It’s time for the select few glorified college athletes to take the step up to the big-leagues and the step down to that rookie status all over again.

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Taylor Schablaske | Contributing Writer 

When NFL Commissioner Roger Good- ell steps to the podium at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on Thurs- day, May 8 to announce this year’s first round draft choices, the 32 players selected will embark on a journey, that is, perhaps the biggest game-changer of their lives.

The draft is the last step of the long process for each former college player before they reach the NFL. After each athlete has finished his final year of college football, performed in the annual NFL Combine to showcase skills in various drills and tests and then taken part in Pro Days to improve on his Combine performances, all he can do is wait. The moment his name is called he will no longer be a college athlete; instead, he will be a multi-millionaire and a professional athlete, expected to step right into the new team and contribute immediately.

With the draft just a few weeks away, let’s take a look at some of the top players with the potential to be drafted in the first round and become NFL superstars.


Johnny Manziel

Position: Quarterback

College: Texas A&M

Build: 5’11” 207 lbs.

“Johnny Football” was famously nicknamed during his brief two-year career at Texas A&M in which he became the first freshman in NCAA history to win the Heisman Trophy in 2012. In that season, he threw for 3,706 yards, 26 touchdowns, while rushing for 1,410 yards and 21 touchdowns. He will certainly be one of the first quarterbacks drafted.

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CBS Sports draft analyst Rob Rang cites his strengths: “Ranks among the more dynamic college football players in recent history. Remarkable maneuverability. Excellent agility and burst, as well as straight-line speed, but what makes Manziel so difficult to contain is his vision.” Manziel’s talent is unquestioned, but many teams are still un- sure if he can be the long-term answer at quarterback. Either way he will bring instant excitement to whichever franchise selects him.


Teddy Bridgewater

Position: Quarterback

College: Louisville

Build: 6’2” 214 lbs.

Similar to Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater enjoyed an extremely successful college career while leading the Louisville Cardinals for three seasons un- der center. During his junior year and his final season at Louisville in 2013, Bridgewater was one of the highest-rated passers in the nation as he threw for 3,523 yards and 28 touch downs with a rating of 169.7. Projected by most draft experts as a first-round pick, Bridgewater has the potential to be a top-10 choice. According to draft expert Dane Brugler, his strengths are that he is a mature and grounded individual who obviously loves football, is sharp-witted and retains information extremely well. He makes it look easy on the field and appears to “get it,” elevating the play of those around him.


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Sammy Watkins

Position: Wide Receiver

College: Clemson

Build: 6’1” 211 lbs.

One of the most dynamic athletes in the entire country, Watkins will almost certainly be the first wide receiver taken in the draft, possibly in the top five. Watkins made himself a household name during his freshman season at Clemson in 2012 when he was named first team all-American after catching 85 passes for 1,237 yards and 10 touchdowns. Dane Brugler lists his strengths as sharp footwork off the line of scrimmage to beat press and get vertical with his galloping strides. Watkins has terrific body control and coordination, above average ball skills and a dangerous catch-and-go pass catch, and he will create yardage on his own.


Mike Evans 

Position: Wide Receiver

College: Texas A&M

Build: 6’5” 231 lbs.

Former high school basketball star Mike Evans, who was Johnny Manziel’s go-to receiver at Texas A&M for the past two seasons, has risen up many draft boards with his impressive size and out- standing Combine numbers. There, he ran a 4.53 40-yard dash and posted a 37-inch vertical leap. Those numbers at 6 feet 5 inches and 231 lbs. will certainly see him drafted in the first round. Also, as a redshirt sophomore in 2013, he caught 65 passes for 1,322 yards and 12 touchdowns. According to Rob Rang, he is a highly physical receiver who uses his size and strength to simply bully defenders and possesses excel- lent body control and sticky hands to make difficult receptions; he is a deep player and a very effective threat.


Jadeveon Clowney

Position: Defensive End

College: South Carolina

Build: 6’5” 266 lbs.

As one of the most physically impressive athletes in the last decade, Clowney is rated by most as the No. 1 defensive player in the 2014 draft class. At this year’s Combine, he posted one of the most impressive workouts of all time, with a 4.53 40-yard dash, a 37.5-inch vertical leap, and a 10 foot 4 inch broad jump. With his freakish athleticism and terrific size, he will most definitely be taken in the top five. Rang cites his strengths as an exceedingly rare combination of size, explosiveness, strength, speed and technique. Don’t be surprised to see Clowney come off the board as the first overall pick.


Khalil Mack

Position: Outside Linebacker

College: Buffalo

Build: 6’3” 251 lbs.

Coming from lesser-known Buffalo, Mack has been making a name for himself in recent weeks leading up to the draft. After posting one of the best seasons of any defensive player in the country in 2013 when he recorded 100 tackles, 19 for loss, 10.5 sacks, three interceptions and five forced fumbles, he followed that up with great performances at the Com- bine, where he recorded a 40-inch vertical leap.

Start placing your bets!