First Pick In 2014 NFL Draft: Bridgewater Or Clowney
By Bill Lund
I think the 2013 quarterback draft experience should serve as a cautionary tale from two perspectives. One, when you are considered the top player as a junior, it may prove in your best interests to strike while the iron is hot and turn pro. Matt Barkley chose to return for a senior season that ended up being a huge underachievement by the Trojans and he wasn’t taken until the fourth round.
The other side is the fact when the season ends, writers, analysts and experts anoint players as sure-fire first rounder’s without having the opportunity to really study the tape. We tend to rely on lasting impressions of their final games. We all saw Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater cut up an outstanding Florida defense in the Sugar Bowl and immediately called him the best quarterback not in the draft. It is easy lose sight that the process that will eventually point out weakness and flaws in one’s game that will make or break first pick dreams. That’s not to say Bridgewater is not a good QB, it is a reminder that what we see as the best now, may not be so in a year.
In terms of pro-grade attributes, Teddy Bridgewater is listed at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds. He reportedly has run anywhere between a 4.5 and 4.6. Bridgewater has a strong arm, showing both accuracy on NFL-style routes and athletic ability to be a very effective quarterback. He has a great ability to improvise and make plays outside the pocket. Another strength of Bridgewater's may be his ability to call the game at the L.O.S and audible at the line, getting his team into the best play. He also shows great accuracy on deep outs, which may be a better indicator of how his game can translate into the NFL. He also shows leadership and toughness traits teams love when came back to play with a broken wrist in the second half of the Rutgers game to lead Louisville to a crucial victory that got them into the Sugar Bowl.
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is listed at 6-6 and nearly 270 pounds. It had been reported that Clowney has run a 40 in the 4.5s. He is an amazingly gifted athlete who has already been touted as the best pass rusher not in the 2013 draft. Clowney led the SEC with 13 sacks this season, and when he's not sacking the quarterback he's harassing them (28 hurries and knockdowns.) This coming in a conference that is the best in the land. Clowney finished sixth this season in the Heisman Trophy voting and will be a game-changer at the next level.
Clowney is still a bit green when it comes to technique. He will need to develop his hands, but as he does he will become a deadly pass rusher that won’t have to rely on speed alone. He improved by leaps and bounds from his freshman year and with the NFL being such a pass-happy league, premiere pass rushers are a necessity. If he continues his climb, he may be the first player taken in the draft in 2014.
So who will be the No. 1 pick of the 2014 draft? Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. A quarterback will make or break a franchise. It’s rare that a team makes it to the Super Bowl without a good signal caller. Should a team have a QB in the fold, you don’t pass on premium pass rushers like Clowney. Clowney athletically has the ability to compete in the NFL now, but has to develop some technical skills that will help him in facing elite pass protectors. When it comes down to it, Bridgewater is on the path to being the top pick in 2014. He has the ability and football IQ and from the looks of things will only get better. The key point is that NFL teams will always place a priority in ensuring they have a signal caller they can put the hopes of a franchise on. It will certainly be an interesting debate over the next 12 months.