Monday, April 7, 2014
The Rams and the Clowney effect
By Nick Wagoner
For those looking for a potential tipping point for the St. Louis Rams in the 2014 NFL draft, look no further than South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
Widely regarded as the best player in the draft, there's a strong possibility Clowney will be drafted as such and go to the Houston Texans with the first pick. But there also remains the chance that the Texans will pass on Clowney and select a quarterback No. 1 overall.
It's too early to say which way Houston will go but much of what happens after that pick, especially for the Rams, will hinge on that decision.
In the best-case scenario for the Rams, the Texans would choose a quarterback at No. 1. It wouldn't matter which one would go so long as it leaves Clowney on the board.
Holding the No. 2 pick in the draft, the Rams would not be short on potential trade partners if Jadeveon Clowney were still available.
Simply put, having Clowney available with the second pick greatly increases the Rams' options and would go a long way toward shaping their first round and, potentially, their entire draft.
"I think it would be much better with Clowney because there is a consensus on Clowney as the best defensive end to come out in years," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. "You don’t see a Clowney but maybe every 10, 15, 20 years coming out. And that’s not an exaggeration. So he’s the guy."
First and foremost, if Clowney made it past the first pick, it would give the Rams the option of simply drafting the player that Kiper and most everyone else agrees is the best player in the draft.
While Clowney plays a position where the Rams are loaded with talent like Robert Quinn, Chris Long, William Hayes and Eugene Sims, the Rams and coach Jeff Fisher subscribe to theory that you can never be over saturated with pass-rushers.
The task of finding a way to get Clowney on the field with the other ends might prove difficult at first but it also wouldn't be asking too much. Beyond the first year, there are other factors to consider such as Quinn's coming contract negotiations.
The Rams have showed plenty of interest in Clowney, too. General manager Les Snead and defensive line coach Mike Waufle attended Clowney's pro day last week and Waufle even went so far as putting Clowney through a portion of his workout.
When Clowney was done, he told reporters that he's planning a pre-draft visit to St. Louis and expected to host the team for a private workout in South Carolina.
“I’ve learned over the years you can never have enough pass-rushers," Fisher said. "And I think not only us, but other teams that are in our situation are creative enough to find ways to get him on the field and put him in position to make plays.’’
Perhaps more important to the Rams' cause is that Clowney also represents the player teams would be most likely to move up for in a trade.
The Rams have made it clear they would be open to trading down again and though it's a quarterback that originally netted them the bounty that contained this pick, there isn't one as coveted in this year's draft.
"The quarterbacks -- some like and some don’t," Kiper said. "There’s such mixed opinion on the quarterbacks you are not going to get all these teams clamoring to move up to get a quarterback when you could end up with a bust."
If Clowney does go No. 1, be it to Houston or a team moving up to get him, the Rams would still have their choice of talented players but they'd be less likely to find a trade partner. And, if they did, the Rams would have to be willing to take less in a deal than they would for Clowney.
"If Houston does surprise -- and it would be a surprise -- and does not take him and Clowney gets to 2 then you have Quinn, you have Long and you’re going to have teams like Atlanta, I think, would be the primary one," Kiper said. "But you’d have a lot of other ones, but Atlanta would be the one that makes the most sense to move up and get Clowney from 6 to 2 and you would still be in a great spot for an offensive tackle."