Just when it looked like the weather was clearing up, a fresh coat of snow blanketed Michigan. Much like that storm clouded the return of spring, news that the Detroit Lions were planning a visit with Jadeveon Clowney has cast some metaphorical clouds about what the team might be prepared to do in May.
Could the Lions select Clowney, likely a top three pick despite questions? Would they make a move for a defensive end, a position Detroit already has on the roster? On the surface, Lions’ interest doesn’t add up. Most certainly, any move involving the defensive tackle would require a move up, perhaps one more drastic than anything Detroit could plot to land Sammy Watkins.
Would Detroit really want to make a dramatic move for Clowney, a player who has raised several question marks over the past few months with regard to motivation? NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, who first tweeted the news, didn’t seem to reject the notion of serious interest when responding to tweets.
When you consider a few different angles to the news, some of which were casually explored by Chase Goodbread of NFL.com yesterday, Detroit’s involvement with Clowney becomes a bit more intriguing and understandable. Here’s four angles which could help clear up Lions’ interest Clowney.
Angle #1: Either Ndamukong Suh or Nick Fairley are going. Though the Lions reportedly continue to work on an extension with Suh, could they be hiding a major move to ship either he or Fairley out of town in a significant draft day trade? It would provide the team with the ammunition to do so. Perhaps Detroit would now like to build from the outside in with Clowney and Ziggy Ansah, breaking up the tandem of Suh and Fairley in the middle of the line. If so, there’s likely no better early option to add than Clowney from a physical standpoint at defensive end.
Angle #2: Nobody else at defensive end on the roster is ready or good enough to complement Ansah. This offseason, Detroit lost plenty on the edge. The Lions have veteran Jason Jones returning from a major injury, but Willie Young is gone and Devin Taylor is still an unknown commodity. Detroit signed Darryl Tapp, but he’s a tweener at linebacker, meaning Clowney could be the most elite option remaining if the Lions want to find a pure pass rusher. With Ansah and Clowney, they could form a young dynamic duo.
Angle #3: None of the draft’s rush linebackers are impressive. Though much has been made about the Lions’ flirtations with UCLA prospect Anthony Barr, and the position is a need, it’s possible that Barr isn’t the best fit for Detroit’s scheme. The team may not view him as a consistent enough pass rushing threat, and might instead be tempted by Clowney’s pure athletisicm and potential at defensive end, the natural position that can create pressure on a quarterback. Khalil Mack, another option, could be better suited for a 3-4 system.
Angle #4: Clowney is actually the top player on Detroit’s draft board. Martin Mayhew has a long-standing history of embracing the best player available in draft situations. If Clowney is tops on Mayhew’s board, it’s possible the team could smokescreen everywhere else to keep attention away (possibly by embellishing interest in Watkins, Barr and others) and quietly make the big move for the player they consider to have the most upside, yet talked about the least within the entire process. Mayhew can be sneaky.
More than likely, by the later evening hours on May 8, there will prove to be nothing to make of Detroit’s pre-draft contact with Clowney but simple due diligence prior to an important decision.
In spite of that, when considering some of the angles above as possibilities, a move to secure the defensive end seems like something which could happen. It’s the beauty of draft season, where anything is theoretically possible.