He is regarded as one of the best college football players of all time and considered to be the most talented player in the 2014 draft. With the first pick in the NFL Draft, Houston is still making a decision about who they will pick. They desperately need a quarterback, but when a potential Hall of Fame player is available, it is hard to pass him up. After Jadeveon Clowney’s pro-day, which was attended by 30 of the 32 NFL teams, the Texans head coach and executives are finally talking openly about the potential number one pick.
Houston’s owner Bob McNair (who graduated from South Carolina), GM Rick Smith, and their new head coach, Bill O’Brien, had dinner with Clowney the night before his pro-day, discussing the kind of player he could be for their team. After his pro-day O’Brien spoke about the defensive end and how he could fit into their system. O’Brien said he looked good and was very impressive. Houston’s defensive coordinator, Romeo Crennel, uses a 3-4 defensive front, meaning Clowney would have to move to the outside linebacker position if drafted. O’Brien said this is not a problem and the South Carolina product should be prepared to play in different spots. He also mentioned that they play a very versatile defensive front, using three-down fronts, even-down fronts, as well as a floater package where a player can run around and play multiple spots. Clowney impressed on his pro-day when he ran coverage drills, something he rarely did at South Carolina but may have to do more of in the NFL.
The big issue for Clowney is his work ethic. He came under fire during last season when his production went down and he did not look to be trying as hard. Steve Spurrier, his coach at South Carolina, when asked about this said his work ethic is “OK,” not bad, but not as good as some of the best, using Marcus Lattimore as an example. O’Brien did not seem bothered by Clowney’s work ethic though. He cited that 90 plays a game is a lot for any defensive end and they all get winded. Clowney also assures that his work ethic is not lacking and his decrease in production was only because his teammates got more sacks while he faced double teams. Houston was 2-14 last season, worst in the league. Rick Smith was asked if he thought Clowney was the kind of player to turn a team around, and he said yes. A player with the size, speed and instincts of Clowney can always change the course of a game. Although they are openly talking about the prospect of picking Jadeveon Clowney, there are still many questions as to who the Texans executives and head coach will ultimately select with the number one overall pick.
After trading away Matt Schaub and signing Ryan Fitzpatrick, O’Brien said it will be an open competition between Case Keenum, TJ Yates, Fitzpatrick and they fully intend to select at least one, if not more, quarterbacks in the draft. The other option for Houston to select is Heisman winning quarterback Johnny Manziel. At the scouting combine an evaluator from a different NFL team said there is no decision to be made, it is going to be Clowney. He has the most talent by far of any player, and talent always dictates the number one pick. If Houston passes on Clowney, it is likely that he will go third overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars and play Houston twice every year. When asked about this, Clowney said it would be the wrong move and if it happened he would take it personally when the two teams play. Many believe if the Texans do take the defensive end first overall and move him to outside linebacker, then he will play a role similar to Willie McGinest, which in Crenel’s defense, would be the primary pass-rusher on the field. Before the pro-day, both Crenel and O’Brien also said that J.J. Watt will be moving around a lot this year.
If Clowney does go number one overall, Houston will have one of, if not the best pass rushing core in the NFL. By selecting the defensive end, they will have two dominant pass rushers moving around and coming from all directions. If opposing teams stop one, the other is coming. If they stop both, likely with double teams, it will leave holes for other defenders to rush the line unblocked. For a team trying to quickly turn their season around, it seems an impact player is the necessary move. It will be a difficult decision regardless as the South Carolina product will make a big impact on defense and Johnny Manziel will make a big impact on offense; both players are scheduled for future work outs with Houston. O’Brien and the Texans executives maintains their decision is still wide open, but hearing them openly talk about the prospect of drafting Jadeveon Clowney first overall has begun to answer some of the nagging questions as to which way they are leaning.
Commentary by Chris Dragicevich