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Steinberg: Manziel should go No. 1

April 19, 2014|By Leigh Steinberg

The final phase of NFL scouting has begun. Many of the teams are now flying prospects to their complexes to get a closer look.

The collegiate career, All-Star games, scouting combine, and on-campus pro scouting days are all complete. This final phase is an opportunity for the teams to evaluate each prospect's character, personality and chalkboard skills.

The consequence of drafting a player who has off-the-field, substance abuse, or violence issues are dire. With these types of issues, the team potentially loses the player and then experiences an acceleration of deferred signing bonus and "dead cap space."

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As a result, the team may not only lose the player, but they also lose the ability to replace him due to salary cap restrictions.

There will be a "dead week" in scouting prior to the draft, and the spectacle of actual drafting commences on May 8.

The Houston Texans are in the unique position of holding the first overall pick. They can draft in their No. 1 position or trade the pick for additional draft picks.

Texans owner Bob McNair and General Manager Rick Smith are brilliant and accomplished sports professionals who have built a powerhouse franchise that simply went off the tracks last year.

Obviously they do not need my advice or pressure to make the right decision with the first pick. But I have represented 60 first-round picks and the very first pick in the first round in eight separate years.

Here are my variables and considerations.

When President Bill Clinton ran for office, his focus was simple: "It's the economy ... stupid." In the same vain, to build a winning franchise in the contemporary NFL: "It's the franchise quarterback ... stupid."

It takes tremendous judgment on multiple fronts to win in the NFL, but the key to getting to and winning in the playoffs and Super Bowl is having the right franchise quarterback as the leader.

The NFL has evolved from a run-first mentality to a pass-first mentality. Having a quarterback that a team can build around for the next 10-12 years, win "because of" rather than "with" a QB who can elevate his play in adverse and critical circumstances to take a team to victory, is the critical building block for success.

Franchise quarterbacks are not easy to find. It is not just a matter of drafting them — the modern cap considerations force a team to start a first-round draft pick immediately.

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