As the 2014 NFL Draft draws nearer, prospective players are being given the chance to show why they should be picked. Whether it is through the NFL scouting combine or through private workouts for individual teams, these college players want to make a good impression on teams in order to ensure that they are given a shot in the NFL.

Most of the time, players are picked solely on talent without much regard to their past. However, such may not be the case this year, as two of the top prospects have rather checkered pasts, which is causing concern amongst NFL general managers.

Former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel  (known colloquially as “Johnny Football” for his great skill) was long considered the probable number one overall pick in the draft, though this is no longer the case. Manziel, who is a well-known partygoer, has been called immature and unprepared by ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski.

Jaworski, a former NFL quarterback himself, said, “I’m not crazy about him, to be honest with you. I’ve only looked at five games. I wouldn’t take him in the first three rounds. It’s incomplete right now, but he has not done a whole lot for me.”

This is very surprising, considering how highly touted a prospect Manziel is. The idea that he could drop a few rounds in the draft is not one that Manziel is on board with, as he is on record for saying that the Houston Texans passing over him as the first pick would be “the worst decision they’ve ever made.”

As time passes, however, more and more people are starting to agree that Manziel is not worthy of the first overall pick.  His lack of maturity, as well as his small stature, have been cited as reasons for teams to stay away from him, though I’m sure that some team will take a chance on Manziel in May.

Another top prospect with a questionable past is former University of South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney, like Manziel, has been referred to as lacking maturity, as evidenced by the multiple speeding tickets he has received recently. However, his large size, (6’-6”, 249 pounds) combined with his unbelievable 40-yard dash time, (4.53 seconds) has brought him into consideration for the first overall pick.

Though it is unfair, Clowney has practically been given a pass for his previous wrongdoings as a result of his impressive combine results. Many teams (including the Texans) that were not previously considering picking Clowney have been forced to re-evaluate their draft strategies, all because he performed so well at the combine. At this point, the hype about Clowney has gotten so large that his past is being blotted out, letting him get off easy.

I would not be surprised if the Texans take Clowney first overall, as he is the type of player that can really turn a franchise around. If he gets paired with J.J. Watt, any quarterback facing the Texans will be shaking where he stands.

However, that is not to say that I think it is right for players to have their pasts forgotten about because of how talented they are at football. All should be held responsible for their actions, and even though it seems like Clowney is being let off easier than Manziel, it should not be done as a result of his skill, but rather the amends that he has made.

Another interesting facet of picking players in the draft is the consideration given to The Wonderlic Personnel Test. The WPT is designed to gauge how intelligent someone is at making decisions in a certain field and is used extensively by NFL general managers to help them draft players. Obviously, the better a player scores on the test, the better chance they have of being drafted. This is interesting because a player that is on the bubble and not likely to be drafted can turn his fortunes around by scoring well on the test.

As crazy as it may seem, managers will sometimes pass on picking the most talented player available in order to pick one that they feel is smarter. Though many may not realize it, football is a thinking game and one that requires careful planning and execution. As such, it is in prospective players’ best interests to have a good football IQ, in case the manager that is considering picking them decides to go for intelligence over skill.

When the draft occurs this May, many surprises are bound to happen. Is there any guarantee that either Manziel or Clowney will be taken with the number one pick? Not at all, considering new information about their pasts may arise or a great performance by another player may make all this current hype obsolete. This is what makes the NFL one of the most interesting sports leagues around: all the excitement that surrounds current or future players can change at a moment’s notice, forcing fans to keep on their toes and players to keep performing at a high level.

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