The first pick of the 2014 NFL Draft has officially occurred, and South Carolina defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney indeed was selected first overall by the Houston Texans. Meaning, of course, that the Colts will have to play the duo of Clowney and J.J. Watt twice a year.
Clowney was well aware of that fact yesterday and when asked what it would mean for Andrew Luck, he said:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>J. Clowney, on what being top pick wud mean for Andrew Luck: "He better have his head on a swivel, because I'm coming & I know JJ's coming."</p>— Sam Farmer (@LATimesfarmer) <a href="https://twitter.com/LATimesfarmer/statuses/464438559416778752">May 8, 2014</a></blockquote>
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Not only is Clowey expecting to be one of the best in the game today, he thinks he can compare to one of the bests to ever play the game at all, Lawrence Taylor. Said Clowney:
"I think I can do what he did - run around a lot of guys, make a lot of plays, even though you can't hit like they were hitting back then. I watched him do some hits and he was trying to kill people, take their heads off. You can't hit like that no more, so you have to do it the right way... He ran through them. I'll be like, I'm going to go out here and run through somebody like LT."
Those comparisons may seem ridiculous, but it seemed pretty clear that Clowney was the number one player in the draft and has been for over a year. The fact that the Texans selected Clowney does indeed mean that the pairing of him and J.J. Watt will be one that keeps an offensive line busy.
For the Colts, that's always a concern. Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus should be fine on the outside, but on the inside of the line there are question marks. Donald Thomas should start at left guard and he played well there in limited time last year, but at center and right guard it looks like Khaled Holmes and Hugh Thornton will start, and it remains to be seen whether that will work out.
Watt is without question one of the best defenders (and best overall players) in the entire National Football League, and in his three seasons in the league he has racked up 217 tackles, 36.5 sacks, 8 forced fumbles, 5 fumble recoveries, 27 pass deflections, and 3 blocked kicks. In 2012, he was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year while notching 20.5 sacks. Clowney, who said that he considers Watt to be like a role model, is also an incredibly talented player who can make plays like this one. According to the NFL.com scouting report on him,
STRENGTHS Looks every bit the part with long arms (big wingspan) and large hands. Athletic marvel with raw explosive power and rare speed for his size. Is physically tough and will battle through injuries. Can collapse the corner with ease and rag-dolls blockers. Highly disruptive -- creates a lot of pressure and flushes production to his teammates. Can split the double team and closes in a hiccup. Plays with leverage and power in his hands -- converts speed into power and bulls blockers into the backfield. Disrupts a quarterback's vision with long arms and can bat down balls. Seldom leaves the field. Flashes playmaking ability and can produce athletic feats in a category with few others before him. Posted a 37 1/2-inch vertical jump and 10-foot-4 broad jump at the combine. Versatile -- lines up everywhere along the line and can win with strength, power, quickness and speed. Has the personality of a pleaser and does not like to disappoint coaches or teammates. Exceptional pro day positional workout, showing rare speed, athletic ability, bend and explosion for a man his size.
WEAKNESSES Is more thinly built in the lower body. Inconsistent technician. Has a tendency to play tall. Down-to-down effort lacks consistency. Lacks discipline on and off the field and has had to be managed closely since he arrived on campus. Needs to learn what it means to be a pro. Plays in spurts and is too much of a flash player -- does not consistently dominate like he could. Is still immature and finding his way -- too much of a follower.
DRAFT PROJECTION Round 1 (top 10)
BOTTOM LINE A physical specimen with a rare size-speed combination, Clowney was not as impactful as a junior while playing through injuries and being forced to deal with opposing offenses that fully accounted for him with extra chip protection. Was a 20-year-old junior affected by turnover on the defensive coaching staff. Could benefit tremendously from a stable positional coach and strong, veteran mentor on the defensive line who will hold him accountable, show him the way and serve as a father figure. Is one of the most unique talents in the draft and could easily be a double-digit sack producer in the pros from either end. Is every bit worthy of the first overall pick and will immediately upgrade a defensive line and improve the production of those around him.
There's no doubt that, like Clowney said, Andrew Luck will have quite a test in the duo of Clowney and Watt. But honestly, while the Texans got the draft's best player in Jadeveon Clowney, they won't be winning many football games until they get a quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, and T.J. Yates won't do it. I fully expect the Texans to grab a quarterback with or before their 33rd overall pick in the second round. Because while facing Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt twice a year might be scary, facing a franchise quarterback twice a year is even scarier.