The Oakland Raiders would be lucky if defensive end Jadeveon Clowney fell to them at No. 5 in the NFL Draft. Or would they? The Raiders are in desperate need of a pass rushing defensive end, so the athletic freak out of the University of South Carolina seems like the perfect fit. Plus, he is considered to be one of the top talents and one who is unlikely to fall to the fifth pick.
But is he really the guy the Raiders want to go with? After being burned in the first round by guys without the best of work ethic — Rolando McClain and JaMarcus Russell come to mind — the team needs to be conscious of the potential headache that Clowney could bring if he too lacks the desire to put in the work necessary to succeed in the NFL. Especially considering how Steve Spurrier recently described Clowney.
“He was OK,” Spurrier said on NFL Network, the implication being that Clowney didn’t exactly wear out the alarm clock or tax the hinges on the weight-room door. “It wasn’t like Marcus Lattimore, you know, every player is a little different. His work habits are pretty good, they’re not quite like Lattimore, a Stephon Gilmore, Melvin Ingram, some of those guys, but when the ball is snapped he’s got something no one else has.”
No one in the NFL is looking for a guy with an “OK” work ethic. The great players are the ones like Jerry Rice, who worked their butts off 365 days a year in order to get the most out of their talent. Clowney is a physical specimen that looks like he was born to play in the NFL, but without the necessary drive he may never reach his full potential.
Worst case scenario, he could be a bust like so many other first round draft picks with plenty of athleticism but lacking in motivation. If Clowney does fall to the Raiders, there is no question about whether or not his talent matches up to the number five pick in the NFL draft. But there will be a big question about whether or not it is the right pick for a team beginning a complete overhaul of their roster for the second straight season.
General manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen have both emphasized their desire to have players with strong character on their roster. They also showed a willingness to take a risk on talent when they drafted defensive tackle Stacy McGee, a guy with drug and legal problems in college, but that was a late-round pick.
While it is no mystery that Clowney has questionable work ethic, the Raiders need to be cognizant of the fact that he may excel more on teams with a more stable defensive foundation. As the roster currently stands, the defense does not have many veteran leaders beyond Charles Woodson. If Clowney needs time to mature in the NFL, he would have an easier go of it if he was surrounded by players who can show him the way.
So while his talent makes him a no-brainer, the Raiders will still need to think long and hard about whether he’s the right guy for this team.