With the 20th overall pick in the 2011 draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected defensive end Adrian Clayborn out of Iowa. Now I have to be honest, I really didn’t think the Bucs were going after him at the #20 spot. A lot the analysts had them taking De’Quan Bowers who we got in the second round anyways, others had the Bucs taking a CB like Jimmy Smith, and I myself had them taking other DEs such as Cameron Jordan or Aldon Smith. The reason for that is because although Clayborn is a great talent, he doesn’t look like the prototypical rush DE the Bucs are desperate to plug into their system. After the pick was made and some time went by, the more I thought about it, and the more confident I became that the Bucs made the best possible choice at that spot.
You see, for as long as I’ve been watching football, I’ve been a diehard Hawkeye fan. This means I had the pleasure of watching Adrian Clayborn dominate for Iowa in 2009 and be a key factor for them in 2010. After the college season ended and draft season opened up, all kinds of flags came up about him. Questions about his work ethic appeared, questions about his pass rush ability appeared, and questions about his health appeared due to his Erb’s Palsy condition. Those flags killed Clayborn’s draft stock after once being considered as a top 5 talent, into a questionable 1st rounder period.
What was even worse is that you could make a case for all those concerns.
Well that’s where I’m pounding the table and claiming that Adrian Clayborn will be a playmaker at the next level.
Yeah, I said it.
His work ethic questions lay behind the fact that his statistics plummeted from a dominant 2009 season to a pedestrian 2010 season. The stats don’t lie, in the ’09 season he had a total of 63 tackles, 20 TFL (tackles for loss), and 11 sacks compared to his ’10 season where he had 52 total tackles, only 7 TFL, and just 4 sacks.
Although, Raheem Morris, the Bucs head coach, likes to say a little something along the lines of- “Stats are for losers.” And he couldn’t be more correct with Adrian. After a monstrous 2009 season at Iowa, teams all over the country game planned for this guy. He was no longer a hidden gem for Kirk Ferentz and his defense. Adrian saw plenty of double teams, sometimes triple teams with backs chipping him, and plays that didn’t even go in his direction in 2010. He was that guy offenses game planned around.
You could make the case that Ryan Kerrigan was an extremely productive player year after year at Purdue, yet still produced at the same level and in the same conference. But you just can’t deny the fact Iowa had ten times the media exposure Purdue had coming into the 2010 season. Iowa hit the national spotlight after surprising everyone in 2009 and being ranked as high as #5 in the nation. The face of the Hawkeyes? Who else but Mr. Clayborn!? This leads me to believe Adrian Clayborn had way more attention than Kerrigan ever had.
Upon other things, scouts and GMs questioned this guy’s pass rush abilities. He doesn’t have that frame and athleticism successful pass rushers typically have, so why wouldn’t they? Well after watching him for the past two years, I can tell you three key components that tells me he’s going to successfully rush the passer in the NFL. 1) His motor and explosiveness. This guy is just relentless and never quits. Not to mention his first step is as fast as any DE coming out of the draft and that’s one of the most important factors of being able to be a pass rusher. 2) He actively uses his hands to get past those stronger or quicker tackles and does it very well. And 3) Adrian’s 10 yard burst is ridiculous. He is just so quick that when the QBs or RBs are within 5-10 yards of him, they won’t be able to escape. He’ll be a TFL machine in the NFL, I’m calling it right here on pewter plank!
Let’s not forget the elephant in the room, either. The Buccaneers were ranked 28th in the run last year. Wow, as if not having a pass rush wasn’t enough, but we also have to deal with a poor run defense? Bruising running backs had field days against the Bucs last year. Although we won the Cincinnati game, it still hurts me to think of how Cedric Benson walked all over the Bucs. This is another spot Adrian excels at. No one EVER questioned this guy’s ability to stop the run, and it’s all due to that motor I told you about earlier. He’s also very stout at the point of attack and will either plug holes or make plays in the backfield.
On another note, his health issue is probably the number one reason his draft stock fell other than lack of production. He suffers from something called Erb’s Palsy that he got during child birth. Basically, it’s nerve damage that may weaken the right side of his body in the neck and arm.
“Go watch some Iowa games, dude.” Is what I would say about that.
When you watch this guy on tape, you would have no idea he suffers from anything. He plays hard, smart, and fast. Most of all, he makes plays, ladies and gentleman.
Every time Iowa needed a big play, they called his number. And every time they called his number, he responded with a play when they needed it the most.
Isn’t that the definition of a playmaker?
To make those splash plays when your team needs it the most?
Well that’s EXACTLY what I’m saying Adrian Clayborn did for the Hawkeyes. Weather it was closing out games with a sack, stuffing the running back to reject that extra inch, or even blocking punts…this guy literally does it all.
Let’s also not forget about the guys who drafted him. The same guys that drafted Josh Freeman when all their fans wanted to go defense. No one believed in Freeman at first, except for the Buccaneer organization and his family.
If you say you did believe in Freeman when Mark Dominik and his staff took him with the 17th pick in 2009, you’re lying. Stop it.
They also drafted players like Roy Miller, E.J. Biggers, Sammy Stroughter, Cody Grimm, Mike Williams, Regis Benn, and a lot of other key pieces to this young Buccaneer team.
These aren’t just any bozos that picked Clayborn at #20. These are the smartest talent evaluators I have ever witnessed the Buccaneers have. I think Mark Dominik and Raheem Morris know what it takes to create a super bowl caliber team. With every pick the Bucs made, I felt they were that much closer to that goal.
So for all you pessimists out there about Adrian Clayborn, think real hard.
After that, think again.
Because I’d bet everything I have that you don’t know a fraction of what Dominik and his staff know about their 20th selection in the draft.
Sure, he may not be the pick everyone wished he would be.
But if we had it that way, the Buccaneers would have DT Peria Jerry on their roster rather than Josh Freeman.
Thought enough yet?