Reading Clowney-and-Atlanta tea leaves
April, 25, 2014
By Tania Ganguli | ESPN.com
For the purposes of this exercise, let's assume we can take what's happening at face value.
According to reports, the Atlanta Falcons are going to Columbia, S.C., to meet with and conduct some sort of tests with defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. They're not exactly working him out because he shut down his workout schedule weeks ago after an impressive pro day, an event in which the full Houston Texans' contingent attended.
The Falcons have the sixth pick in the draft and have shown in the past they aren't afraid to move up. They moved up 21 spots to take Julio Jones in 2011 and the gamble worked out. Jones became part of what might have been the most dynamic receiver duo in the country with Roddy White.
The Texans have the first pick in the draft, a pick for which many think Clowney is the only worthy player. And the Texans have said since January they'd be willing to trade that pick. To me, that indicated there wasn't a player they desperately wanted. The fact that they said back then they would sign a veteran quarterback, and then followed through with signing Ryan Fitzpatrick, told me they felt the need for an option besides whatever rookie quarterback they selected. That doesn't often happen with a first overall pick.
Clowney will almost certainly not be available at No. 6. If the Falcons want him, they're going to have to trade up to get him. It'll cost a lot, but Atlanta is a team that, like the Texans, had a lot more talent than their 2013 record indicated. Injuries, especially one to Jones, were particularly damaging. They might not need a lot of holes plugged to get back to where they were in 2012, when they went 13-3 and lost to the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game.
Trading up wouldn't just be about keeping the Texans from Clowney. It would be about making sure nobody else can jump up there and get him.
Of course, we began this post with the caveat that we can take all of this at face value. Sometimes fact-finding missions are just that and sometimes a team's public actions have nothing to do with their true desires. I've mentioned the case of Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins before. He met with the St. Louis Rams twice before the draft and didn't visit the Texans at all, he told me last year. St. Louis drafted receiver Tavon Austin with the eighth pick while the Texans selected Hopkins.