After months of breathless speculation and intense disagreement amongst the fan base, your Houston Texans selected Jadeveon Clowney with with the first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft last Thursday night. Johnny Manziel, the Heisman Trophy winning QB from Texas A&M, watched that pick, plus twenty more, before the Cleveland Browns selected him with the 22nd pick of the draft after trading back up. As many observers believed Manziel was likely to be selected much earlier than that, Manziel's selection at No. 22 represented quite a slide, at least in the eyes of the public.
Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports, a reporter with serious investigative chops, "spoke to multiple NFL sources, including scouts, coaches and personnel men, who laid out the potential "why" of Manziel's slide." The results of those talks can be found in this article. Not surprisingly, as holders of the first overall pick, the Texans' thinking is discussed in some detail and sheds some light on their analysis:
1. HOUSTON TEXANS
Contact with Manziel: The Texans attended Manziel's pro day, had a private workout and hosted a visit with him.
It looked like it could happen when... In mid-April, the Texans told Manziel he was still in the final grouping for the No. 1 pick. That group included South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Manziel and Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack. Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles was also still in the mix, although the belief was that Houston considered him more for a trade-back scenario. If Houston remained at the top slot, the likely pick would be Clowney, Mack or Manziel, with Clowney holding the edge heading into May.
It didn't happen because... It became clear in early May that if the Texans remained at the top slot, the "conservative" option of best player available would win out. Despite his declined sack total as a junior, Clowney's tape still showed significant game impact when measuring pressures and the way SEC offenses played him. And although head coach Bill O'Brien was intrigued by Manziel, the belief was he favored Bortles throughout the process, because of size and style attributes fitting his preferred classic quarterback model. Manziel's playing style – and potential injury concerns – loomed in the equation as well.
The wild card could have been... Texans chief operating officer Cal McNair – the son of owner Bob McNair – is believed to have liked Manziel a great deal. And while Cal has gone out of his way to keep from stepping on the toes of general manager Rick Smith, he does share his personnel thoughts with his father. He also is known to break down film, and has been a fixture in practices in the past. McNair will turn 78 in January and Cal is being groomed to take over the team. And while that isn't expected to happen for a while, his ability to impact drafts is growing significantly.
My reaction to reading these nuggets:
1. Interesting that the Texans told Manziel, or any player, that he was in the "final grouping" at any time leading up to the draft. I wouldn't have thought they'd have shared any information about which direction they were leaning.
2. Robinson phrases it in such a way that I cannot be certain that "final grouping" was exclusively Manziel, Clowney, and Khalil Mack, though that's a fair inference to make, I think.
3. That means the talk of Khalil Mack being a legitimate contender for selection by the Texans at No. 1 was very real and not wholly a media creation.
4. Robinson's report also seems to indicate that Teddy Bridgewater was not a legitimate contender for selection at No. 1. Alas.
5. The biggest revelation in Robinson's piece, as it pertains to the Texans, is the stuff about Cal McNair. It makes sense that Cal would continue to immerse himself in the team's operations; this will be his show one day. I can't help, however, but be a bit wary after reading about the heir apparent breaking down film and potentially influencing football decisions. When I read things like that, my mind goes to a dark place. Bob McNair has generally been a model owner in terms of letting his football people make the football decisions; I hope Cal follows his father's lead on that front.
What's your takeaway from Robinson's story? Are you encouraged by the Texans' approach to and analysis of the No. 1 pick in 2014?