x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

2014 NFL Draft things to know

Things to know for the 2014 NFL draft, beginning Thursday night in New York City.

Jadeveon Clowney, left, Sammy Watkins, centre, and Khalil Mack participate in an NFL event in New York on Wednesday. Seth Wenig / AP / May 7, 2014
Jadeveon Clowney, left, Sammy Watkins, centre, and Khalil Mack participate in an NFL event in New York on Wednesday. Seth Wenig / AP / May 7, 2014

The 2014 NFL draft begins Thursday night in New York City as college football players find out which teams they will join. Here are some things to know:

Draft basics

The 2014 NFL Draft comprises seven rounds over the course of three days during which NFL teams select from the best college football players in America aiming to begin their professional careers.

Cream of the crop

Most draft experts agree on four of the top five players - Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, linebacker Khalil Mack, wide receiver Sammy Watkins and offensive tackle Greg Robinson. Clowney, in particular, is a once-in-a-generation defensive talent whose only question mark has been motivation. As for the fifth, it depends on how one feels about the quarterbacks.

The quarterbacks

Quarterback is the most important position in American football, and usually the only way to get a superstar is by striking gold in the draft. That means the Houston Texans, picking first, are widely assumed to be targeting a quarterback to fill their current void (if they keep the pick, more on that below).

The three consensus elite prospects are: Johnny Manziel - speedy, creative, has a strong arm, but faces doubts about his maturity and height (6 ft 0 ins); Teddy Bridgewater - had disappointing workouts leading into the draft, but is also probably the smartest, most technically sound; and Blake Bortles - has the size (6ft 5 ins) and arm strength quarterback coaches love to work with, but he also didn’t enjoy the same kind of college success as Manziel or Bridgewater.

Trades

NFL teams love to trade on draft day. The Falcons (at No 6) supposedly covet Clowney. They would have to move up to get him. Multiple teams in the middle order would like to trade up and select Watkins. The Rams (No 2) reportedly can’t figure out what they want at all, and might trade down for more picks. Don’t rule out the Texans making a major move and trading out of the first draft position, either.

Not just about the first round

Seven rounds might seem like a lot, but NFL teams routinely unearth gems in the later stages. The Super Bowl-winning Seahawks, for example, found their best defender, Richard Sherman, in the fifth round in 2011 and their quarterback, Russell Wilson, in the third round in 2012. Don’t sleep on the late picks.

Anything else?

Sure, there are always plenty of angles to a draft. One player, expected to be taken early, may drop far below where analysts expect him to be picked – such as when Aaron Rodgers (that is, Super Bowl and MVP-winning quarterback Aaron Rodgers) dropped all the way to the 24th pick in the 2005. The Green Bay Packers are pretty happy with how that worked. There are also shock moments when a player is taken far earlier than expected, as well, like when receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, considered by some not to even be first-round worthy, was selected seventh overall by the Oakland Raiders in 2009. They have been less happy with how that worked out.

Players to look out for in this scenario include offensive tackle Jake Matthews, once considered a clear top-5 talent but who some prognosticators have going as late as the middle of the first round now. On the flip side another offensive tackle, Taylor Lewan, has been considered more of a top-25 talent by many analysts, yet rumours have him going among the top-10 picks.

As for some other top names to keep an eye on - linebacker Anthony Barr, tight end Eric Ebron, receiver Mike Evans, cornerback Justin Gilbert and linebacker CJ Mosley are just a few that should land within the top-15 selections.

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