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Tuesday, February 25, 2014
What's next step with Falcons, Clowney?

By Vaughn McClure

A day has gone by since South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney wowed the nation by running the 40 in 4.53 seconds at the NFL combine. He also posted a 37.5-inch vertical. But the buzz around the 6-foot-5, 266-pound Clowney is sure to continue up until Day 1 of the NFL draft on May 8.

For the Falcons, the next step in the process is figuring out whether the speed and athleticism Clowney displayed at the combine were enough to entice them to follow through and trade up to get him. They currently sit with the sixth overall pick, and general manager Thomas Dimitroff continues to reiterate his openness to trading up.

There seems to be mutual interest. Clowney told me at the combine that he wished the Falcons could trade up for him. I didn’t ask him if he wanted the Falcons to trade up for him. He volunteered that after I asked him what he thought of the Falcons, in general.

Two days before I spoke to Clowney, Falcons coach Mike Smith spoke about how anxious everyone was to watch Clowney work out. And Dimitroff emphasized the importance of finding out more about Clowney's character.

One can bet the Falcons have met with Clowney behind closed doors by now. They have an idea of whether the kid is motivated to live up to his potential. They know if he’ll eat and breathe football or if he’ll just be content to go through the motions.

The Falcons are unlikely to be scared away by Clowney’s mere 21 reps on the bench press. Of course, his strength up front will be important. He can work on that. More than anything, he just needs to be able to get to the quarterback, whether he pushes offensive linemen around or not.

Other outside factors will determine whether the Falcons truly consider investing in Clowney. First and foremost, there is an outside chance of landing a solid pass-rusher in free agency, not to say that’s the top priority. One never knows what players might be released as cap casualties to add to the free-agent pool.

In terms of the draft itself, the Falcons could fall in love with a player such as Buffalo outside linebacker Khalil Mack, a player who seems likely to be available if they keep the sixth overall pick.

And, of course, it’s a matter of how much it will cost the Falcons to move up in the draft. Dimitroff surrendered five draft picks to move up for game-changing receiver Julio Jones a few years back.

However this all unfolds, there will be plenty of intrigue. When Clowney next performs at South Carolina’s pro day on April 2, it’s sure to generate even more buzz.