The Falcons went all the way to South Carolina to put Jadeveon Clowney through, depending on who you were listening to, a drill or workout. What we didn't know until this moment was what that visit would entail, but thanks to Pro Football Talk, we do now:
On Friday, the Falcons assessed South Carolina defensive endJadeveon Clowney via a tool known as a "force plate."
Clowney and his agent held fast to their promise that they would do, at best, limited activities before the NFL Draft. The force plate exercise was apparently one of the ones they would consent to, and the Falcons got to gather more data on a player they may be interested in moving up to grab in the 2014 NFL Draft.
So what does a force plate do? PFT got a statement from Thomas Dimitroff that hints at the way the team perceives its value:
"We feel that partnering with Dr. Phil Wagner and Sparta Software, Corporation will enhance our athletic performance program and benefit our football team," Falcons G.M. Thomas Dimitroff said in a statement released to PFT. "We are always looking for ways to take our training program to the next level and Sparta will help us develop detailed individual workout programs. We understand the importance of having our players reach their full potential and remain in top physical condition during a long and arduous season, and this partnership will assist us in becoming a highly effective sports performance model."
The idea here is to measure things like gait, balance, force applied when running, jumping, and so forth. The Falcons are hoping to do what NFL teams have dreamt of for decades: Anticipate which players are more at risk for injury because of particular biomechanical hitches, as well as figure out conditioning levels and various ways to improve those. It's exactly the kind of test—with the notable caveat that we don't know how well these actual anticipate any of the factors I just mentioned, given our lack of physiological and medical knowledge—that you would give a player if you were even slightly considering making him one of the top picks in the draft.
Ultimately, we don't know the results here, but it's another tool for a team that has tried, with decidedly mixed success, to be out in front in terms of how they evaluate players. If the Falcons do go up to get Jadeveon Clowney, chances are good they liked what they saw today.