NFL draft: Clowney goes 1st overall to Texans
It started as expected but the 2014 NFL Draft was again a study of unpredictability, especially for quarterback Johnny Manziel.
With the first overall pick, the Houston Texans selected South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, and at the time no one was sure how long Manziel might wait.
Clowney, a junior with 24 career sacks, was the third No. 1 overall pick in the history of the franchise. Houston drafted defensive end Mario Williams in 2006 and quarterback David Carr in 2002.
“It feels great,” Clowney said Thursday night. “I’m glad to be a part of the organization. I’m ready to get to work, no matter what people say about me, I’m going to take my game to the next level.”
With 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Manziel on the clock in the middle of the first round, the marketing-savvy Dallas Cowboys passed on Johnny Football.
“I don’t know if the world could’ve handled that honestly,” Manziel said later Thursday.
He finally reached the stage when the Cleveland Browns made their third trade of the night to get Manziel at No. 22.
“Dawg Pound, here we come,” Manziel said. “What a great feeling for me, my family. ... I think I bring a winning attitude and a lot of emotion to the table. I’m going to pour my heart out for this team, this city. I’m just going in trying to work really hard and compete.”
Manziel, a lifelong Texan, said in February he would embrace playing in the cold weather. Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden, the last two first-round quarterbacks in the franchise, were also chosen 22nd overall.
St. Louis spent the first of two picks in the top 13 on Auburn redshirt sophomore offensive tackle Greg Robinson, a gifted athlete and physical blocker at 6-feet-5, 332 pounds. The pick was the final payment from the Washington Redskins for the 2012 trade that brought Robert Griffin III to D.C.
Scouts consider him raw as a pass blocker, and could begin his career at guard even though he has potential to become the best left tackle the Rams have had since Orlando Pace, the No. 1 pick in 1997.
“I’ve always been confident, I’m confident in my game and it won’t change,” Robinson said.
With their second first-round pick, the Rams added undersized Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald to the loaded defensive line comprised of 2013 sack leader Robert Quinn and two other first-rounders: defensive tackle Michael Brockers and defensive end Chris Long.
Jacksonville passed on Buffalo pass rusher Khalil Mack to draft quarterback Blake Bortles from Central Florida. Bortles is a physical doppelganger of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger at 6-5, 233, but might need a season as a backup to Chad Henne before he’s ready to lead the Jacksonville offense. It is the second time in four years the Jaguars drafted a quarterback in the top 10 (Blaine Gabbert, 10th, 2011).
“I had no idea,” Bortles said Thursday of going No. 3.
Buffalo traded up from No. 9 with Cleveland to draft Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins fourth overall, sacrificing first-round and fourth-round picks in 2015 to complete the swap. Watkins, 20, grew up a Bills fan. He’s explosive after the catch and provides 2013 first-round pick EJ Manuel with an open-field threat.
Oakland selected Mack at No. 5. He is the University of Buffalo’s first ever player drafted in the first round. For the Bulls, he played a hybrid 3-4 linebacker role — and projects to the same spot with the Raiders — and set school records for sacks (28.5), tackles for loss (75) and forced fumbles (16).
Following a mandate from owner Arthur Blank to protect quarterback Matt Ryan (sacked 44 times last season), the Atlanta Falcons stayed in line with their offseason focus of getting bigger and better in the trenches with the sixth pick, left tackle Jake Matthews of Texas A&M. The son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, Jake played right tackle and left tackle for the Aggies.
“I’ve been watching (the draft) my whole life,” said Jake Matthews, the seventh member of the Matthews Family drafted. “I’m excited to be an Atlanta Falcon. This is awesome.”
Jake Matthews will face cousin Clay Matthews III and the Green Bay Packers on “Monday Night Football” on Dec. 8.
Texas A&M teammate Mike Evans, a 6-5 receiver who averaged more than 20 yard per reception, went one spot later to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He joins 6-foot-5 Pro Bowl receiver Vincent Jackson with the Bucs.
Cleveland, known to covet Evans, traded up one spot from No. 9, swapping spots with the Minnesota Vikings, to select cornerback Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State. The dynamic athlete and return specialist tied for second in the FBS with seven interceptions last season.
Minnesota chose defensive end Anthony Barr ninth and for the third straight year, traded back into the first round to fill a need — this time landing Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater with the final pick in the first round.
“From the moment we arrived here tonight we had our minds made up that we were just going to enjoy the moment,” Bridgewater said. “It was a long night, but my momma always tells me, ‘Be anxious for nothing.’ I can look back now and say today is in the past and get started on my career.”
NFC North rival Detroit added tight end Eric Ebron, a 6-4, 250-pound pass-catcher who will play a wide receiver-type role in the Lions’ offense under Jim Caldwell (think vintage Dallas Clark). It was an eventful day for Ebron, who proposed to his girlfriend during the lunch hour at the Empire State Building.
Three more offensive tackles were off the board in the next nine picks — Michigan’s Taylor Lewan, 11th overall to the Tennessee Titans, Notre Dame’s Zach Martin (Dallas) at No. 16 and Miami picked University of Tennessee right tackle JaWaun James 19th.
LSU junior wide receiver Odell Beckham went to the New York Giants at No. 12. Beckham, a receiver and return specialist, joins former Tigers teammate Rueben Randle (63rd, 2012) on the Giants’ depth chart.
Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller was the 14th pick, landing with the Chicago Bears. Tall and physical, he’s reminiscent to new teammate Charles Tillman, a second-round pick in 2003.
Speedy Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, who ran a 4.36 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine, was selected 15th and injects needed athleticism and youth into a Steelers defense that was 30th in interception rate and 27th in sack percentage last season.
Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley (17th overall), a two-time captain of the Crimson Tide, became the fifth consecutive defensive player chosen by general manager Ozzie Newsome in the first round. Alabama teammate Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was picked 21st by the Green Bay Packers.
New Orleans dealt up from 27 to 20 in a trade with the Arizona Cardinals, who also received the 91st overall pick. The Saints spent the choice on Brandin Cooks, the fastest wide receiver in the draft.
Defensive ends Dee Ford (Chiefs, 23rd) and Marcus Smith (Eagles, 26th) were chosen with two cornerbacks — Darqueze Dennard went 24th to Cincinnati and Jason Verrett was 25th to the Chargers — in between. Dennard’s former All-Big Ten peer, Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby (31st) went to the Denver Broncos.2
After Florida defensive lineman Dominique Easley was selected 29th by the New England Patriots, San Francisco drafted a safety — Northern Illinois’ Jimmie Ward — in the first round for the second consecutive year.