There’s no such thing as tampering in the NFL … when a player has yet to officially enter the league.
South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney — a Palmetto State native and perhaps the NFL draft’s No. 1 non-QB prospect — sent a loud-and-clear message to the Atlanta Falcons over the weekend, imploring the team to trade up for his services before the May draft.
In the Falcons’ defense, though, it’s possible that neither the Texans (1st overall pick), Rams (2nd), Jaguars (3rd), Browns (4th) or Raiders (5th) will prioritize a defensive end over their respective shortcomings at quarterback (Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland), offensive tackle (Rams, Jags) or wide receiver (Jacksonville, St. Louis, Cleveland, Oakland) in the first five selections.
That scenario would subsequently free up the Falcons — who ranked 29th in sacks last year (32) — to entertain thoughts of taking Clowney, although the club has major holes to fill along the offensive line.
(Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews and Auburn’s Greg Robinson are considered elite-level O-tackle prospects in this draft.)
Atlanta is a fashionable destination for Clowney, given the city’s proximity to his South Carolina upbringing. It also helps that the Falcons (specifically GM Thomas Dimitroff) have a proven track record of fearlessly trading up on draft day.
Three years ago, Dimitroff moved up 15 slots in Round 1 (21st to sixth) for the right to draft Alabama Julio Jones, who ranks as one of NFL history’s most successful receivers after two seasons (133 catches, 2,157 yards, 18 TDs).
(Jones’ third NFL campaign was halted short by a foot injury last October.)
The move was hardly off the cuff, either.
In Michael Holley’s book, War Room: The Legacy Of Bill Belichick and the Art of Building The Perfect Team, Dimitroff began harboring thoughts of moving up to acquire either Jones or Bengals wideout A.J. Green — as early as October 2010, or six months before Jones officially joined the Falcons (post-trade).
At the time of this writing, the Falcons own one pick in each round (seven total) for the May draft, with four coming in the first 99 choices.
To move up one, two, three or even four slots for Round 1, Atlanta would likely have to part with three of its top four picks this year … and maybe a first-, second- or third-rounder in 2015.