With the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Houston Texans selected Jadeveon Clowney. Just like that, the freakishly athletic defensive end from South Carolina officially found a home in the NFL.
Now that we know Clowney's new team, scheme, coaching staff and teammates, one question immediately arises: How will he fare next season?
Clowney certainly has plenty of hype to live up to. After compiling 24 sacks, 47 tackles for a loss and 130 total tackles over his three-year college career, he'll be expected to make an immediate impact.
Luckily, unlike many teams which hold the first overall selection, the Texans have a solid core of talent already in place. Surrounded by J.J. Watt, Brian Cushing, Brooks Reed and Whitney Mercilus, Clowney will be given plenty of opportunities to succeed as a rookie.
A tweet from SportsNation really summed it up:
Jadeveon Clowney is joining a defense with JJ Watt… That's bad news for EVERYONE else. pic.twitter.com/AJ8NTYU5l4— SportsNation (@SportsNation) May 9, 2014
There is one obstacle he will have to overcome in Houston, though. The Texans run a base 3-4 defense—a scheme unfamiliar to Clowney.
Clowney's production came as a 4-3 defensive end throughout his career at South Carolina.
Of course, a change in scheme doesn't doom Clowney by any stretch of the imagination. Although he's never played from the outside linebacker position, his athleticism should allow him to make a rather smooth transition.
He won't play from the outside linebacker position on every down. Houston does sprinkle in some four-man defensive fronts, and Clowney figures to be a staple at defensive end in those packages.
With the addition of Clowney, here's a look at how the Texans's base defense should look this season:
|J.J. Watt||Jerrell Powe||Tim Jamison|
|Jadeveon Clowney||Brooks Reed||Brian Cushing||Whitney Mercilus|
Sean O'Donnell's Prediction
With Watt and Clowney lining up on the same side of the field, it will be extremely difficult for an offensive line to keep enough personnel available to consistently block them both.
NFLonCBS tweeted a very telling quote about this situation from analyst Brian Jones:
Also, Clowney's presence on the outside moves Reed to the interior—a position which should allow him to increase his production in a big way.
Of course, this won't be one only way Clowney is utilized. His athleticism and versatility will allow him to produce from all over the field.
NFL.com's Bucky Brooks tweeted his own idea of how Clowney will be used:
For those worried about Clowney's ability to fit in Romeo Crennel's scheme, he will play the @WillieMcGinest role in HOU defense— Bucky Brooks (@BuckyBrooks) May 9, 2014
One thing must be kept in mind: Expectations should be tempered for Clowney during his rookie season.
Although he's a very talented player on a very talented defense, there will be a learning curve for him to undergo a position change. He will continue to garner attention from offensive lines. However, pressure should decrease due to Watt's presence up front.
Don't expect Clowney to come in and post double-digit sacks while he gets his feet wet in the NFL. Don't worry either—those double-digit seasons will come.
This year, Clowney will hone his skill set and continue to improve throughout the season. Here's a look at what his numbers could look like at season's end:
Sean O'Donnell's Prediciton
Sure this is a very early projection and subject to change depending on how the Texans utilize the first-year player. Once Clowney gets going in training camp and we have a better idea of his role on defense, we could revisit these projections once again.