COMMENTARY | The stars are aligning for the Cleveland Browns having their pick of at least one of two potential targets in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Darren Rovell of ESPN reported on Tuesday that Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has chosen agents, the final step in the process that should end with the 21-year old phenom commonly known as "Johnny Football" declaring for the upcoming draft. Manziel is anticipated to be one of the top three quarterbacks selected this spring, along with Blake Bortles of UCF and Teddy Bridgewater out of Louisville.
The Browns thinking quarterback with the fourth overall pick is an inevitability in the eyes of many draft experts. Even if Cleveland does go with Brian Hoyer as the starter heading into summer, the fact of the matter is that he is still an unproven commodity at the pro level. Hoyer is also coming off of an ACL injury.
Cleveland does not necessarily have to use the first of two first round picks to take a QB. Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins would make for an ideal No. 2 to play alongside Josh Gordon, who was a revelation for the Browns in 2013. Some, such as Rob Rang of CBS Sports, believe Cleveland should bolster the team's offensive line.
One thing has stood out to me in mock drafts over the past several months: There is no consensus of opinion regarding how the top five picks of the 2014 NFL Draft will go.
This is where defensive end Jadeveon Clowney out of South Carolina comes in. Everybody can throw how well or how poorly Clowney played in his final college season out the window. The young man would have declared his eligibility for last year's draft had he been able to do so, and he will enter this spring as the most sought-after defensive player of the past decade.
It's possible that the Houston Texans, sitting on the first overall draft pick in early January, could choose to pair Clowney up with J.J. Watt to make for one formidable and downright scary defensive line. Houston has also been linked with Bortles and Manziel.
What the St. Louis Rams do with the second selection will have a major impact on the Browns. More than a few mock drafts I've seen over the past few months have the Rams trading down to a team, such as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Atlanta Falcons, that would take Clowney. There also exists the possibility that the Rams could deal the pick to a team looking to leapfrog the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars (3) in order to take a QB.
There have also been a few suggestions that the Rams are high on Watkins. Moving down beneath the Browns could be dangerous, especially if the Cleveland front office likes what they see from the Clemson WR in workouts.
Every reputable NFL mock draft I've seen since early fall has had the Jags taking a QB.
With all of that out of the way, here is a hypothetical scenario that could see the Browns facing a difficult decision on night one of the draft:
- Houston picks a QB, either Bridgewater or Bortles.
- St. Louis either picks Watkins, or trades the pick to a team that wants a quarterback.
- Jacksonville selects who is believed to be the best of/who is remaining from Bridgewater, Bortles and Manziel.
- Browns face a scenario where it is Watkins vs. Clowney or Manziel vs. Clowney.
Regardless of what occurs over the next several months, there are going to be questions about Manziel's size (he is believed to be smaller than his listed stats of 6-1 and 210 pounds) and his arm strength. There are no such concerns about Clowney's physical gifts. He is the type of defensive player that comes once a decade maybe.
Cleveland undeniably needs plenty of help on offense. That said, passing up on Clowney if he falls to fourth could be a regrettable error.
Zac has been following Cleveland sports since a little before his birth, and thus his heart breaks a little more with every year. He has been covering the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and the NFL for Yahoo Sports since 2010.
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- Johnny Manziel
- Jadeveon Clowney
- Sammy Watkins