2014 NFL Draft: A Review

The man in charge. - Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Weston of Battle Red Blog breaks down this past weekend's three day bonanza better known as the NFL draft.

WE SURVIVED.

After five months of mock drafts, #connections, leaks, and Pro Day hoopla, we finally made it. The past three days were a bungee jump of emotion. Up and down our hearts went as we saw Houston confirm the past few months of speculation by taking Jadeveon Clowney.  We snickered at the Jaguars, missed out on Teddy Bridgewater, passed on other quarterback prospects, and then filled in the cavities created by Rick Smith's whiffs in the later rounds of previous drafts. It was a wild weekend and something difficult to put into words, yet like I usually do, I will attempt to convey and analyze the madness in symbols strung together into something resembling words.

The Number One Pick

Once we heard nary a substantial rumor about a quarterback going to Houston, it became fairly obvious the Texans brain trust were going to take Jadeveon Clowney unless Atlanta upped their offer to move up to the first pick. No matter how badly some of us at Battle Ted Blog wanted Bridgewater, it's important to note that we don't make the picks. We just get to blame and second guess from afar.

Clowney was the "Man, I'm the man, I'm the man.", just as his entrance song confirmed. The same song we heard hundreds of times as the theme song to the draft and commercials for overpriced headphones. A song whose annoyance is only bested by McDonald's horrid and red and tacky couch. A couch I would love to burn while the same hipsters sat upon it. Hell, I would buy and eat fifty McDoubles without pickles to remove it from the wrinkles of my pink, fleshy mind. I despise this couch so much that it is making me want to say "Damn, you Grandpa" and sell the McDonald's shares I have accumulated over the past eighteen Christmases.

Oh yeah, Clowney.

Jadeveon Clowney is a physical freak. He stands at 6'5-1/4", weighs 266 pounds, has an arm length of 34-3/4", and posted ridiculous numbers in the combine for a man of his stature.

Drill Result
40 Yd Dash 4.53 Sec
Bench Press 21 Reps
Vertical Jump 37.5 Inch
Broad Jump 124.0 Inch
Three Cone Drill 7.27 Sec
20 Yd Shuffle 4.43 Sec

He seems more like a monster molded from clay by Finster and thrown into fire of the Monster-Matic than a mortal human bound to the physics of reality. Clowney has been described as a once-in-a-generation talent who's been a lock to be chosen in the first two picks of the 2014 NFL Draft since the 2012 season. Despite this, there were knocks on him after this past season. There were examples of him not playing at full speed and slowing down to a crawl when the ball was run a different direction. Sometimes he chose to not get up right away after getting chopped down by the sharp edge of a cut block. Additionally, the statistical production simply was not there in 2013. As the alleged greatest player in the country, he accrued only three sacks and thirty-six tackles in eleven games. I know it's harrisome to take a player at 1.1 and to read things like "lacks motor" and "takes plays off", but this should be a non-issue going forward.

Going into the 2013 season, there were arguments about whether Clowney should even play this year. His 2012 season, where he sacked the quarterback thirteen times and brought the opponent down in the backfield twenty-three times, was that incredible. This is a player who was locked into millions of dollars as long as one thing did not happen--a cataclysmic injury. He had one goal in 2013.  It was not winning a National Championship or the Chuck Benarik Award. The only thing he aimed to do was to stay healthy and then blast off into the NFL as a top pick.

There is one thing that is a greater issue going forward than Jadeveon Clowney's work ethic. and that is his understanding of the game. Since Clowney was sixteen years old, he was bigger, faster, and stronger than every player on the field.


Yes, these are his highlights as from his junior year in high school.

When a player like this is able to murder offenses because of athleticism alone, he fails  to learn the little things that are beneficial to the position. The nuances of the game like hand placement get washed aside in favor of speed and power. This becomes a problem in the NFL, when his athleticism becomes mitigated. Suddenly the offensive tackles become stronger than he is and their feet become too quick to be able to consistently run right past them.

Clowney is going to need to learn a counter, like a spin, how to rip, and how to read an offensive lineman's feet and the play instead of just charging into the backfield. At the moment, he is a raw, freak athlete who needs refinement.  Houston is also planning on moving him to outside linebacker when they run their base 3-4 package. So not only will he have to learn the subtleties of the game, he'll have to learn a new position as well. I expect Clowney to have a rough first year as he fights to gain a better grasp of the game. He will finish the season with six sacks or so, and article after article after article will be written about his underperformance. Some brash, click-addicted writers will even throw out the word (I feel dirty even typing it) "bust." Ignore these statements and move along, because in 2015 he will glue their mouths closed.  Effort and learning the game should not be an issue with the support group of Mike Vrabel, Romeo Crennel, and J.J. Watt guiding him. It won't be in 2014, but it will only be a matter of time until Jadeveon Clowney rains terror upon his opponents.


LOL Bortles

Due to a girlfriend's graduation and her departure to the land of the BESFs, I spent most of draft weekend seeing sporadic snippets here and there. For the first six picks of round one, I was able to watch with Dillo Tex, No Safeties Needed,  trutxfan, and BFD. We met and chatted until Roger Goodell introduced himself to an orchestra of boos. We chatted again until Goodell returned again to announce the third number one pick in franchise history. When Clowney's name was chosen, it was merely a confirmation. The room was solemn. We all looked around at each other and our nonverbal reactions screamed, "Yep, that's what I expected." The Blake Bortles pick, on the other hand, was not that. When Goodell came to the podium, the conversations again ended abruptly to hear Jacksonville's selection.

"With the number three pick of the 2014 NFL Draft...the Jacksonville Jaguars select...Blake Bortles."

Each of us stood up and slapped hands together in a buffet of laughter. Only the Jaguars would skip out on an elite pass rusher like Khalil Mack and pick the inferior of the big three at 1.3. My bones were rattling at the thought of having to deal with Teddy Bridgewater and Andrew Luck for the next twelve years, only to have the Jags soothe my soul.

When some see Bortles, they think of possibilities. If we can just get him to put more weight on his front foot when he throws, he could easily chunk the the ball fifty yards. If we can just fix his footwork, he will be able to throw with accuracy on passes outside the hashmarks. If he sits for a year and watches, he will be able to learn and understand the complex coverage schemes that plagued him at the NCAA level.

In Blake Bortles, I see a future middle class quarterback like Joe Flacco. Someone who will be an alright, alright quarterback, but never one who will make a team cower in fear. No one is going to see Jacksonville on the schedule and think, "Oh crap, we got Bortles this weekend." Despite my pessimism, Bortles will be in a position to succeed going forward. The Jags took wide receivers Marqise Lee from USC and Allen Robinson of Penn State to join Cecil Shorts III and Ace Sanders. Luke Joeckel is healthy again and should be able to get a full year in at left tackle, Zane Beadles is stellar, and in 2015 they will look to improve this position further.  Oh, and don't forget Bortles will get to learn from the master himself, Chad "My Favorite Pasta Is Penne" Henne.

Speaking of bad draft picks, the Titans made one themselves. With the eleventh pick in the draft, the Titans took Taylor Lewan. At least the Jaguars found a player at a position they needed. The Titans drafted Lewan even though they just gave Michael Oher (who isn't very good regardless of  what The Blind Side may have you believe) a four year, $20 million dollar deal.  The Titans also have Michael Roos under contract for one more year, drafted Chance Warmack last year, and are paying Andy Levitre $6.5 million dollars this year. So they used a first round pick on a tackle with questionable character who's going to be spending the entire season on the bench. I'm sure this will end well.

The final piece of the AFC South draft puzzle was the Indianapolis Colts. Remember last year when they gave up a first round pick for Trent Richardson? The same Trent Richardson who averaged 3 yards a carry, had a DYAR of -108 (45th) and a DVOA of -22.2% (44th)?  Indy spent the first round watching while every other team improved. When it finally became their turn to pick, they took Jack Mewhort from Ohio State, a versatile offensive lineman who will most likely play guard. My favorite part about the pick was that if they had their first round selection, they probably would have taken Xavier Su'a-Filo, and Houston would have had to settle for a lesser prospect or would have gone after a different position.

The Fall of Teddy Bridgewater

The days leading up to the draft I became sick and tired of being sick and tired of the idea that Teddy Bridgewater could fall to the second round. I thought it was impossible the best quarterback in this batch would tumble from a possible 1.1 to 2.1. Then the draft began.

Houston, Oakland, Cleveland, Jacksonville, and Minnesota needed a quarterback.  Arizona and St. Louis were teams who were possibly looking to snag one as well. Houston took Clowney, Jacksonville drafted Bortles, Oakland took Khalil Mack, Cleveland traded down with Buffalo and took Justin Gilbert, and Minnesota picked Anthony Barr. Then suddenly the stage was set for both Manziel and Bridgewater to plummet down the board. At this point, I thought if Arizona and St. Louis both passed on a quarterback, Houston would take the scraps leftover after Cleveland drafted. St. Louis passed, and Manziel began to sweat in the green room, Brady Quinn style. He twiddled his thumbs and complained to his agent until the Browns traded up from 26 to 22 to take their quarterback. ESPN's forced narrative of Where Will Johnny Go? was completed as he walked onto the stage and famously rubbed his middle and pointer fingers together with his thumb. Now we just need E! to pay the NFL beaucoup bucks to create a reality show detailing Johnny Football trying to find something to do in Cleveland.

Then the real wait began.

The greatest draft of all time slowly turned from something implausible into something real. Barring a gargantuan trade up, Houston would get the chance to either match another team's offer or take the former Louisville quarterback on Saturday. Arizona passed on a quarterback. Then Carolina, New England, and San Francisco all drafted without a soul moving up. Denver was next to pick, and I scurried out of my house with Bridgewater wearing Steel Blue and prancing around in the backfield of my mind. Oh, did he look glorious!  I imagined him stepping up into the pocket and escaping Robert Mathis after he defeated Derek Newton around the edge. Then, in the same smooth motion, Bridgewater heaved a touchdown pass to Andre Johnson, who devoured Vontae Davis on a double move.

I arrived downtown to celebrate my comrades' graduation. Then BZZZZZ, BZZZZZ, BZZZZZ, BZZZZZ, a chorus of vibrations from my pocket signaled the impending doom.

Minnesota gave up picks 40 and 108 to move back into the first round to jump ahead of Houston and plucked Teddy Bridgewater from the Texans' grasp. Anger, confusion, and chaos fired throughout my brain. Houston making the playoffs in 2014 was an idea I have cherished since November, only for it to do a 180 kick flip that netted 200 points in THPS2. This rain cloud inside my head bled into the celebration I was supposed to be having.

"Awwwww, Matt. You look so sad. Is it because she is leaving?"

"No, he's not," she said with a putrid distaste. "He's just mad because of that stupid Teddy Bridgewater. He does not even care that I'm leaving."

"He's not stupid, okay?!!!?"

At first, I hated the Vikings for turning an all-time classic draft that would be lauded for all eternity into a very good one. My eyes burned with rage at the mere thought of the color purple and stupid hats with horns. After swallowing my emotions and analyzing what occurred this past weekend, I now understand the Texans' front office, not the Minnesota Vikings, were too blame.

There's no chance Seattle didn't call Houston once Minnesota offered picks 40 and 108 for their first round pick. At the time, Houston had picks 33 and 65, which trumped any offer Minnesota could scrape together unless they gave up a first round pick in 2015. If we look at the draft pick value calculator created by Chase Stewart of Football Prospective, Houston would have given up a value of 20.3 compared to Minnesota's value of 15.8. Additionally, since they were only moving up one spot, they might have been able to offer a fourth or fifth rather than a third to move back into the first round. So this means that Houston decided against moving up one spot and taking a franchise quarterback. Instead, they stood pat and drafted Xavier Su'a-Filo in the second round. I don't know about you, but I would rather have this hypothetical haul then the one Houston ended up with.

Hypothetical Reality
(1) DE-Jadeveon Clowney (1) DE-Jadeveon Clowney
(32) QB-Teddy Bridgewater (33) OG-Su'a-Filo
(83) DT-Louis Nix III (65) TE-C.J

Fiedorowicz

(135) OG-Cyril Richardson (83) DT-Louis Nix III
(135) QB-Tom Savage

And that's if they traded a third round pick rather than a later selection. I would prefer to have a generational talent at outside linebacker and a franchise quarterback than the same defensive player, a better guard, and another tight end.

Consequently, it seems more likely that Houston just did not like Bridgewater. This has its own unique set of worries. Bill O'Brien may be like one of those coaches who values size and arm strength over accuracy, pocket presence, and decision making. There's a chance he becomes delighted by events like Blake Bortles' Pro Day, where size and strength are on full display.  Additionally, as Rivers noted in our e-mail thread, O'Brien could be one of those quarterback gurus who feels like he can mold any quarterback with an arm into something adequate and plausible instead of taking a top talent. Someone who welcomes the chance of turning a jagged rock into a polished stone. We just saw this strategy the past seven years with Matt Schaub and Gary Kubiak.  It netted two playoff wins against the Bengals. At the moment, I'm concerned O'Brien may focus on the wrong priorities when it comes to quarterback evaluation and Houston may be falling back into the middle class quarterback trap.

Houston Needs a Quarterback

I loved everything else about what Houston did this past weekend other than the Bridgewater debacle and seeing the peeing and pooping the bed for Ted end up with a prize of soiled sheets, not a franchise quarterback. On Sunday, Twitter was ablaze with nonsense like "LOL, Houston forgot it needed a quarterback" and constant whining that they still had not filled this need. I loved it.

I never understand why teams use a high pick on a player who is most likely going to ride the bench and never start when instead you could find someone who can actually contribute. So instead of wasting a second round pick on Derek Carr or Jimmy Garoppolo, the Texans took three players who will probably start week one against the Redskins. Each of the QBs drafted after the first round are destined to sit around and back up veteran starting quarterbacks until their times comes. By the time this happens, they may learn the future quarterback sucks or find greener pastures. There are things I hate about this planet we live on, but it's a truly beautiful place and seeing Derek Carr learn from Matt Schaub in Oakland is one of those things that confirms this feeling. Despite its quarterback need, Houston did the right thing waiting to take a quarterback until the fourth round.

On Sunday morning, it became fairly evident Houston was going to take a quarterback sometime sooner rather than later. In the fourth round, Houston selected 6'6" Tom Savage from Pittsburgh. A quarterback with a strong arm, size, and not much else. The same type of quarterback I bashed earlier. However, it;s completely fine with me.  Houston opted to use a fourth round pick on a wild card quarterback who likely won't start a game for the Texans. If we look at past quarterbacks chosen in the fourth round or later, we see the following:

Year Rnd Pick Player Tm St CarAV GS
2000 6 199 Tom Brady NWE 12 145 191
1999 4 131 Aaron Brooks GNB 5 65 90
2002 4 108 David Garrard JAX 5 61 76
2000 6 168 Marc Bulger NOR 8 57 95
2005 7 230 Matt Cassel NWE 4 44 68
2005 7 250 Ryan Fitzpatrick STL 6 44 77
2005 4 106 Kyle Orton CHI 4 34 70
2005 6 213 Derek Anderson BAL 3 20 43
2006 4 103 Brad Smith NYJ 1 17 24
2003 4 110 Seneca Wallace SEA 1 14 22
2001 4 109 Sage Rosenfels WAS 0 13 12

Here are the top eleven quarterbacks picked between rounds four and seven from 1999 to the present, according to weighted career approximate value. 121 quarterbacks have been chosen in this range, and five have been named to Pro Bowls--Tom Brady, Marc Bulger, Derek Anderson, Matt Cassel and David Garrard. Four of those names don't inspire confidence, either. Sage Rosenfels, Bruce Gradkoswki, Luke McCown, and other members of this group aren't horrible; they give a team confidence as a number two. It pains me to say this, Stephen McGee, but the rest are turds. Will Savage be more of backup than a corn riddled piece of fecal matter? I don't know, but I can say with 95% confidence that he and Zach Mettenberger, Logan Thomas, A.J. McCarron, and Aaron Murray will not be viable NFL starters this year or in the future.

In 2014, the Texans are going to trout out a revamped defense and a stable of quarterbacks that includes Ryan Fitzpatrick, T.J. Yates, Case Keenum, and Tom Savage. Fitzpatrick is going to be the starter; someone else may see some playing time if Houston begins its season with a disastrous record like 2-6. Regardless, the goal is to win six or seven games, fart away another season and find the franchise quarterback next year via trade, the draft, or free agency. So commence operation #HuntingForHundley or #MeltdownForMariotta.

Filling in the Holes

Coming into the draft, Houston had holes at guard, quarterback, cornerback, outside linebacker, defensive end, runningback, fullback, inside linebacker, slot receiver, and defensive tackle. Whew, that's a mouthful. The Texans slowly pieced together the rest of the roster after taking Savage to fill the cavities created by Rick Smith over the past three seasons.

-(6th round/177 overall) Jeoffrey Pagan, DE, Alabama: 6'3" 310 lbs. two gap defensive end destined to eat double teams.

-(6th round/181 overall ) Alfred Blue, RB, LSU: An insurance policy in case Andre Brown gets injured again or if Arian Foster is not himself.

-(6th round/211 overall) Jay Prosch, FB, Auburn: It's now official.  Greg Jones's time in Houston is over. Prosch helped open holes for Auburn when they ran their patented inverted veer and has the perfect fullback body type at 6'1" and 256 lbs.

-(7th round/216 overall ) Andre Hal, CB, Vanderbilt: This is Brett's guy. Hopefully he can put an end to Brandon Harris, nickel corner.

-(7th round/256 overall ) Lonnie Ballentine, DB, Memphis: Mr. Irrelevant himself.

To be honest, I don't know much about these late round choices because I rarely watch college football in the fall. However, your esteemed staff at BRB will be writing rookie review posts over the next few weeks to make sure everyone knows about the newest members of the Houston Texans.

I may not know much about these players, but I do know Houston addressed critical needs at OLB, DT, RB, OG, FB, DE, and DB for this team going into next season. The roster is now set unless they sign a veteran right tackle to join the competition. We can only hope that Rick Smith's middle to late round pick incompetency is over and done with.

This is the third regime Texans fans have seen during their time in this silly love affair that rarely returns the favor. The first had no idea how to groom a quarterback who may not have even been good to begin with, the second was oh so close, but bad luck and Matt Schuab's corrosion ended it, and right now we just got the first glimpse of what to make of the third. Even though there are concerns regarding how it values quarterbacks, it seems the franchise is in good hands moving forward. From what I can tell, they are embarking on a two to three year plan where the 2013 offseason was the rebuilding of the line of scrimmage.  2014 will be a six win or so season to put them in position to find their franchise quarterback, and 2015 will be when they truly compete again.

After months of speculation, we now can see the front office's plan and the crappy first draft of the 2014 roster before cuts and revisions are made during training camp. Finally, after five months of nonsense, we can actually see football in the distance. We can understand how the team may scheme itself and evaluate the newest edition of the Houston Texans. Gone are the days of gagging on mock drafts...

You have got to be kidding me.

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