Manziel or Clowney?

In a lot of ways professional sports leagues are like market economies, and therefore player contracts—and draft positions—fall under the laws of supply and demand.

The NFL Combine is where the values of the NFL economy are tested and shaped. Deciding where to select a player in the draft is determining exactly where the player’s skill set ranks in the larger NFL value system.

It’s like a job fair that deals exclusively with athletes and doles out million dollar contracts. Only, in addition to interviews, character assessments and other normal job fair activities, there are also vertical jumps, 40-yard dashes, bench presses, three-cone drills and physical measurements.

You know, a job fair.

Of course, besides supply and demand, there are individual talents to be reckoned with. But nevertheless, there is a market logic. The current market logic, based on average salary, says that the quarterback position is the most valuable in the NFL. The second, interestingly enough, is defensive end. Which brings me to the curious debate over the Houston Texans’ first overall pick: QB Johnny Manziel or DE Jadeveon Clowney?

Now think about this statistic: The last 10 QBs drafted in the top 10 have played in a combined zero Super Bowls. And, if perhaps you are thinking that these players have not had enough time to get adjusted to the NFL or if the talent around them has not yet had time to develop, consider that I have gone as far back as 2008 to compile this list, when Matt Ryan was drafted third overall.

What I am arguing is that the draft value of the QB position is actually an inflated value. There are only three QBs from these past six drafts that have played in a Super Bowl. Joe Flacco, Colin Kaepernick, and Russell Wilson—all drafted outside the top 10.

Wilson, the reigning Super Bowl champ, was selected in the third round.

Although the mock drafts presently released vary, many of them have three QBs going in the top 10. Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater (who is the best QB prospect in my opinion, based on name-awesomeness), and Blake Bortles. Some believe the Texans should even draft Manziel first.

While the value of a talented QB is unquestionable, it often trumps other, more crucial skills when it comes to winning football games. The Seahawks, for instance, were already a semi-successful team when they drafted Wilson. They had an established defense and a fantastic every-down back in Marshawn Lynch. They needed a QB of course, but part of the reason for Wilson’s success is that he was surrounded by quality parts.

Cam Newton and Andrew Luck have been success stories too, and one has to think that one of them, if not both, will win a ring sometime in their careers. Matthew Stafford has been a quality NFL QB, and so has Robert Griffin III.

But then there are the other, more plentiful cases of first round QB busts or semi-busts: Mark Sanchez, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Tannehill, Sam Bradford, and if one were to go further back in history, the ratio of bust to boom QB picks would only grow more disproportionate.

The point is, if you are the Texans and you can have the preternaturally talented DE Jadeveon Clowney—who reminds some pundits of the legendary Javon Kearse—why risk wasting that opportunity with an always risky QB choice? Manziel is gifted, of course. He has that indefinable “it” factor that scouts drool over. He is a playmaker. Watching him scramble out of a pocket, turning broken plays into 30-yard gains is exhilarating. No one can question that.

The problem is that football games are not typically won because of miraculous playmaking. They are won through a cohesive series of parts functioning at a high level for 60 minutes. Most would argue Peyton Manning is a better QB than Wilson. In the end, it didn’t matter.

The fact is that the Texans, no matter who they draft, will not be a good team next year. And QBs, as proven with the Wilson and Flacco cases, are given better opportunities to grow when they are surrounded by talent.

So then, the Texans’ choice is simplified. They just have to ignore the status quo of the NFL’s current market logic. Easy.