2014 NFL Draft: Should the Falcons Trade Up for Jadeveon Clowney?

Knox Bardeen@knoxbardeenNFC South Lead WriterFebruary 1, 2014

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 16:  Jadeveon Clowney #7 of the South Carolina Gamecocks tackles Trey Burton #8 of the Florida Gators during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Assume for a moment that the Atlanta Falcons have decided that South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is the right choice for them with the team’s first pick in the 2014 NFL draft.

There are 96 days left before Atlanta will have to make that pick, and in addition to a top-notch pass-rushing threat the team is in dire need of help on the offensive line too. But what if general manager Thomas Dimitroff decides between now and May 8 that Clowney is the guy to help transform the Falcons in the trenches?

Will Clowney still be around when the team picks at No. 6?

Bleacher Report draft guru Matt Miller’s latest mock draft has Clowney going at pick No. 7 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Clowney would have been available in this scenario, but the Falcons passed. It’s a scary thought that Clowney, and all his upside, landed with the Buccaneers in the NFC South.

2014 Mock Drafts
Clowney Available at No. 6?Where did Clowney get picked?Who did Atlanta Take?
Matt MillerYesNo. 7 to Tampa BayJake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Mel Kiper Jr.NoNo. 3 to JacksonvilleAnthony Barr, OLB/DE, UCLA
Rob RangNoNo. 1 to HoustonJake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Dane BruglerNoNo. 2 to St. LouisGreg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Daniel JeremiahNoNo. 1 to HoustonGreg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Bucky BrooksNoNo. 1 to HoustonAnthony Barr, OLB/DE, UCLA
Charles DavisNoNo. 4 to ClevelandAnthony Barr, OLB/DE, UCLA
Bleacher Report, ESPN, CBS, NFL.com

ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. has Clowney going to the Jacksonville Jaguars with the third pick in the draft. Rob Rang and Dane Brugler, both of CBS Sports, have Clowney going at No. 1 to the Houston Texans and No. 2 to the St. Louis Rams, respectively.

Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks of NFL.com both have Clowney going No. 1 to the Texans. Charles Davis’ first mock had Clowney being selected by the Cleveland Browns at pick No. 4.

There you have it. In seven NFL mock drafts Clowney only lasted to the Falcons’ slot once. If Atlanta truly only has something like a 14 percent chance to get Clowney at No. 6, it looks like the team will have to move up to get him.

Dimitroff told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday that he currently gave the three options (staying put, moving up in the draft and moving down in the draft) an equal shot, but that could change with so much time left until May 8.

Q: So you’re willing to sit at six and not trade up?

A: I’m willing to sit at six. I’m willing to trade up and trade back.

Q: All three possibilities. Are they equal?

A: That would be 33.3.

While that answer might not help us much, it does go a long way toward showing that the Falcons haven’t made a decision yet. If we look at recent history, we know that Dimitroff is more than willing to make a jump up to get who he wants.

In two of the last three drafts the Falcons have traded up to grab a player they desired.

In 2011 the Falcons swapped first-round picks and traded four more to the Browns to move up 21 spots to No. 6 and select wide receiver Julio Jones. In 2013 Atlanta moved up eight spots to draft cornerback Desmond Trufant. Atlanta swapped first-round picks with the Rams and sent two more in the deal. The Falcons did get a future seventh-round pick in return.

Falcons Trading Up
Julio Jones DealDesmond Trufant Deal
Atlanta ReceivedNo. 6 pick (2011)No. 22 Pick (2013)
7th-Round Pick (2015)
Atlanta Gave UpNo. 27 Pick (2011)No. 30 Pick (2013)
No. 59 Pick (2011)No. 92 Pick (2013)
No. 124 Pick (2011)No. 198 Pick (2013)
No. 22 Pick (2012)
No. 118 Pick (2012)

In his first two seasons Jones caught 133 passes and 18 touchdowns. He also accounted for 2,157 yards through the air. Those numbers are fantastic and seemingly make the decision to move up for Jones sound.

But in 2013 when injuries (including a season-ender to Jones after just five games) decimated the Falcons, there wasn’t enough talented and game-ready depth on the roster to continue winning games at a playoff pace. Since Atlanta was down four picks because of the Jones trade and two more (remember the seventh it earned in the Trufant deal was a pick in the future) due to moving up to get Trufant, depth was an issue.

It’s going to cost Atlanta to move up and draft Clowney. Dimitroff could try and send a player or players along with swapping first-round picks instead of adding draft picks to the deal, but it’s more likely whoever inks a deal with the Falcons will want draft picks.

Can the Falcons afford to give up more depth to move up and grab Clowney?

That all depends on how much the move up costs Dimitroff. And that could change depending on how far the team needs to move up and who it trades with.

Current NFL Draft Order
1Houston Texans
2St. Louis Rams
3Jacksonville Jaguars
4Cleveland Browns
5Oakland Raiders
6Atlanta Falcons
7Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Obviously the farther Atlanta has to move up from No. 6, the more expensive a potential trade for Clowney would be. More important than how far the Falcons have to move up is who they would trade with.

There are two teams picking ahead of Atlanta that might be likely to work out a more mutually beneficial trade for the Falcons.

The Rams and Jaguars are both run by former front-office staffers from Atlanta.

Les Snead spent 13 seasons with the Falcons before taking over in St. Louis as general manager. His relationship with Dimitroff is one of the reasons Atlanta was able to move up and get Trufant in 2013.

David Caldwell spent five seasons in Atlanta with Dimitroff as the director of college scouting and then a season as the director of both college and pro scouting. His ties with Dimitroff could make a trade for Clowney a little easier for the Falcons.

The Rams and Jaguars occupy the second and third spots in the draft, respectively. It might be that Atlanta has to move up that high to grab Clowney.

According to Dimitroff’s conversation with the AJC, we know the Falcons think highly of Clowney, just as every other team likely does.

Q: Does Jadeveon Clowney qualify as one of those players who could help you? Would you trade up for him?

A: All I will say is what everyone else knows in the country. Clowney is a top-notch talent. He’s going to make a team happy. He’s going to be a legitimate difference maker in this league. The people with the top two picks know that.

But with the number of draft picks Atlanta has given up over the past three years to move up in the first round, it seems criminal to give up more to grab Clowney and risk further detriment to the depth on this roster.

Take into account that Clowney was repeatedly criticized during his junior season at South Carolina for not giving maximum effort. How on earth can Dimitroff justify diluting Atlanta’s depth more than it already has been to move up and draft Clowney?

Even if Clowney was a 100 percent, can’t-miss future NFL star, giving up more picks in Atlanta’s current depth situation wouldn’t be good. But since there is risk involved, the Falcons are better off staying where they are at No. 6.

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.

Knox Bardeen is the NFC South lead writer for Bleacher Report and the author of “100 Things Falcons Fans Should Know & Do Before they Die.” Be sure to follow Knox on Twitter.


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