Turns out, all the chatter surrounding Houston's No. 1 pick was sound and fury ultimately signifying nothing. The Texans used that first pick on South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, the player who entered the 2013 college football season as this draft's clear No. 1 prospect -- and who re-established himself there in the build-up to Thursday night.
Whether the Texans had any real offers on the table to move down from No. 1, they eventually turned their full attention to Clowney above any of this class' quarterbacks or potentially elite offensive tackles, such as Jake Matthews and Greg Robinson.
By doing so, Houston turned its pass rush into one of the league's most fearsome units.
Strengths: An imposing figure, with strength and size to match his speed. Because of that combination, Clowney can keep tackles and tight ends guessing as to how he will attack. When he gets a step around the edge, even the most agile blockers will find it difficult to recover before he disrupts the pocket. When opponents are in solid position, Clowney can extend his arms, drive his legs and power his way where he wants to go. As the blow-up of Vincent Smith proved, Clowney will lower the boom if he gets the chance -- that goes for unaware quarterbacks as well as running backs.
Though dropping him in at a DE spot and leaving him alone might be tempting, Clowney did perform well from various positions up front. He definitely has the strength to drop down inside on pass-rushing downs for a team with multiple outside threats. Much like J.J. Watt, Clowney has the awareness and the length to disrupt aerial attacks even when he cannot break through the line.
Has the athleticism to chase down plays from the backside. Also will be better dropping in coverage than most people expect, should he be tasked with that challenge.
Weaknesses: The concerns regarding his motor and conditioning are overblown, but Clowney can run on fumes at times, which was especially noticeable early in the season versus up-tempo offenses. Rather than come off the field when he was fatigued, Clowney appeared to ease up — thus making himself an easy blocking assignment.
Linebacker skills will need work. Right now, he could handle the most basic of those duties but could be exposed if he somehow winds up in space against a RB or TE. Not going to make many plays on the ball if he’s not at the line (though, the same could be said for most DE-types).
Mentally, can he handle the expectations?
The Texans still need to answer their quarterback questions. (Will a rumored trade for Ryan Mallett get the job done there?) If you are picking No. 1, though, the main goal above all is to find the absolute best prospect in the draft. For all the criticisms Clowney took over his work ethic, he never truly slipped from the top spot.
Houston's offense -- and whichever player lands at QB -- will have less pressure on it in 2014 simply because of Clowney's presence alongside J.J. Watt. The Texans will be able to harass opposing backfields consistently, from a variety of spots on the field and in varied looks if they so choose. Clowney is going to be a monster in this league.
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