NFL Drafting Enigma: Who Will Take Clowney?

Jason Lake

Monday, May 5, 2014 2:10 PM GMT

As the 2014 NFL season approaches, everyone's eyes are on DE Jadeveon Clowney, as he appears to be the most promising player in this year’s draft. We leave no stone unturned when providing this free draft prop pick.

NFL Gossip: Texans Trading Down?
The Houston Texans were last year’s biggest losers in NFL betting. They need a quarterback, but Jadeveon Clowney is the best player available in this week’s draft. Will the Texans trade their No. 1 pick?

It’s the classic NFL Draft conundrum: Pick the best player available, or fill the neediest position on your roster? All 32 teams will have to answer this question when this year’s draft kicks off Thursday night (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN and NFLN) from Radio City Music Hall in New York City. No team finds itself at more of a crossroads than the Houston Texans, owners of the No. 1 pick by virtue of their league-worst record, both straight up and against the NFL lines (2-14 SU, 4-12 ATS). What will their answer be?

 

Drowny for Clowney
There’s little debate over the identity of the most promising player in this year’s draft. DE Jadeveon Clowney is the No. 1-ranked prospect across the board after three seasons with the South Carolina Gamecocks. Clowney has just about everything you could possibly hope for: size (6-foot-5, 265 pounds), speed (4.53 40-yard dash) and elite-level skills, both against the rush and the pass. 

The only concern with Clowney is his demeanor. Scouts worry about an inflated ego and a lack of discipline – not to mention an inconsistent effort in 2013 after being named SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2012. But aside from a pair of speeding tickets, Clowney has no record of getting in trouble off the field. There haven’t been enough red flags waved to convince teams that Clowney isn’t the top player available.

 

We Need a Pitcher
Too bad the Texans aren’t in immediate need of a defensive end. Their primary focus is on getting a quarterback to replace Matt Schaub (73.0 passer rating), who hit the wall last year, and was traded to the Oakland Raiders for a sixth-round pick. However, Clowney may still be too good to pass up; some insiders are convinced Houston will take him at No. 1 anyway, but others are convinced the Texans will trade down. 

“(Clowney’s) obviously the best player in the draft,” Texans owner Bob McNair told local station FOX 26 on Friday, “but he’s a defensive end. He’s not a quarterback. If he’s a quarterback and the best player it’s easy, but that’s not the case.” McNair and Texans GM Rick Smith have indeed been publicly shopping the pick for months to see what they can get in return. At least three teams and possibly four are said to be interested, including the Atlanta Falcons, who currently hold down the No. 6 spot in the draft.

 

1 Greg
The Falcons will be an excellent fit for Clowney if they’re willing to pony up. Like the Texans, they fell victim to the regression monsters at 4-12 SU and 7-9 ATS after winning a division title in 2012. But unlike the Texans, Atlanta is doing just fine at quarterback with Matt Ryan (89.6 passer rating). What the Falcons need is a lineman to anchor a defense that finished No. 29 in efficiency last year – and dead last on the pass rush (5.3 percent adjusted sack rate). 

If Atlanta doesn’t bite, then it’s believed the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Buffalo Bills are interested, although the Bills are coming off an excellent season on defense at No. 4 in efficiency; the Jags seem like the more likely candidate at No. 28 overall. With only a few days left to go before the draft, nobody wants to admit to having a specific plan in mind. That’s why the Falcons are also rumored to be trading up to select former Auburn Tigers OT Greg Robinson, and not Clowney.

 

Free NFL Picks: It’s enough of an enigma to keep this year’s list of NFL Draft props whittled down to a select few. Perhaps the juiciest prop available as we go to press: How many quarterbacks will be taken in Round One? 'Under' 3.5 is the chalkier option at –140. Let’s see… Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, Derrick Carr… Teddy Bridgewater? Will the former consensus No. 1 pick really slide all the way to the second round? If he doesn’t, and neither do the other guys, the 'over' will pay out at even money as your NFL Picks.