Dan Pompei's Read Option: Is It Worth Trading Up to Draft Jadeveon Clowney?

Dan PompeiNFL ColumnistMay 1, 2014

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

In terms of a draft trade, Jadeveon Clowney is cheese in a trap. 

The mice have sniffed. It is not likely one will bite, though.

Clowney is widely regarded as the player who should go first in the draft. But there is a distinction between being the player who should go first and a player worth trading up for.

The Bills and Falcons are potential players in a Clowney trade-up scenario.

The Bills, at No. 9, are a long way away and would have to come up with a compensation package that might be regrettable over time. The Falcons, at No. 6, would have a more reasonable price to pay to move up to No. 1 with the Texans and are the front-runners to trade.

But that is not to say the Falcons should be willing to pay it. 

Front-office men familiar with trades of this nature estimated it would cost the Falcons the sixth pick, their second-round pick and their fourth-round pick in a best-case scenario.

"The problem is when you are trading up and you already are in the top 10, you are giving up some very valuable picks in subsequent rounds," one high-ranking NFC front-office man said. "A second-round pick from a team drafting in the top 10 is really valuable, almost a first-round pick. So it's hard to give that up."

The Texans also could ask for the sixth pick and the Falcons' first-round pick next year.

"The problem with giving up next year's No. 1 is you wake up the next day kicking yourself because you don't know where that pick will be," the exec said.

Giving up multiple picks for a trade-up can leave a roster thin on young players. Three years ago, the Falcons swapped first-round picks and gave up four extra picks to draft wide receiver Julio Jones with the sixth overall selection.

Whether the Falcons were negatively impacted by losing the picks in the Jones deal is debatable. But it does not seem debatable that giving up multiple picks twice in four years could have a significant impact on roster depth and development.

"You have to have young players," the exec said. "You can't just fill your roster with veterans."

Another front-office man from the AFC said this: "It's hard to trade up repeatedly. You are never one player away. The draft is about luck. If you don't have picks, you can't get lucky."

Trading up for Clowney would not be the same as trading up for Jones. Clowney is perceived as having a higher ceiling—he can be as great as he wants to be. But he also has a lower floor. There was no bust factor with Jones. The only question about him was how much he could develop consistency with his hands.

His intangibles were off the charts. These were some of the things scouts told me about Jones before the 2011 draft:

  • Scout No. 1: "Football is important to him. He knows football."
  • Scout No. 2: "He works so hard. He loves to compete. They even thought about playing him at safety when they had injuries there."
  • Scout No. 3: "Julio is awesome. He's so tough. He fractured his hand and played better after he had pins in his hand."
  • Scout No. 4: "Julio is a great kid. You like to be around him."
Julio Jones Career Stats

In case you have not been paying attention, Clowney has not received the same types of reviews. Even the evaluators who are enamored with him have questions about his commitment.

An NFC college scouting director who said he would take Clowney with the first pick also acknowledged he thinks he is immature and did not apply himself. He believes part of the reason Clowney had only three sacks in 2013 is he came to camp out of shape.

Whoever drafts Clowney in the NFL will need a strong coaching staff that holds him accountable to a greater degree than his college coaching staff did, he said. He thinks Clowney also will need help handling distractions from hangers-on and guidance on marketing and public relations issues.

Teams always want a sure thing with the first overall pick. But to pay the premium price required in a trade-up, a general manager needs to see impeccable football character in addition to off-the-charts physical ability. The risk factor must be minimal.

"If you trade up for a player and he turns out to be a turd, the reaction is you didn't do your homework and you shouldn't have done the deal," the NFC exec said.

So don't be surprised if no team takes this cheese.

NFL Confidential

• Another under-the-radar draft prospect who teams could be jockeying for is tight end Eric Ebron. The North Carolina product has the ability to be a top-10 pick, in the estimation of several front-office men.

But he might slip past the top 10 because some teams don't want to take a tight end that high. So the word going around is teams in the low teens or even high 20s could make a move for Ebron if he slides a bit. Candidates to move up for him are the Jets, Dolphins, Cardinals and Packers.

• One of the reasons Indiana receiver Cody Latimer's stock has risen in the estimation of some teams is he has come across wonderfully in interviews. As Latimer has met with individual teams, his toughness and strength of character have stood out.

His personality is rare for a wide receiver. One front-office man said Latimer has the type of character that can help give a receiver room and even an offense an identity.

• Chris Borland of Wisconsin may be the best pure 4-3 middle linebacker in the draft (if C.J. Mosley is considered an outside linebacker). Borland might not be the first drafted, though.

There have been questions about his height (shy of 6'0"), arm length (29 1/4") and speed (4.83 40-yard dash), but none of those issues are as problematical as a bad shoulder.

Sources say multiple teams have downgraded Borland because of his medical file. In 2010, he missed all but two games with a shoulder injury, and some doctors fear the shoulder will become an issue again. He has had two shoulder surgeries.

• Team executives and league officials are expected to discuss expanding the playoff field at the league meetings later this month. Going to 14 teams seems inevitable, but the league may stick with 12 playoff teams this year.

The reasoning? According to one team president, the league won't expand the playoffs unless the television networks give them the incentive to do so. Playoff expansion is all about negotiations with the networks and how much more money the league can make, and it won't happen unless the price is right.

• The Seahawks had no hesitation about making Earl Thomas the highest-paid safety in league history last week in part because they saw him take his commitment to a higher level over the last year. This new contract was about more than how well Thomas played.

Seahawks sources say Thomas, taking a cue from quarterback Russell Wilson, began working harder than ever last offseason. And then the way he prepared for each opponent during the season stood out. The best part? Thomas' work ethic was contagious, as others played follow the leader.

Scout Talk

In a three-horse race at offensive tackle, Taylor Lewan has been running third since the starting gun went off. But with the finish line in sight, he's gaining on Jake Matthews and Greg Robinson.

Some even think he could catch them. It seems unlikely, but it seemed unlikely at this point last year that Eric Fisher would be taken ahead of Luke Joeckel.

What's happening is NFL teams are looking for a sure thing, and Lewan has one significant advantage over Matthews and Robinson: He played in a pro-style offense last season. Very few of the top offensive line prospects have that advantage.

"The guy who played in the most pro-style of the top guys is Lewan, and he's flying up," said an offensive line coach.

Offensive linemen in college spread offenses aren't asked to do many of the things they will be asked to do in the NFL. So there is a projection aspect in the evaluation process, and the unknown makes some evaluators uneasy.

"The comments I've heard from coaches and personnel people is this guy is only doing two or three things in the spread," the coach said. "When teams are picking an offensive lineman high, they get nervous."

In the spread, offensive linemen are in wide splits and two-point stances. They usually are just position-blocking and not trying to get movement on defenders. "They just are occupying space," is how one college scouting director put it. "It can be a hard conversion," he said.

In Matthews' case, this has led some evaluators to question if he is explosive enough.

What helps him is he played for two years in Mike Sherman's West Coast scheme at Texas A&M before Kevin Sumlin arrived in 2012. So scouts can go back and look at tape from Matthews' first two seasons and see him do more of the things he'll be doing in the NFL.

Lewan actually played in a spread for most of his career at Michigan until Brady Hoke changed the scheme last season. The last impression is the one that matters most, though. He is seen as a safe bet at left tackle, much as Fisher was one year ago.

Robinson, meanwhile, was used in a run-oriented read offense at Auburn. The concern, according to scouts, is he may have trouble with traditional pass protection because he has done so little of it.

A second college scouting director pointed out that more NFL teams are using zone-blocking schemes, and it's easier for those teams to project spread offensive linemen. But the prospects NFL teams are most comfortable with are the ones who have already been doing what they will be asked to do moving forward.

Hot Reads

• The fact Jadeveon Clowney hasn't always worked hard isn't as big a problem as the fact he believes he has.

• With Redskins coach Jay Gruden thinking and talking very logically, it appears the read option's 15 minutes are almost up.

• Eagles coach Chip Kelly told The Philadelphia Inquirer's Zach Berman that DeSean Jackson's release was "purely a football decision." Because, apparently the Eagles do not need wide receivers who can run faster than anyone else on the field, catch 82 passes for 1,332 yards and go to three Pro Bowls in five years.

• Kelly also told CSN Philadelphia's Geoff Mosher that Johnny Manziel "broke my heart" when Manziel backed out of a commitment to play for him at Oregon. Some think Jerry Jones is planning on having Manziel break Kelly's heart twice a season from now on.

• As a blues singer, Peyton Manning has a great future as a quarterback. But you have to love the effort.

• Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman told the Charlotte Observer's Joseph Person that he may go hunting for a "blue goose" ("a guy that can help right now") in the draft. Don't be surprised if he is off target and bags a wide receiver.

Dan Pompei covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.


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