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Possible Pick: Scouts Excited By Clarke’s Length, Ranginess
(Editor’s Note: Heading into the upcoming NFL Draft, held May 8-10, DallasCowboys.com will take a closer look at the prospects, including some that could be potential fits with the Cowboys. Today’s featured player is West Virginia defensive end Will Clarke).
Name: Will Clarke
Position: Defensive End
College: West Virginia
Honors: Clarke’s six sacks and 17 tackles for loss earned him second-team All-Big 12 honors in 2013, his senior season with the Mountaineers.
Key stat: “Rangy” is a word you’re going to hear a lot when discussing Clarke – probably because he’s 6-6 with 34-inch arms. He gave offensive linemen fits during the Senior Bowl, which is in line with his 23.5 tackles for loss in the last two years of his career.
Where He’s Projected: Clarke’s size makes him an appealing prospect, but he doesn’t really display the top-notch athleticism that would make him a high pick. It seems like he’s viewed as a project, either as a 4-3 defensive end or a 3-4 linebacker – and he has promise at either spot. Many don’t see him as an early contributor, and most predictions have him going as early as the third round, but as late as the fifth round.
How He Helps the Cowboys: The same way we’ve been saying for all of these defensive prospects: pass rush, pass rush, pass rush. Depending on how the early rounds go for the Cowboys, they may need to address the defensive line later in the draft. Clarke is an intriguing project who will likely still be around on the third day of the draft. He could join Rod Marinelli’s defensive rotation as a small contributor at first, until he grows into the position the Cowboys want him to play. They’d probably love to see a guy like Clarke on the board in the fourth or fifth round.
Scout’s Take: Clarke is a rangy player that has nice length to his game. Doesn’t physically look like these defensive ends in the draft that are “tweener” types.
At times he will play with a narrow base that will get him in trouble, but he can be quick to disengage. He has the movement skills and ability to work down the line and make a tackle. Has an impressive, quick burst up the field, along with some surprising pop and power at the point of attack. He plays with a burst off the edge. Can really turn and sharpen the corner.
We’ve mentioned Clarke’s length, and he can control the blocker with his long reach. He can extend, and he can easily draw holding calls with his rush. He has the ability to put the blocker in a bad position.
Needs to get to the edge quickly to complete his rush, but I’m surprised by how well he is able to get off the ball because his stance doesn’t look right. That’s something I am sure they will clean up once he gets into the league and works with these coaches. He’ll work hard to get inside, and he showed the ability to play the run at him. He holds the point of attack – at the Senior Bowl, he did a nice job there against Cyril Richardson of Baylor, who plays with a great deal of upper body strength.
Perhaps Clarke’s biggest weakness: he needs more pass rush moves to free himself. I would like to see him try more combinations when it comes to his rush, because he beats his man on quickness more than technique.
He’ll try and squeeze the hole when he plays the run. Tall player that doesn’t always avoid the cut block, will need to learn how to use his hands better there. He will extend his arms but needs to use his hands better. Can run the play down from the backside. Plays hard and fights the blockers.
I really like this player on the move. He can get some push on the blocker. Considering his rangy build, he plays the run well. I have seen him play inside and rush from there but needs to be on the edge. Played on a poor defensive team at West Virginia this past season but never dogged or quit.
I would work on his stance, but there is plenty to like about this player. I think you have to consider him on the second day of this draft if you are the Cowboys. – Bryan Broaddus Read