The talent level is not the issue but questions marks remain over Clowney’s work ethic, especially after his college coach at South Carolina, Steve Spurrier, said it was simply OK when asked last week.
Some are even comparing Clowney to Hall of Fame defensive end Lawrence Taylor – but just because Clowney is the best player in the draft that doesn’t automatically mean he’ll go number one overall.
By David Squires – @davefalcon90
The teams at the top of the draft order need to choose between the best overall player available, or the best player available in the position that they need to improve on the most.
The top of the draft order looks like this, but where does Clowney end up?
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington)
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
4. Cleveland Browns
5. Oakland Raiders
Four of the first five teams to draft need a quarterback with the Rams being the exception, but are there 4 standout quarterbacks in this draft? It seems that Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville) and Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) are the only two potential top five picks at the quarterback position although some have Blake Bortles (Central Florida) in this category too.
For the Texans, teaming Clowney up with the best defensive end currently in the NFL in JJ Watt must be very tempting but, with that position sorted, wouldn’t you be better off looking to fix the problems that came from the 2-14 season you just had – like a quarterback?
That said there are a lot of draft experts who have the Texans taking Clowney with the first overall pick but I just don’t understand. The Texans themselves have been fairly quiet on which direction they intend to go with this pick.
The Rams are in a similar position to the Texans in that they just don’t need to improve on their defensive line. They do have two picks in the first round though and therefore could be open to trading down. If they decide to stay at number two it is more likely that they go offensive line with this pick.
If anyone needs a quarterback it’s the Jaguars and it would be a major surprise if they don’t select one here. Again, they could trade down and still select a quarterback like Aaron Murray (Georgia) or Derek Carr (Fresno) but I see no other position than quarterback for the Jags.
The Oakland Raiders have a history of strange and poor draft choices high in the first round – Darius Heyward-Bay and JaMarcus Russell spring to mind. The Raiders could well be tempted in taking Clowney, especially if they get a quarterback in free agency or via a trade, but again their needs lay elsewhere they could have their eye on wide receiver Sammy Watkins from Clemson.
Like the Rams, the Browns have two picks in the first round but are desperate for a quarterback. If either Manziel or Bridgewater are still around at number five the Browns will pull the trigger leaving Clowney well out of it. The Browns have even hinted at trading up to make sure they get one of those two players but that’s a risk if they are both gone.
There are a few reasons that I’m going to include the team picking sixth, the Atlanta Falcons, in the Clowney sweepstakes. Some draft experts have suggested that the Falcons will move up in order to get Clowney and General Manager Thomas Dimitroff has been aggressive in trading up before.
In 2011, the Falcons moved up 22 spots sending five picks to the Browns in the process to get Julio Jones and last year Dimitroff was at it again moving up eight places in the draft to select Desmond Trufant.
Dimitroff’s said: “Clowney has the ability to become a ‘marquee’ pass rusher at the next level.”
Another major factor here could be that two of the five General Managers to draft above Atlanta, Les Snead in St Louis and David Caldwell in Jacksonville, are former Falcons executives who worked under Dimitroff so perhaps the ground work for trading up is already under way.