2014 NFL draft: S&BP staff take on Jadeveon Clowney

Scott Cunningham

In the second segment of the series, our staff writers debate whether Jadeveon Clowney is the right pick for Oakland at No. 5.

In part two of our series breaking down the players Oakland could potentially draft with the fifth pick, we turn our attention to the player unanimously agreed upon to be the best player in the draft: Jadeveon Clowney.

Of course, most people reading this article who come to have a problem with it will probably be in agreement upon one thing: the idea that Clowney could still be available at No. 5.

As we mentioned in our first piece breaking down Johnny Manziel, the assumption in this series is that Oakland stays at No. 5. That means no trading down will be assumed, but in the case of Clowney, it also means no trading up (which is incredibly unlikely anyways given Oakland's wide array of needs).

In short, I'd like to make the case for why Clowney could, miraculously, still be around for the fifth pick.

For starters, the Houston Texans are just one season removed from being one of the best teams in football. How they went from the top to the bottom remains rather mysterious, but one thing is certain: they're in better shape than just about anyone who has ever had the No. 1 pick. With that in mind, the biggest thing separating them from greatness isn't another defensive player but a quarterback.

While I've argued that Oakland should pass on a QB due to the numerous holes on their roster, the same argument doesn't necessarily apply to Houston. If they see a quarterback they like, they'll likely grab him.

The No. 2 pick is obviously a mystery because many believe the Rams will trade the pick. Will someone trade up for Clowney? It's possible, but the more likely scenario is someone trading up for a quarterback for fear on missing out on the top-end talent.

At No. 3 and 4 are Jacksonville and Cleveland, two more teams in desperate need of a quarterback (among other things). Now, surely, it's impossible to assume all four teams ahead of Oakland will take quarterbacks, but my point is simple: while unlikely, I think the chances of Clowney being available at No. 5 are higher than 0%.

How much higher? Who knows.

Now on to the analysis:

Jeff Spiegel (@jeffspiegel) — Draft him

The easy answer here would be to simply say, "he's the best player in the draft, this is a no-brainer."

Now, assuming I've said that and gotten it out of the way, let me move on to my larger point: the unbelievable importance of a pass rush. In fact, to prove this point I have to go no further than last weekend's Super Bowl and Seattle's dismantling of arguably the greatest offense in NFL history.

When talking about the game, a friend turned to me with the common line, "it looked like Seattle had 14 guys on defense the whole game." While surely joking, the reason reality seemed like that was because of Seattle's unbelievable ability to put pressure on Peyton Manning with just four pass rushers.

While most teams would have 5-6 players in the defensive backfield, Seattle had seven on almost every play. In a sense, they did have more players on the field!

The reason they could do this was because their defensive line created so much pressure that receivers had less time to get open and less time to get down-field. Yes, Seattle had some of the best defensive backs in the league, but a good pass rush could make any corners look like shut-down guys. (Okay, maybe not any corners).

My point is this: a better quarterback would make Oakland a lot better, yes. The bad news, however, is that quarterback doesn't exist in this draft. On the flip side, a formidable pass rush would make Oakland's defense light years better — and that pass rusher is in this draft. Now it's just a matter of if he falls to them.

Levi Damien (@LeviDamien) —Draft him

Jadeveon Clowney is thought by many to be the best player in this draft at any position and he is arguably the most dominating pass rusher we've seen coming out of college in quite some time. The questions surround his work ethic, as he has been accused of taking plays off and was criticized for the way he announced he was entering the draft (in a post-game field interview immediately following his team's bowl game).

The retort argument to both of these criticisms would be a) We don't really know when he is taking a play off. It could be he was asked not to over pursue and stay at home to protect the edge. And b) His announcement was simply being honest about something everybody already knew.

He could have said the usual "I have to speak to my family... I just want to enjoy this win right now..." jargon but he didn't. It's the same thing we criticize Richard Sherman for and he's pretty good. Oh yeah, and Clowney likes to drive fast. That one may actually be the most scary in light of the Thomas Howard accident that took his life a few months ago.

What it comes down to is a team's willingness to pass up a player with the potential to be one of the best pass rushers in the game for somewhat minor character concerns. No way. He is going in the top five for sure. Could be top two.

Marcus Allen Krause — Draft him

Monster. That is all I can think when I see Jadeveon Clowney. That type of physical freak is a once in a generation player and if he just had the head to go with it he would be the unquestioned top pick this year.

Unfortunately, he has red flags galore with a sub-par senior year effort wise, but that could be from facing double and triple teams all year. Clowney clearly knew he could go at half speed and still be a top 10 pick and it definitely appeared like that was how he played. He is a risky pick because of the effort concerns, but I don't think effort will be a problem once he is officially a millionaire. His attributes are off the charts physically and the Raiders are desperate for a guy like him to hit quarterbacks for them. I think his physical traits are too much to pass up on so if he is there I do think they should draft him. The only player I would pass him up for is Jake Matthews, the left tackle from Texas A&M.

RDreamer (@RaiderDamus) — Draft him

I've known about Clowney since his senior year of high school, when he was the top overall recruit in the country out of Rock Hill, South Carolina. Normally a mid-tier SEC program like South Carolina doesn't land recruits like him, but he grew up in their back yard, so Steve Spurrier wasn't about to let him get away.

Clowney has been seen as a generational talent for around five years now. There have never been any questions about his size, talent or ability. He is much larger than what is considered ideal size for a defensive end, he is much faster than what is considered ideal speed and his wingspan is enough to keep even the lengthiest tackles at bay.

The questions surrounding him have been those of motor, injury history and character. While those do have the potential to be extremely serious, they are matters of poor personal judgement on his part and he is only 20 years old. It's not like he beat up a cop in a bar.

Clowney's motor was, for me, somewhat hard to gauge. First of all, whenever I saw him play he was attacked by two or three offensive linemen and often a tight end as well. When a player has that many linemen against him, he's usually stymied no matter how good he is and it's hard to see how energetic he is on a consistent basis.

Furthermore, when faced with a combined 850 pounds of resistance on every play, it's natural for Clowney to pick up some nagging injuries. Still, Clowney affected the game on every single play he was on the field, whether by reputation (meaning the offense allocated an inordinate amount of resources toward blocking him) or by actually making the play. On a team like, say, Houston, Clowney's mere presence would mean J.J. Watt would not be double-teamed and neither would Antonio Smith. That would spell absolute disaster for any team trying to keep their backfield uncluttered, as there is not a single offensive line in the league which could keep all three of those guys contained on any given play.

It's for that reason I think the Texans might go with Clowney first overall and get a quarterback later, assuming they don't see Case Keenum as a long-term solution. For the Raiders, he would drastically improve the team's pass rush across the board and solidify the team's defensive line for years. His impact would be akin to what Jevon Kearse brought the Titans or what Michael Strahan brought the Giants. I would love to see him in Silver and Black but it would be a minor miracle for him to last all the way to No. 5 in the draft even with some QB-needy teams at 1 through 4. If Houston passes on Clowney, I'm guessing some team (probably Atlanta) will try to trade with the Rams at No. 2.

(Note: this story has been edited, as it originally said Clowney had been arrested for multiple DUIs, but that was untrue).

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