For all of the rumors, scenarios, smokescreens and speculation, the first pick of the NFL draft ended up being rather anticlimactic.
The Houston Texans didn't trade the pick, as speculated for weeks. They didn't make a stunning pick. In the end, they stayed at No. 1 and took South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, widely considered the best prospect regardless of position since the end of the 2012 college season, when he was a sophomore.
It's hard to blame Houston. Clowney is a rare physical specimen at 6-foot-5, 266 pounds who ran a 4.53-second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine. He'll likely be asked to play a position that's a little unfamiliar to him, as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the Texans' scheme. He played a 4-3 defensive end position in college. No matter, he'll be expected to rush the quarterback opposite former NFL defensive player of the year J.J. Watt, a devastating combination that will drive offensive coordinators nuts for years.
Although there were questions about Clowney's work ethic after an uneven junior season, he is widely considered the best player in the draft and has high hopes for his career.
"I just want to be the best, one of the greatest of all time," Clowney said at the combine in February. "The NFL is just the next level, stepping stone in my way. Coming out of high school, I said I wanted to be one of the best in college and I think I proved that. Going to the NFL, I want to be one of the best in the NFL, go down in history as one of the best, so I have another stepping stone in my way and hopefully take care of business and accomplish that in the NFL."
Although it ultimately shouldn't be too big of a surprise that Clowney ended up with the first pick, it wasn't a certainty until Houston brought the pick to the podium that he would end up with the Texans.
"I was nervous," Clowney told ESPN. "I was like 'Who they going to pick, who they going to pick?'"
There were rumors, pretty much since the season ended, that the Texans would trade down. The problem seemed to be that they didn't want to move down too many spots, and the asking price to move up a few spots to No. 1 was steep. Atlanta, with the sixth pick, was frequently rumored to be the most likely draft partner, but on Thursday afternoon reports surfaced that the Falcons were out of the first-pick sweepstakes. The reported asking price of a few picks including a 2014 second-rounder and a 2015 first was just too much.
Houston is in the market for a quarterback, and Johnny Manziel became a college legend at nearby College Station. But Manziel doesn't come without some red flags, most notably being less than 6-foot tall, so the Texans passed. They chose to pass on other top quarterbacks like Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater as well.
Even though the Texans said virtually nothing to tip their plans before the draft, there were many stories written in the lead-up to the draft that said they preferred Buffalo outside linebacker Khalil Mack to Clowney. If that's true, it would lead one to believe the Texans' brass couldn't stomach being the team that passed on Clowney, widely considered the best pass-rushing prospect in many years.
The Texans kept their secret right until the end. It didn't end up being a huge surprise, but that's fine. Houston made the safe call, and it was likely the right one.
- - - - - - -