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Johnny Manziel vs. Jadeveon Clowney leads top rookie meetings


The 2014 NFL Draft is over, and we finally know where this year's top prospects will be continuing their careers. With that in mind, taking a quick glance at the league schedule for the upcoming season reveals quite a few intriguing matchups between some of the top rookies in the NFL.

Here are 10 games to circle on your calendar and why you should watch:

Vikings at Rams

When: Sept. 7, 2014
Who's involved: Michael Sam, Aaron Donald, Greg Robinson vs. Teddy Bridgewater, David Yankey and Anthony Barr
The skinny: Obviously, the huge focus here will be on Sam seeing game action for the first time if he ends up making the 53-man roster. He'll have his work cut out for him but should be put in a good situation by Gregg Williams. Donald should boost an already tough defensive line, and he'll have a number of players he could go against on the interior, including rookie David Yankey. On the flip side, there should be plenty of interest in the highly touted Robinson protecting Sam Bradford against a pass rush that features Barr. Don't discount Bridgewater being the Game 1 starter either, and the blitz-happy schemes of the Rams should be quite an initial test in the NFL for the signal-caller. All told, four first-round picks could see action as rookies in this game.

Bills at Bears

When: Sept. 7, 2014
Who's involved: Sammy Watkins vs. Kyle Fuller
The skinny: Virginia Tech did a fairly good job in its three games against Watkins while he was at Clemson, and while Fuller wasn't covering him the whole time, they are at least familiar with each other from their time in the ACC. The Bills paid quite the price to move up and snag a No. 1 receiver, and Watkins should have some one-on-one matchups with Fuller in the opener.

Steelers at Ravens

When: Sept. 11, 2014
Who's involved: Ryan Shazier, Stephon Tuitt, Martavis Bryant, Dri Archer vs. C.J. Mosley, Timmy Jernigan, Terrance Brooks, Crockett Gillmore
The skinny: Shazier and Mosley get their first exposure to one of the toughest divisional rivalries in football. While the two will have different roles, it will be interesting to track how well they'll play on the big stage the game offers early in the season. The speedy Brooks will team with Matt Elam to help contain Ben Roethlisberger's new targets in Bryant and Archer in a nice side matchup.

Texans at Raiders

When: Sept. 14, 2014
Who's involved: Jadeveon Clowney vs. Khalil Mack
The skinny: We might have to look back at this game as a tiebreaker for Defensive Rookie of the Year. While Clowney and Mack won't be going directly against each other, we will be able to see both in the same game. Each was considered to be the best player in the draft by various analysts, and here's their first big opportunity to show off their skills.

Panthers at Ravens

When: Sept. 28, 2014
Who's involved: Kelvin Benjamin, Kony Ealy, Trai Turner, Tyler Gaffney vs. C.J. Mosley, Timmy Jernigan and Terrance Brooks
The skinny: Think Jimbo Fisher will take interest in this game with so many former Florida State rookies facing off against each other? The most notable aspect of this game is the Ravens' Steve Smith against his former team, but Benjamin was drafted to basically fill Smith's shoes as the primary target for Cam Newton, so there's another layer to that storyline. Brooks went against Benjamin in practice every day in Tallahassee, so he should be able to give coaches a pretty good scouting report.

Colts at Texans

When: Oct. 9, 2014
Who's involved: Jadeveon Clowney vs. Andrew Luck
The skinny: One major reason why Houston opted to draft Clowney was undoubtedly so he can chase after Luck for years to come, just like they had Mario Williams do with Peyton Manning. This will be Clowney's first opportunity, and it comes in a good place at home. There will probably be a ton of pressure on Clowney to get at least one sack on Luck in this game, and that might not be all that hard to do, given the Colts' offensive line situation as well as J.J. Watt taking some heat off of him.

Vikings at Bills

When: Oct. 19, 2014
Who's involved: Teddy Bridgewater, Anthony Barr, Vikings rookie corners (Antone Exum, Kendall James, Jabari Price) vs. Sammy Watkins, Cyrus Kouandjio and Preston Brown
The skinny: This normally wouldn't be all that sexy of a matchup, given the two teams' records in 2013, but the rookies certainly juice things up. Barr will be coming off the edge, possibly against Kouandjio. Bridgewater will face his former Louisville teammate in Brown, and the three corners the Vikings drafted will have to help out in some respect against Watkins and Robert Woods. Don't sleep on this game.

Texans at Browns

When: Nov. 16, 2014
Who's involved: Jadeveon Clowney vs. Johnny Manziel
The skinny: This might be the game to circle on the calendar regardless of the teams' records: the No. 1 pick chasing after the most popular player in the 2014 NFL Draft? Yes, sign us up. Sure, there will be other great players on the field, but the spotlight is on Manziel, who could have a starting role by this point, against pass-rushing phenom Clowney.

Raiders at Rams

When: Nov. 30, 2014
Who's involved: Khalil Mack, Derek Carr vs. Greg Robinson, Tre Mason, Lamarcus Joyner, Aaron Donald, Michael Sam
The skinny: This is late enough in the season that Carr as a starter certainly comes into play for the Raiders, especially if Matt Schaub reverts to 2013 form. Carr will have to face the Rams' ferocious front seven as well as Joyner on the backend. Plus, Mack will take on Robinson off the edge and try to contain Mason if he finds some carries in the St. Louis backfield.

Packers at Buccaneers

When: Dec. 21, 2014
Who's involved: Mike Evans vs. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
The skinny: Evans torched Clinton-Dix's Alabama team during their two meetings, and it will be interesting to see if he can do the same against the Packers' improved secondary. While Clinton-Dix won't be the primary defender responsible for containing Evans and Vincent Jackson, he was brought on to play over the top of receivers and will have his work cut out for himself late in the season. Given when the matchup takes place, there could be playoff implications, too.

Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer.



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