The 2014 NFL Draft will begin on Thursday night, with the Houston Texans kicking off the festivities in the No. 1 overall slot. Whether or not they'll stay in that spot and who they will take, however, remain a complete mystery.
The rumors have often linked South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to the Texans as the first overall selection, but now that might not be the case, according to NFL insider Ian Rapoport. Rapoport says he spoke to Texans general manager Rick Smith, and believes the top pick could be for sale or spent on linebacker Khalil Mack.
NFL Mock Draft
NFL Mock Draft
All of this information seems to be in sharp contrast to only a few days ago, when on May 4 an NFL.com article quoted Houston owner Bob McNair discussing Clowney.
"You take a guy like Jadeveon Clowney," McNair said. "He's obviously the best player in the draft, but he's a defensive end. He's not a quarterback. If he's a quarterback and the best player it's easy, but that's not the case. So can that defensive player have a greater impact on the success of your team than one of these quarterbacks? It's not a sure thing that he is."
While that quote does not spell out the Texans selecting Clowney, it certainly lends itself to that impression. The quarterback class has more depth than star power, with rumors that Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Derek Carr or Teddy Bridgewater could all drop in the first round.
As McNair points out in that same May 4 article, all of these signal-callers have issues.
"You got three quarterbacks and all of them have some holes in their resume," McNair said. "A quarterback that goes out and performs for you and is a franchise quarterback is more valuable than a player playing another position, but there's a lot more risk there. It's a more difficult position to play and there are lot more failures."
The draft is full of smoke screens, so who truly knows what Smith, McNair and the rest of the front office is thinking. Back in late April, the esteemed Peter King wrote that he believes Houston is higher on Mack than Clowney, per SB Nation's Battle Red Blog. Yet SB Nation's new mock draft has Clowney going first overall, and the latest mock from ESPN's Mel Kiper and Todd McShay has the same result.
NFL Draft Odds
NFL Draft Odds
But wait! Only six days earlier, Battle Red Blog has a post written off the premise Clowney was already told he will be the top pick in the draft, per Matt Miller of NFL Draft Scout. Is that true? Who can tell, but it is an interesting notion.
Gil Brandt, a long-time NFL personnel man, believes Mack will be picked ahead of Clowney, per Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback.
King also weighed in on what he's hearing about the fate of the top pick.
The buzz about a trade-down or Khalil Mack to Houston instead of Jadeveon Clowney won’t die. The Texans are doing a good job of sending mixed signals to the GM community, that’s for sure. Mack’s in the dark, which is to be expected. I can’t see Atlanta mortgaging the farm on any player, so if the Texans want to trade down, the return likely won’t be a ransom.
Drafting Mack instead of Clowney would make sense from a scheme point of view. The Texans hired defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel who employs a 3-4 defense. Clowney could play outside linebacker but is more suited to play a 4-3 defensive end in the eyes of most. Mack would be a perfect fit as a 3-4 linebacker, his natural position.