Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Is Jadeveon Clowney Worth The #1 Pick?

Although Johnny Manziel is still number 1 in college sports in terms of making headlines on and off the field i never would have thought someone could actually challenge him and take some of the spotlight off of him. Think about it. Other than Johnny flashing money at Rice Owl defenders, Johnny Football has been on the straight and narrow ever since the season started. Sure he had the "confrontation" with coach Kevin Sumlin but that seemed to me like it was blown out of proportion. Coach Sumlin does not seem like someone you want to back talk to no matter if you are the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. The man who has challenged Johnny Football in the college football headlines this year has been the University of South Carolina's stud defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. It's ironic that he forced himself into this conversation of most talked about college player because of his play on the field and nowadays it seems like people only talk about the kid for his perceived lack of play on the field. For someone who is talked about a whole lot he must have some type of ability that draws people in to want to watch his every move. But is he worth all the hype? Not only is he worth all the hype currently but is he worth all the hype as an NFL prospect. That is what i will attempt to answer as you guys read this. Is he for real or is he a fabrication of this one play?

Before this one play, Jadeveon Clowney was already someone that opposing college coaches feared. They knew the physical talent that Clowney had and were forced to gameplan accordingly. There was a reason that he was the Number 1 prospect coming out of high school. He stands 6'6 and weighs 274 pounds of muscle. If you were creating a defensive end on Madden, this is the type of player that would come out. That year, Clowney had set the school record for sacks in a single season as a sophmore so he was already on his way to becoming a star but that hit on January 1, 2013 made Mr. Clowney a superstar. After that highlight was shown approximately 4 billion times on ESPN Clowneymania was in full effect. Stories came about his early life came about, interviews were to be conducted, he got to walk the red carpet at the ESPY's and won the award for best play later that night. Think about that, how many times does a college defensive end get to walk the red carpet at the ESPY's (not saying it's prestigious or anything but you get the point). He was second in popularity in all of college sports behind reigning Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel. And he was probably the most liked college athlete because he didn't do any of the antics Manziel did off the field. Once again, how often is a defensive end in the argument for most popular college athlete? Trey Burke won player of the year in basketball and wasn't as talked about as Clowney. Other than Manziel, the only other college athlete to get as much pub as Clowney was Kevin Ware of Louisville and that is because he had the most gruesome injury possibly ever seen on TV (God bless his soul btw, great testament to the kid's character that he is going to play again). I keep bringing up the point of how rare it is for someone like Clowney to be receiving all the pub because it shows just how special the kid not only is but has the chance to be and people like ESPN were capitalizing on it. ESPN has the features on him, they write articles on him, and seemingly talk about him at least once a week on First Take. But is he worth all the hype? If we just look at the statistics from this year then no he is not. But that is being super lazy and ignorant so let's not do that.

So here are some basic stats. After six games the South Carolina Gamecocks stand at 5-1. Jadeveon has played in only 5 of the games this year sitting one out with a ribs injury which i am sure Steve Spurrier would be all too thrilled in telling you about if you asked him. Clowney himself has 14 total tackles on the year, 9 of them of the solo variety. He has 3 tackles for a loss (meaning he tackled the ball carrier before they reached the line of scrimmage), and has 2 sacks. Not exactly once in a generation talent type numbers. But like i said, looking at those stats is lazy and ignorant. What you have to do is look at the film. Now i'm not going to sit here and pretend like i've been watching their games all year because in reality i have only seen the opener against North Carolina. In that game, my eyes were solely focused on number 7 the whole game. He did not come out of the game with any flashy stats but that was not his fault. The North Carolina gameplan was all about either running to the opposite side of Clowney or throwing the ball before Clowney could even get any momentum towards the QB. There is no way a pass rusher can have an impact on the game when the opposition's entire offensive gameplan was made to neutralize any effect they could possibly have on the game. Even when North Carolina tried those quick passes Clowney still got several pressures on the quarterback forcing errant throws. But for some reason, after the game he was subject the criticism and analysts were talking about how he is a facade and this and that. The biggest knock they had on him was conditioning. That's how you know none of those analysts played sports because they would have known that you are not in your best shape in the 1ST GAME OF THE SEASON. Not only was it the 1ST GAME OF THE SEASON but the humidity was off the charts because it was still a summer night in South Carolina. I have never been to South Carolina in the summer or the South in general but typing the words "summer night in South Carolina" made me sweat. So now Clowney's talent was not the topic of discussion, it was his desire.

That whole desire topic is a lot more concerning than talent could be. You could have all the talent in the world but if you lack desire than it is useless  *cough Jamarcus Russell cough.* And it can easily work the other way around. There is no way that Wes Welker should have 800 receptions but he does. Personally i think the lack of desire talk is a load of bs. First of all, we don't know what is going on in Clowney's head so it's wrong for us to tell everyone in the world what he is thinking when no one talks to him other than those close to him. You could say you can read his body language out there on the field but i don't think it is a lack of desire. I think it is more frustration than anything. For a player who is athletically superior to anyone he lines up across and has proven to be able to do anything he wants, he hasn't been able to do anything this season through no fault of his own. That can get frustrating when you are touted as the next big thing in a sport but are rendered helpless because opposing teams are scared of you. That actually should make the Clowney narrative grow stronger rather than ripping the kid.

However, the one thing that i did not like about Clowney this year was him sitting out the Kentucky game with a rib injury. I understand if your ribs are hurt it's hard to breathe. Playing in a football game no doubt makes it worse. On the otherside, i would have to believe there were players both on South Carolina and Kentucky playing in that same game with far worse boo boos than young Jadeveon. That was strictly a business move which he has the right to make. Coming in to the year he was the projected #1 overall pick in next year's draft and when you are projected to go that high your stock can only go down which we were all witnessing happen to him. He did not want his stock to drop any further with a sub par game against against Kentucky, which if you don't know is labeled as a basketball school for a reason. Although i guess i am contradicting myself because i am not in Clowney's head i am calling it how i see it. Just like how i said his "lack of desire" is actually frustration building up. I don't know if that is true, that is just my opinion based on what i see. This rib injury incident is concerning for teams looking to draft him because they do not know if he is going to pull the same stuff at the next level. Is he going to put his status over the good of the team. It sounds like a douchebag thing to say that i'm criticizing him for wanting to make sure he is 100% healed before coming back to play but it's not a torn ACL he was dealing with, shout out to Philip Rivers. It's not a concussion. It's not a broken face, shout out to Anquan Boldin. His ribs were hurt. I would gladly take a Clowney with hurt ribs playing versus whoever his backup is, no disrespect. When you are portrayed as a Hercules with an Adonis body, it doesn't look good to sit out a conference game against Kentucky with some hurt ribs. But again, in my opinion he was protecting his investment of himself. A business decision.

frequent Clowney comparison

With all that being said do I think he is still the best player in the upcoming draft? Of course. I truly believe Jadeveon Clowney is a once in a generation talent. Keeping in mind that he is playing against college players, it is still remarkable how he can truly dominate at times. He throws 300 pound offensive linemen to the side like a bully. He wants his lunch and he isn't going to stand in line for it. They compare him most to Mario Williams and Julius Peppers because of the kind of athlete he is and we know how good they are. The thing i want to know is can Clowney continue to develop the fundamentals to reach his athletic potential. He is about to go to the NFL where even Julius Peppers and Mario Williams can't dominate every game. His athleticism is going to deteriorate at one point or another so can he be a force in the run game? Can he stop the zone blocking schemes? Can he keep his discipline on the read option? Can he work around NFL double teams and people like Frank Gore looking to blow him up in the backfield because he won't be forced to beat the chip block of a 5'10, 190 pound 3 star recruit out of Whosville, Mississippi. I believe he will because every athlete has the need to prove the naysayers wrong and with the help of NFL coaching, Jadeveon Clowney can turn any perceived question marks into strengths just like that. I said Clowney is the best player in the draft but does that necessarily make him the #1 overall pick.

I'm going to take a look at the Number 1 overall picks taken since the year 2001 and they go as follows:

another Clowney comparison
2001: Michael Vick, QB Atlanta
2002: David Carr, QB Houston
2003: Carson Palmer, QB Cincinnati
2004: Eli Manning, QB New York Giants
2005: Alex Smith, QB San Francisco
2006: Mario Williams, DE Houston
2007: Jamarcus LOL Russell, QB Oakland
2008: Jake Long, OL Miami
2009: Matt Stafford, QB Detroit
2010: Sam Bradford, QB St. Louis
2011: Cam Newton, QB Carolina
2012: Andrew Luck, QB Indianapolis
2013: Eric Fisher, OL Kansas City

There is a pattern going on here and that pattern has to do with the position of Quarterback. Every single number 1 pick since 2001 was selected either to quarterback the team to the Super Bowl, protect the quarterback, or sack the quarterback. That shows how much value is placed at the quarterback position. Mario Williams was the only defensive player selected number one in that time span and he did not help Houston make any noise in the playoffs. They made it there one year out of the six he was there and they were bounced in the first round. Looking at that list actually is pretty sad because the only team to actually get Super Bowl victories with their number 1 pick is the New York Giants, and they acquired him in a draft day trade with San Diego. The only teams that I would say are currently happy with the selections that they made are the Giants, Carolina, and Indianapolis. Every other team sort of whiffed. But that goes to show not only how much of a gamble that the Draft is every year but how important scouting is. The best player taken in the 2011 draft was selected at #11 and that is JJ Watt. Although the 2011 draft is turning out to be one of the most successful in history, I have a hard time believing JJ Watt would not be a top 3 pick if it was re done. Just because Jadeveon Clowney is a freaky, once in a generation type talent does not mean he should be the first overall pick. Look at how the New York Giants won their two super bowls. Obviously Eli Manning had A LOT to do with it but the constant pressure they were able to force on Tom Brady by using just their front four was something every team dreams of. Correct me if I am wrong, but on those two championship winning teams, I believe the only first round D-linemen were Michael Strahan and Jason Pierre-Paul. And both if you were wondering, neither was selected first overall in their draft class.

After establishing the whiffs known as the number 1 draft picks let's take a look at recent Super Bowl Winners:

2013: Baltimore Ravens, Joe Flacco MVP
2012: New York Giants, Eli Manning MVP
2011: Green Bay Packers, Aaron Rodgers MVP
2010: New Orleans Saints, Drew Brees MVP
2009: Pittsburgh Steelers, Santonio Holmes MVP

I just took a smaller sample size over the last five years but I think you get the point. The last five Super Bowl MVP's have been offensive players and four out of the five have been quarterbacks. We hear all the time from analysts that this is a quarterback driven league and it has never been more true. To win the Super Bowl, you need to have elite play from the quarterback position. That doesn't mean they need to be elite, see Joe Flacco, but they need to be playing at an elite level. The last team to win the Super Bowl without elite play from the quarterback position was the 05-06 Steelers when they had second year Ben Roethlisberger leading them over the Seattle Seahawks. When you look at Pittsburgh's opponent you can see why they did not need Big Ben to be elite. My point is that the quarterback position is far more valuable to winning a championship than a game changing defensive end. A defensive end can be a part of a strong defensive effort but they won't be the sole reason a team wins a Super Bowl. The only time i have ever seen a defensive linemen take over a game with a championship at stake was when Nick Fairley was toying with the Oregon offensive line while at Auburn during the 2011 Natty. And he was a defensive tackle and not a pass rusher. Like I said before, an elite pass rusher can be completely neutralized but a quarterback is touching the ball on every play.

no one knows if the Raiders see Pryor as the future

Let's look right now at the teams in running for the top pick of next year's draft. First we have the sorry sight that is the Jacksonville Jaguars. Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert are not anyone's answer at Quarterback. I feel like they take a QB with the top pick because they desperately need one. Your more likely to find an elite pass rusher later in the draft than you would a QB. Tampa Bay could end up with that pick too. I'm assuming Greg Schiano is going to be fired because he shouldn't be an NFL coach and that means a new regime would be coming in. That new regime probably is not high on Mike Glennon because no one is high on Mike Glennon other than Greg Schiano. I predict they would take a QB over Clowney. If the New York Giants somehow end up with the top pick the only reason they don't take Clowney is because their offensive line is that bad. Eli Manning is not going anywhere and the franchise has shown a knack for reloading that d-line. There is potential there for them to take Clowney though because i feel like his talent trumps that of any of the offensive lineman that will be available. The Raiders are in a tough place. Terrelle Pryor is for sure showing progress as a Quarterback but no one really knows what his ceiling is. We all can see the potential but no one knows if he will ever reach it. So if they end up with the top pick, the question will be whether or not they believe in Pryor as the QB of the future. If they believe in him they take Clowney. If they don't believe in Pryor then they take a QB. Or maybe since it is a deep QB class, they take Clowney first overall, hope that Pryor continues to develop, and take a QB in the later rounds but that is very risky too. That's why i'm not paid to make these decisions. It will be interesting to see next April (or did they move the draft to May already) how much value teams see in Jadeveon Clowney.

So in conclusion, although i do believe Jadeveon Clowney to be not only the best player in the upcoming draft but a once in a generation type talent, i do not believe he should be the first overall selection in the upcoming draft. It depends though on which team is drafting first overall however like i said before. If a team truly believes Clowney will help their team get a championship more so than Terry Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota (assuming the two come out early), Jake Matthews, or Taylor Lewan than yes whoever is picking first should take him. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But this is a quarterback driven league and if you don't take a QB first in next years potentially loaded quarterback classes you better either have a QB established on your team, are highly confident you can find a QB in later rounds, really like Clowney that much, or really don't like any of the QB's that much. And if anyone was wondering, which i am sure you're not, I would right now take Marcus Mariota number 1 overall.

Mariota from Oregon

Starlito and Don Trip

Run The Jewels

No comments:

Post a Comment