The truth is an elusive animal in late April around the NFL kingdom, a prized commodity few are motivated to share. Each year the posturing prior to the draft is rooted in deception, with the gamesmanship coming through leaked rumors meant to divert attention away from the real course of action.
That makes for a turbulent and blurry time. It’s all in good fun for you, the league viewer and consumer, because the rumor business is what drives the draft, along with the stereotypical finger guns blazing image of a general manager fleecing his peers. Kevin Costner forever.
Two extra weeks have made the rumor mud slinging even longer and greasier this year, and we’re about to enter the heart of it. The proverbial “how do you separate the signal from the noise?” isn’t the right question here. No, instead go with this: is there a signal at all?
That question should come to mind immediately upon seeing the most sizzling of the smoking hot and highly-sourced rumors served upon this morning by Peter King. As the draft process has moved forward, increasingly it’s looked like the right decision for the Houston Texans with their first overall pick is to either select Jadeveon Clowney, or trade down. General manager Rick Smith can address his quarterback need when he’s first up again on Day 2 with his 33rd overall pick, and that’s a far safer play with the uncertainty around the 2014 quarterback class, and with Clowney emerging as the best overall player.
Or is he? Insert diversion rumor here. From King…
Houston, at No. 1, isn’t set on Jadeveon Clowney. In fact, one FORS (Friend of Rick Smith) told me the Texans general manager likes Khalil Mack over Clowney, and we still don’t know which quarterback Houston would choose if it chooses one first overall.
First, let’s give praise where it’s due. Like Clowney, Khalil Mack is also scary fast and beastly off the edge, and he may even be a little better suited to play in Houston’s 3-4, though that gap is indeed narrow. Mack had 19 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks during his final season at the University of Buffalo, also adding three interceptions to show he can be trusted in coverage.
But if taking an edge rusher is his end game with that first overall pick, calling any prospect not named Clowney feels like the sort of thing which gets a man fired quickly. The Scouting Combine offers an even playing field for all involved without inconsistent timing, and that’s when Clowney posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.53. Mack’s time was great too, but more normal for his position at 4.63, though he improved on it significantly during his Pro Day with a reported 4.54. That’s terrific, but please remember Clowney has 15 more pounds to carry (his Combine weight, and the difference was closer to 25 during the 2013 college football season), yet he still posted his stupid fast time.
The Texans wouldn’t be making a poor pick by selecting Mack. Not at all, as with his film, measurables, and numbers, he’s easily being projected among the top 10, and quite possibly the top five. But with Clowney’s length and versatility (he dropped back in coverage during his Pro Day just because) he’s the far more generational specimen. If quarterback pressure and not an actual quarterback is the aim with the top pick, passing on him feels downright blasphemous.
Yet here we are discussing that possibility because of an FORS (Friend of Rick Smith, as King dutifully noted). It’s the sort of late-April draft chatter which becomes many things, with fun chief among them due to the unquenchable thirst for items fresh off the piping hot stove. But mostly, it’s a team saying “hey, we could do anything, and we may even take your guy…wanna trade?”.
In 17 days the hearsay and speculation will mercifully end.