South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is perhaps the best player in the NFL draft. The Atlanta Falcons are in need of a pass rush and would be well served to look into a potential trade up for the talented Gamecock. Clowney himself has expressed a willingness to play in Atlanta to ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure:
I wish they could trade up for me but I hope I don’t fall to No. 6. I like Atlanta – a lot. They’re pretty good. They’ve got some guys from South Carolina on the team, also. And it’s close to home.
The interest is mutual, as it should be. Coach Mike Smith was quoted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's (subscription required) D. Orlando Ledbetter about Clowney:
“He’s got the measurables that you are looking for,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “Obviously, we are anxious to see him perform to validate those measurables.”
The measurables are there. The talent on the field is there. Let's see what the potential pitfalls of Clowney's game would be in Atlanta.
University of South Carolina
Height: 6'5-1/4" Weight: 266 pounds
Arm Length: 34-1/2" Hand Measurement: 10"
40 yard dash: 4.53 sec. 10 yard split: 1.56 sec.
Three-cone Drill: 7.27 sec. Bench Reps: 21 reps
Vertical Jump: 37.5" Broad Jump: 10'4"
2013: 11 Games Played, 40 Tackles, 11.5 Tackles for Loss, 3.0 Sacks, 9 QB Hurries, 1 Fumble Forced, 4 Pass Deflections
2012: 12 Games Played, 54 Tackles, 23.5 Tackles for Loss, 13.0 Sacks, 5 QB Hurries, 3 Fumbles Forced, 1 Fumble Recovered, 2 Pass Deflections
2011: 13 Games Played, 36 Tackles, 12.0 Tackles for Loss, 8.0 Sacks, 6 QB Hurries, 5 Fumbles Forced, 1 Pass Deflections
Jadeveon Clowney is arguably the best athlete to come out in the draft at defensive end since Mario Williams or Julius Peppers. On top of that, he's a tremendous run defender who can read running plays and hold his edge nearly perfectly against both traditional runs and read option-style runs.
Clowney has one of the best bull rushes in this year's class and has a solid rip move that he can rely on to turn his pass rush back towards the inside. For how good he is, he still has a long way to go to reach his true potential—the potential to be the greatest pass-rusher of all time.
Clowney's biggest weaknesses come from his lack of outside pass rush moves and overall rawness to his game. He lacks coaching and hand usage. On top of that, he has a bit of an injury history that isn't going to be beneficial to whoever drafts him.
There are questions about his lack of motor or immaturity off of the field. However, he could just be bored with playing the same exact role every play. Moving him around and not playing him as a right defensive end every snap would be helpful.
How does he fit the Comrade Filter?
There are some questions about Clowney's off the field work ethic and presence. However, these seem completely over-stated by some places. Former teammate Marcus Lattimore vouched for Clowney in an interview on Sirius XM's NFL Radio (h/t NBC Sports' Michael David Smith).
He's never been arrested nor suspended in college. He does have some speeding tickets, but those don't seem to get held against guys under the Comrade Filter's rules. Overall, there seems to be no reason to think that Clowney doesn't fit the Falcons' character guidelines.
Clowney wins in a lot of the same ways Hall of Fame pass-rusher Michael Strahan did when he was active. The Gamecock defensive end's biggest difference from the Hall of Famer is that he can play in multiple defenses and be effective where Strahan was a pure left defensive end.
Clowney would also be a ridiculously better player against the run than Osi Umenyiora was in 2013. The Falcons were so bad holding the edge that adding someone who is even average in that aspect would be a major upgrade, and the Gamecock is one of the best run defenders in this year's class.
How he would fit into the Falcons' plans?
Atlanta would more than likely have to trade up for the talented South Carolina defender. However, it would be more than worth it to move up in this year's draft to make sure they secure arguably the best pass-rushing talent in years.
Clowney would play defensive end. He'd play outside linebacker. He'd even play inside linebacker in some alignments. His athleticism, combined with his high football intelligence, would make Mike Nolan a happy camper as a defensive coordinator in 2014 with Clowney.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, College Football, NFL and the NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.
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