But the biggest question of the Atlanta Falcons’ offseason isn’t whether they are going to be toughened up, but whether or not they are going to pull the trigger and trade for South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
And as I wrote back in February, the answer comes down to whether the Falcons feel that they are one potentially dominant pass-rusher away from being back in the Super Bowl hunt versus their desire to plug a number of holes.
But by moving up for Clowney, there is no doubt that the Falcons will suffer some negative consequences in some way, which will be losing the potential to fill multiple roster spots rather than solidifying one.
Ultimately the key to making the Clowney trade worthwhile may not be about what he would bring to the team. From my eyes, Clowney is the “safest” player in this draft.
There is no such thing as a truly safe prospect, as that word connotes a guarantee of success. One just has to look at past “slam dunks” such as Robert Gallery, Trent Richardson or Aaron Curry to know that every draft pick is some form of a gamble.
But Clowney is of such a singular talent, the chances that he busts is pretty low. Certainly not impossible, but low. But there is no guarantee that he will become the dominant player that many expect him to be. Mario Williams is an example of a very good NFL player, but he’s not a dominator. Per premium website Pro Football Focus, only twice in the past six years has he graded out among the top 10 at his position group, either 4-3 defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker, as far as their pass-rush grades go. That’s the same number of times that Ray Edwards has in that span.
I’m not suggesting that Williams and Edwards are on the same level with that statement, just indicating that Williams is not on a level with players like John Abraham, DeMarcus Ware or Cameron Wake in that they consistently dominate over multiple seasons.
Clowney could have a long, productive career and not be the transcendent player that he’s expected to be. Or he could completely blow away all expectations and achieve greatness. And that’s the gamble of the draft.