A QB is going to have less than 2 seconds to throw on every play, so defensive backs are going to be giving up far fewer big plays, aside from big YAC.
I’m sorry, but I just can’t pass an opportunity like this up. A player with Clowney’s talent and game breaking ability are just too rare. Am I concerned about his maturity and his effort? Meh, not really. I might be concerned more if I didn’t have someone like Watt on the team, in the locker room, on the practice fields and in the film room. He’s already indicated that if the team takes Clowney, he will be instilling his work ethic on the talented phenom.
So Clowney’s off the board. Now that I’m the GM of the St. Louis Rams, and since I can’t trade down, who do I take?