The mere mention of Jadeveon Clowney to the Falcons is enough to whip up a mild frenzy in the Atlanta fanbase. He's a deeply polarizing player who would require a trade up to select, so it's easy to understand why. Frankly, with nearly two full weeks left before the 2014 NFL Draft, that kind of debate is the most exciting thing we're likely to get.
As much as I would love to see the Falcons pull off a reasonable trade up for Clowney without surrendering too many assets, I no longer view that as the likeliest outcome of this year's first round. I believe that primarily because I think the Texans are committed to moving down if at all possible, the Falcons not necessarily wanting to meet that asking price and the likelihood that any team going up to #1 would be targeting Clowney.
Acknowledging that I'm engaging in the same sort of guesswork as everyone else, my bet is that the Falcons stay at #6. If that's the outcome, then it's hard not to agree with ESPN's Vaughn McClure, who believes the Falcons will be looking at one of the three top tackles in this draft class at #6:
Yet the Falcons have a more pressing need at offensive tackle. The Falcons, I believe, value protecting their quarterback more than securing a top-notch pass-rusher. That's why I see them remaining at No. 6 and getting one of the top three offensive tackles: Auburn's Greg Robinson, Texas A&M's Jake Matthews, or Michigan's Taylor Lewan.
While I don't personally value Lewan that highly, this is deeply logical. Khalil Mack and Clowney are exceedingly likely to be gone by the time the Falcons pick, should they stay where they are. The Falcons don't have truly great tackles, struggled badly along the offensive line in 2013 and could be looking for Sam Baker's long-term, briefly cheaper replacement on the left side. While I do firmly believe you can get an average to slightly-above-average line by putting a healthy Baker (ha!) opposite the winner of the Lamar Holmes/Ryan Schraeder/Mike Johnson/Gabe Carimi race at right tackle, it's tough to argue with the notion that adding a potentially great tackle would be a boost now and an even bigger boost in the future.
If the Falcons do stand pat and the draft unfolds roughly as I expect—some combination of Greg Robinson, Mack, Clowney, a QB and Sammy Watkins/Mike Evans in the top five—then Jake Matthews is the likely pick for these Atlanta Falcons at #6. No one's going to be reaching for the smelling salts after that, but Matthews is a remarkably well-rounded player, and I do believe he'll be a Pro Bowl-caliber left tackle at the NFL level. That's not Clowney, assuming Clowney is all he's cracked up to be, but it would be a gigantic upgrade for the Falcons.
What do you think?