They’re the four hottest names in NFL Draft circles right now, and at the peak of bowl season, they were all on display for all the world to see.
The question going into bowl season: Are they ready for the big time?
After the performances they turned in, seems like only question is in order now: With all four having officially declared for the draft, which would you pick first?
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The Houston Texans have the first pick, and most pundits having them eyeing a QB. And while Louisville junior Teddy Bridgewater is the heavy favorite to be the pick, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Central Florida’s Blake Bortles just put up two of the most amazing QB performances in recent bowl history. And that Jadeveon Clowney guy ain’t bad, either.
So here’s a quick recap of the bowl season — and headline-grabbing New Year’s — that each of the four had. And once you’ve digested the highlights, tell us who you would take No. 1.
He belongs because . . . he has what is considered the ideal size (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) for a pocket passer in the NFL and put up big numbers (3,581 yards, 25 TDs, 67.8 completion percentage, 163.3 passer rating) while playing in a pro-style offense (in the traditional, Tom Brady-sense of the term "pro-style").
What he’s done lately: On Wednesday night, he led the Knights to one of the biggest upsets in BCS bowl history. Playing against one of the highest-flying offenses in the nation, and a team coached by one of the leading candidates to take over at Texas, Bortles threw for 301 yards and three scores, ran for a career-high 93 yards and another score, and earned Fiesta Bowl Offensive Player of the Game honors as UCF knocked off Baylor, 52-42. UCF (12-1) set a school record for victories and the current nine-game winning streak is also a school record.
He belongs because . . . in the eyes of most, he does not contain one skill that jumps out and makes you say "Wow!" Rather, he is seen as having a complete repertoire of skills, no serious flaws, poise and a calm demeanor. In draft talk, that’s "pro-ready" and "low-risk".
What he’s done lately: While he may not have a lot of "Wow" moments on tape, the same cannot be said for his stat sheet. Here are his numbers from his final collegiate game, a 36-9 win over Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 28 in Orlando, Fla.:
35 for 45, 447 yards (career high), 3 TDs, 0 INT and his first rushing TD of the season.
He’s the most . . . feared, dominating defensive player in the draft class.
He belongs because . . . he collected 24 sacks and 132 tackles in his career. And oh yeah . . . remember this?
What he’s done lately: After an offseason of hype, Clowney came out flat and, in the eyes of many, out of shape in 2013. But he picked it up toward the end of the season, collecting five tackles in four of his final five games, including Wednesday’s 34-24 Citrus Bowl win over Wisconsin.
Johnny Manziel, Soph., QB, Texas A&M
He’s the most . . . hyped, talked-about college football player — perhaps ever.
He belongs because . . . in this era of dual-threat, running & passing QBs, Manziel has done things with his legs and arm that have never been done before. His 4,873 total yards in 2013 were the second-most in SEC history, behind only the 5,116 yards put up by . . . Manziel in his Heisman-winning 2012 campaign. He currently has 9,989 total yards — leaving him 11 short of being the first sophomore ever with 10,000 total yards. He is 2-0 with 971 total yards and nine total TDs in two bowl games. And he’s Johnny Football — he’ll put butts in seats.
What he’s done lately: Tuesday night’s Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta was his final collegiate game, and Manziel picked a hell of a way to go out. The heavily favored Aggies trailed Duke — Duke! — 38-17 at halftime, but Manziel (OK, with some help from his defense) led an amazing comeback, taking down the Blue Devils 52-48 in the highest-scoring Chick-fil-A game in history. And sometimes, he does things with his legs AND arms — on the same play:
So, now it’s your turn to play GM. If you have the Texans’ first overall pick, who are taking No. 1? Let us know in the comments section below.