From left to right, quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr and Johnny Manziel at the combine (AP)
INDIANAPOLIS – The mystery of the first overall pick wasn't sorted out over the weekend at the NFL scouting combine.
The Houston Texans are still keeping everyone guessing. This week their strategy was to not publicly eliminate any possibility. Perhaps they haven't narrowed it down to a few choices yet, but even if they have it seems nobody really knows who the final few candidates are.
But after the combine, we can at least take a stab at handicapping it. The good news for the Texans is this is a deep and talented draft, and they have plenty of options at No. 1 overall. Here's our best guess on the chances each player ends up as the first pick:
Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater, 35 percent: It would be a surprise if the Texans didn't draft a quarterback. You don't get many opportunities like this, and Matt Schaub and Case Keenum aren't the answer. So you start there.
And Bridgewater seems like the smart pick. Maybe it's a bit safe, but he has tremendous strengths and not many weaknesses. The fact that he weighed in at 214 pounds and is capable of adding more eases concerns about him being too slight. This is the easiest pick for Houston.
Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel, 25 percent: Is Manziel's ceiling higher than Bridgewater's? Probably. Is his floor much lower? Yep. If the Texans are in a gambling mood, they might bet on that upside of Manziel, a phenomenal college player who ran tremendously at the combine and has no athletic flaws. But he's short and, like Robert Griffin III, durability has to be a concern.
Maybe the off-field stuff with Manziel will work against him when the Texans do their evaluation, but things have been quiet on the Johnny Football front for a while. If the Texans pass, it will likely be because of questions about his size and ability to produce in a pro-style offense.
Central Florida QB Blake Bortles, 20 percent: Bortles is raw, and that doesn't seem like a great fit for a Texans team that could easily bounce right back and be a AFC South contender in 2014. But there are reasons to think Bortles is on the radar.
Texans coach Bill O'Brien and George O'Leary, Bortles' college coach at Central Florida, have worked together before and know each other well. Bortles had a fantastic game in a win against Penn State last season, when O'Brien was the Nittany Lions' coach. Bortles has the size you'd want in a prototypical quarterback (6-foot-5, 232 pounds) and he's a pretty good athlete too. The tools and size are there, and maybe O'Brien thinks that he can shape him into a great NFL quarterback sooner than later.
South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney, 10 percent: The thought of having Clowney on one side and J.J. Watt on the other for the next decade has to be tempting. Tempting enough for the Texans to wait until the second round for a quarterback? It seems unlikely, but Texans general manager Rick Smith was adamant he always will draft the best player available, and not go for positional need. Clowney is a rare, rare talent who could easily be the best player in this draft class. Nobody would blame the Texans for taking him.
Auburn OT Greg Robinson, 5 percent: After his workout this week, he is the one player the Texans will really have to look long and hard at even though offensive line isn't their biggest need. Robinson is a 332-pound behemoth who runs like the wind and also plays football really well. If Smith is serious about taking the best player no matter what position he plays, an argument could be made that Robinson is the best player. I'm not convinced they'd pass on a quarterback or Clowney to take him, but it can't be totally discounted. It would be hard to find anyone who thinks Robinson won't be a heck of a pro.
Field, 5 percent: I also think it can't be discounted that the Texans are eyeing someone off the radar a bit. Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack is getting some buzz as being better than Clowney and a possible first pick. UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr is a game-changing player too. Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews had a fine career. Bridgewater, Manziel and Bortles are the top three quarterbacks now, and they'll likely remain that way, but who knows if someone like Fresno State's Derek Carr makes a really unlikely push over the next couple months.
The Texans have created some intrigue by staying quiet on their plans for the first pick. We have a lot of time to read the tea leaves and try to figure out what player they'll settle on in May.
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