With the 2010 NFL season in the books, it's time to turn our eyes to the NFL draft, and the pre-draft evaluation process. Before the 2011 scouting combine begins on February 24, we'll be taking a closer look at the 40 draft-eligible players who may be the biggest difference-makers when all is said and done.
We continue our series with Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn. 2009 was the Hawkeye's best season to date, as he put up 70 tackles (36 solo), 20 tackles for loss (17 solo), 11.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and nine quarterback hurries. 2010 wasn't a dominant sequel (52 tackles/19 solo/seven tackles for loss/3.5 sacks/one forced fumble/six quarterback hurries). In his Iowa career, Clayborn logged 191 tackles (72 solo), 37.5 tackles for loss (30 solo), 19 sacks (17 solo), seven forced fumbles, and 19 quarterback hurries.
Pros: Clayborn shoots off the snap in a big hurry and takes a clean angle to the quarterback - he has impressive burst and acceleration for his size (6-foot-3, 286 pounds). Relentless in the backfield; he'll double back even after he's blocked out of a play and manage to blow the play up at times. Can sift through trash at the line to get free, and he's got the upper-body strength to split through blocks and take running backs down inside even when he doesn't have optimal positioning.
Moves off potential second-level blocks very well - can either climb the ladder to extend the play to the sideline and use his quickness to keep up. Too quick and strong to be kept out of a play with anything but a straight on-block - be jumps over cut-blocks and just blows past quick chips. Exhibits a violent hand-punch at the line and gets inside or outside the blocker quickly.
Cons: Focuses so intently on the tackle that he can be susceptible to running back jukes and misdirection, missing tackles and throwing himself out of plays. Needs to take better and more consistent angles to the ball in short areas. Clayborn can be ridden out of pass rushes surprisingly easily against stronger tackles, and if you get under his pads, you can move him where you want. Disruptive effectiveness is based far more on speed than strength. Doesn't get low when going around the edge on pass rushes; he gets frantic with his feet at times and this is a source of his lack of power against better blockers.
Conclusion: Had he followed his amazing junior campaign with an equivalent senior season, Clayborn would have few questions to answer in preparation for the scouting combine. But as it stands, he'll need a great performance in Indianapolis, especially in the pass rush drills and anything involving his ability to make quick and correct decisions as a tackler. Clayborn has the potential to be an elite run-stopping five-tech tackle in either a 4-3 or 3-4 defense (he's one of several possible first-round five-techs in this draft class), but the pass rush may take some time and technique work against better tackles. If he puts it all together, Clayborn could be an amazing player and a real disruptor in any situation.
More Shutdown 40
#40 -- Rodney Hudson, OG, Florida State | #39 - Luke Stocker, TE, Tennessee
| #38 - Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor | #37 - Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas | #36 -- Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami | #35 -- Danny Watkins, OL, Baylor | #34 - Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State | #33 -- Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State | #32 - Mike Pouncey, OL, Florida | #31 - Nate Solder, OT, Colorado | #30 - Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame | #29 - Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois | #28 - Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State | #27 - Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA | #26 - Brandon Harris, CB, Miami | #25 - Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin | #24 -- Jake Locker, QB, Washington| #23 -- Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado| #22 - J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin | #21 - Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois| #20 - Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State | #19 - Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland | #18 - Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue | #17 - Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama