With the 20th pick in this weeks draft, one of the players the Bucs may take is Adrian Clayborn (DE) from Iowa. Clayborn is a little bit of a wildcard in this years draft as some mock drafts have him going in the mid-teens and others have him closer to the end of the first round. He had a very good junior year, but his senior year was not as stellar. The issue with him appears to be his upper body strength, legal troubles and his straight ahead speed. He is projected as a right defensive end, which is why some have lessened his value. Last time I checked, both defensive ends were important, and if you have the chance to get a good defensive end prospect, why does it matter so much that it is a left defensive end?
Lots of people will tell you that the left defensive end is more important as it is on the quarterback’s blind side and that is where your best edge rush comes from as it is usually the weak side. I agree this may be important in high school, but the NFL is much more complex and there are so many formations and complex blocking and blitzing schemes that this is not as big of deal that many would like to make it. That is where Clayborn comes in, he is a excellent football player and he is a very good defensive end. When you have a good football player, you put him where he helps you the most and you let him do it. Raheem Morris understands this, and that is how he gets the most out of his defense and why Clayborn is a good prospect for the Bucs.
Clayborn has good size at 6’3” and 281 punnds. He should fare well with holding his own with 300+ lb tackles and has enough height to disrupt passing lanes and knock down a few passes here and there. His vertical jump at the combine was 33 which is good for a guy his size and will also help with deflecting passess. I could probably care less about the broad jump for a defensive end as that is just not something an NFL lineman has to do. There are much better ways to measure lower body strength and explosiveness.
Furthermore, I don’t put a tremendous amout of stock in a defensive lineman’s 40 time. I guess this is important for if they can run down someone in the open field, or play special teams, but I feel the 20 yard shuttle time is much more important. Rarely is a defensive end going to rely on straight ahead speed. It is much more important that they are explosive and can change direction without loss of that short burst of speed. This is where Clayborn excels. His 40 time was 4.83 seconds, which is average, but his 20 yeard shuttle was 4.13 which is very good. That shows he can be explosive and change direction.
Finally, a comment on bench press. For some reason, this gets a lot of press with draft picks and this might be only slightly more important for defensive ends than the broad jump or 40 time. Clayborn is reported to have had Erb’s palsy from a difficult birth and that this has left him with some upper body weakness. It’s reported that this has made some teams shy away from him. Erb’s palsy does not usually have significant lasting effects beyond childhood, but occasonally there is some mild weakness in some of the muscles. On game film, he just does not appear to be effected by it much.
Bench press is very important for offensive lineman who have to keep players away from their body and extend their arms out, but for defensive ends it is only mild to moderately important. A coach of mine once told me that bench press is important to defensive players who are not very good so they look better pushing themselves back up off the ground after getting knocked down on the play, while good defensive players concentrate on leg strength and explosiveness to get to the ball carrier and drive through the tackle.
Explosiveness and making takles is one of Clayborn’s strengths. On film he is good at the point of attack and does not stay blocked long to make tackles. He will get pushed out or off the line occasionally by a very good offensive tackle, but this is not the norm. His pursuit skills could use some work, but he is good at sealing the backside of the play and does not get out of position very often. He does not have elite speed off the corner, but does take good angles towards the running back or quarterback. He plays very intelligently and does not take plays off. His tackling ability and his dicipline are what would make him look good in a Bucs uniform. He is not going to be a 20 sacks per year guy, but he has the potential to be a double digit sack end, and plays all phases of the game well. The traditional Tampa 2 is at its best when people play their position well and make tackles. This is what Brooks, Sapp, Quarles, Lynch, and Barber all did exceedingly well through the elite years of the Bucs defense.
Clayborn’s weaknesses are that he doesn’t drop into coverage well, and that he won’t make the big exciting plays as often as he doesn’t have that elite edge rush. Part of why he doesn’t drop into coverage well is that he just wasn’t asked to very much in college, and he may be able to develop this with some work. The lack of elite edge speed is why he won’t make as many big splash plays, but you can’t have everything with the 20th pick. In addition, he does have a misdemeanor assault charge against a cab driver, which sounds way too familiar to Bucs fans. Unlike Aqib Talib, though, he does have near the history of these types of incidences and I would consider this a moderate warning flag. It still needs to be taken into consideration, but if the Bucs do their diligence like they did with Mike Williams last year, they will know whether this is a potential problem or an isolated incident. With Talib‘s problems, if they find more of a problematic behavior, then I trust the Bucs will not take him.
Overall, he is a very good athletic football player with excellent strength and a good football mind and motor. He would look very good in a Bucs uniform to shore up one of the defensive end positions. He may not make numerous All-Pro or Pro Bowl lists in his career, but he could be a high end contributor for many years in a Bucs uniform. He would be a very solid selection at number 20 if available.