May 11, 2014

Gamecocks draft analysis: Clowney, Ellington

With all of the talk about trading the pick away, Houston went with the natural choice – picking the top talent available and then addressing needs (i.e., a quarterback) later on.


With all of the talk about trading the pick away, Houston went with the natural choice – picking the top talent available and then addressing needs (i.e., a quarterback) later on. Clowney, despite his numerous detractors, was the best talent, and the Texans felt that if they had a good enough defense, they could live with an offense that may struggle at first. With Clowney – whether he plays as a stand-up linebacker or as a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end – Houston has a pair of elite pass-rushers in he and J.J. Watt. There won’t be any kind of “redshirt” season, as teams don’t draft a No. 1 pick and sit him down, so it’s up to Clowney to find out how good he can be. The talent he’ll face will be bigger, faster and stronger, but with Watt on the other side, teams can’t double-team him like they did in college. It’s pick your poison with the Texans – running to either end against them may not work, so it may be that teams have to either run up the middle, therefore creating a potential Fearsome Foursome situation, or drop back and throw. That naturally opens lanes for Watt and Clowney to get into the backfield and do what they do best. Clowney will have the target of being a No. 1 pick on him, and playing with a big contract as well, so he’ll have to prove himself right away. There’s only one way to duck the “lazy” and “taking plays off” tags that proliferated last season. One thing will help – Clowney’s former college teammate, D.J. Swearinger, also is on the Texans. Swearinger was known to get in Clowney’s face in college. Clowney listened, too.


His lack of height was his only detriment, but he proved his worth in college and pro workouts. He slipped to Day 3 of the draft when many had him projected for Day 2. It didn’t matter – his value was still prized and he went to a team that already has several offensive weapons. The 49ers needed a stretch-the-field vertical threat, and Ellington proved he can out-run coverage, catch the ball in traffic and show no fear over the middle, where NFL linebackers make their reputations by de-cleating receivers. At receiver, San Francisco has Anquan Boldin, coming off a sterling year, and the acrobatic Michael Crabtree, and the 49ers traded for the Bills’ Stevie Johnson, who had a down season last year but also dealt with three quarterbacks throwing him the ball. With those three targets, plus Ellington and tight end Vernon Davis, 49ers signal-caller Colin Kaepernick and coach Jim Harbaugh are playing with house money. They’ll have the offense to do whatever they want to do, and Kaepernick, a runner, can add another aspect to his game by starting to run and then flipping the ball to a waiting Ellington, just behind the line, as the defense has already been drawn to the QB. Ellington may have to wait before getting on the field as a receiver, but he immediately can challenge for a spot at kick returner. He did it at USC and has proven capable as a guy that can catch and get positive yards. The 49ers have been missing a weapon in kick returner. Incumbent LaMichael James might not stick on the roster, and Ellington could step right in. Having old pal Marcus Lattimore around also will help.

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