Sunday, February 16, 2014

What Should the Houston Texans Do With the #1 Overall Pick?

The Texans have the first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. 
Eric Fisher, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Sam Bradford, Matt Stafford, Jake Long, JaMarcus Russell, Mario Williams, Alex Smith, Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, David Carr, Michael Vick, Courtney Brown, and Tim Couch: These are the last fifteen #1 overall draft picks in the NFL.

Seven of the fifteen have never been invited to the Pro Bowl, and only two have won a Super Bowl. Those two Super Bowl Champions are Eli Manning and David Carr. But David Carr didn't really win a Super Bowl, he just sat on the bench while Eli Manning won one in 2008. So, we'll say one of the last fifteen have won a championship.

Eleven of the last fifteen #1 picks were Quarterbacks, but not a single one of those QBs finished in the top ten for QBR this past season. Is it really worth wasting a #1 pick on a mediocre Quarterback? I don't need to answer that; my pessimistic verbiage provides the answer. Even surefire picks like Andrew Luck do not satisfy the expectations; maybe he will, but as of now I would consider Russell Wilson-- a third round pick-- the superior quarterback both in the regular season and postseason.

Why do I bring this all up? Because I believe the first pick is overrated. The stakes are simply too high; sure, there is a chance you draft the next Peyton Manning, but there is also the chance that you draft the next JaMarcus Russell. By the way, the Raiders haven't made the playoffs since drafting Russell, so it's fair to say a #1 pick can ruin a franchise.

So, what should the Texans do with the #1 overall pick this year?

Well, there is former Heisman Johnny Manziel out of Texas A&M. He was arguably the most exciting player to watch and follow in college football during my lifetime, as he possesses great mobility, unbelievable improvisational skills (great football instinct), great accuracy, underrated pocket passing abilities, a powerful arm that makes difficult passes look easy, and a unique ability to throw on the run. I'm not going to focus on his negatives because I believe they are overplayed; I do think Manziel will be a special player at the next level plus he has the local Texas connection.

There is also Teddy Bridgewater, who has been projected as the 2014 draft's top QB prospect since his strong performance  in the 2013 Sugar Bowl against a one-loss SEC team, Florida. Most publications still consider him the top QB prospect. The three year starter had a very lucrative college career in Louisville's pro-style offense, and he showed great improvement each year. He displays stellar passing mechanics, excellent composure against the blitz, good athleticism, pinpoint accuracy, and the crispest spiral I have seen in a while. Bridgewater's skills should translate well in the NFL.

And then there is Blake Bortles out of Central Florida. The Texans have said that they will pick a QB, and recent mock drafts and predictions are saying he will go first overall. Gagh, I am already puking at the sound of that. Sure, he beat Baylor, and proved that UCF was an elite team, but as I watched him with a keen eye, I was far from convinced that he was a top college quarterback (I ranked him 13th in my final college QB rankings). Maybe I'll be wrong about him, but it's not like his stats are amazing, especially considering that UCF's competition is only middle of the pack. He is good against pressure and has good legs, but I see him as drastically overrated. To put it bluntly, his football skills are not nearly as attractive as his girlfriend.

So back to the question: what should the Texans do? Johnny Manziel could be a game-changer and has a high upside, but it would be ignorant to say that he is a guaranteed success; his famous improvisations after a play breaks down may not work in the NFL, although for entertainment sake I certainly hope they do. There is also the question of his character, and the likely possibility of injury due to his rambunctious playing-style. Bridgewater seems like less of a risk, and he could conceivably become a top NFL quarterback and leader. If I had to guess, I would say both players will be good, but I don't know for sure, and therefore I think the Texans should do what receiver Andre Johnson recently recommended: TRADE THE PICK! Like stated earlier, the first pick is overrated. There is too low of a success rate among #1 draft picks, yet teams are willing to trade so much to acquire the first selection. I'm convinced trading down from first overall will be the right move 90% of the least until the NFL General Managers realize how over-hyped the pick is.

LSU's Mettenberger could be a steal in the 3rd or 4th round
The Texans should trade their pick and draft a quarterback later on in the draft, especially given the depth at the position in this year's class. Houston could very possibly get a star like CB Darqueze Dennard or OT Cyrus Kouandjio with a later traded-for first round pick, and receive additional draft picks in the trade that would help them fill other needs. It almost seems foolish to pick a QB first overall when there are very qualified quarterbacks projected for later rounds, such as Derek Carr, Zach Mettenberger, Aaron Murray, Connor Shaw, Tajh Boyd, and AJ McCarron; I don't like McCarron, but that's a whole other story.

There are so many amazing possibilities if Houston just trades the pick and avoids the recent history of underachieving #1 draftees. But, if the Texans opt not to trade down, which is the much more likely scenario, I'm very slightly leaning towards Bridgewater. It's certainly a touch decision though. So tough that they may as well they flip a coin between Bridgewater and Manziel, and shoot themselves in the foot in a few years if they get this pick wrong.

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