Posted: 6:17 am Friday, April 25th, 2014
By D. Orlando Ledbetter
The Falcons are heading over to Columbia, S.C. today, to dig a little deeper on defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who was in Flowery Branch for a visit on Wednesday.
But the nature of the visit is unclear.
Super agent Bus Cook, who represents Clowney confirmed in a text to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Clowney was not working out of the Falcons and said he had no idea about a “biomechanical test” that ProFootball Talk.com said Clowney was taking for the Falcons.
“Heck, I’ve never heard of such,” quipped the affable Cook.
But there is enough there to keep the speculation going that the Falcons are interested in trading up in the draft, which is set for May 8-10, to land the athletically-gifted Clowney.
However, this could be one of those draft smoke screens with the Falcons trying to strengthen their position. They could sit tight with the sixth pick or they are trying to drive up the price for Detroit or one of the teams that want to trade up.
Basically, they have too many holes to mortgage the future — again — for Clowney. The Julio Jones trade helped them reach the NFC Championship game in 2012, but when the injuries hit in 2013, everyone looked up and couldn’t find any depth. Folks pointed to the five picks the Falcons moved in the Jones trade.
Here’s what it would cost to move up to get Clowney.
“You flip-flop your one,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said. “You give up your two (this year), one next year. So, it’s multiple picks. Flop, flip in the one, maybe a four and a first-round pick next year. It costs a lot to go up from six to one because you’re going to get the best player and best defensive end in the last 20 years in Clowney.”
But the football world knows – and the local Twitter GMs have been vocal about this for weeks — the Falcons can’t afford to give up that many picks with a shaky offensive line, no pass rush, no tight end nor a starting free safety. Also, the news that Sean Weatherspoon is not healthy is very troubling. They may need a linebacker! (BLOG ASIDE: A lingering four-month old knee injury??? That only makes sense if he had a surgery that hasn’t been reported.)
“That’s what they need (a pass rush), but they also have to improve that offensive line, Atlanta does,” Kiper said. “I don’t care if they get Clowney, but they better fix that offensive line which was terrible in terms of protecting Matt Ryan last year.
“Matt Ryan is not going to survive if that offensive line doesn’t get a lot better up front and they need multiple players up front. Not just one. They need to draft two offensive line minimum to step in and become starters. They can’t afford to have that same group come back.”
The Falcons have added right guard Jon Asamoah and Gabe Carimi over the offseason, but apparently Kiper doesn’t believe that’s enough. Asamoah lost his starting job last season and Carimi has been cut twice already.
Last season, the Falcons allowed pressure on 37.6 percent of their dropbacks, according to profootballfocus.com. The offensive line was given responsibility for allowing 32 of 44 sacks. The quarterback was hit 42 additional times and hurried 190 times.
Also, part of this Columbia mission is about re-checking wide receiver Bruce Ellington, who’s been climbing up the draft boards. The fleet 5-9, 197 pounder, is a potential play-maker.
“He has the basketball background and we know how quick he is,” Kiper said. “He’s a threat. He’s a fear-factor player. He’s going to be a second-round draft choice. He has climbed and I think he’s a solid second-round draft choice.”
With the extra time to get ready for the draft this season, we’re getting into smoke screen territory.
The Falcons aren’t above a running the draft smoke-screen play.
Back in 2010, they were zeroed in on linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, but went over to the flats to double-check Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. The Falcons selected Weatherspoon with the 19th pick. Thomas went to Denver three picks later.
You can call it a smoke screen. I think the Falcons call it “due diligence.”
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