NFL Draft Franchise Notes: Texans Vetted Clowney, Confident In His Work Ethic
Texans GM Rick Smith said that the organization "had neither qualms nor reservations about drafting" DE Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday's NFL Draft, despite the fact that his "middling final college season raised a red flags in the 'character' category." The HOUSTON CHRONICLE noted both Smith and Texans coach Bill O'Brien "vetted the player personally on multiple occasions and sought input from those who had spent meaningful time in his presence." Smith: "Did we worry about his work ethic? Not at all. We think this guy will come in and work" (CHRON.com, 5/8).
BUSY BILLS: In Buffalo, Jerry Sullivan writes Bills GM Doug Whaley "put his reputation squarely on the line Thursday night, sending the ninth overall pick of this year’s draft, plus next year’s first- and fourth-round selections," to the Browns for the right to draft WR Sammy Watkins with the fourth overall pick. Whaley and Bills CEO Russ Brandon insisted that the team's "uncertain ownership situation has nothing to do" with the pick. But Sullivan writes the top management guys "can deny it all they like, but a clouded ownership creates a sense of urgency to win in the short term and make a good impression." The team has "gone 14 straight years without a playoff berth." Trading so many picks is "a huge gamble, one that could blow up in their faces, but at least they tried." Whaley: "This all goes back to Russ Brandon. He OK’d it and was willing to give up the resources and future picks to get us where we need to be" (BUFFALO NEWS, 5/9). SI.com's Don Banks asks, "With an ownership change on the way, who knows" if Whaley and Bills head coach Doug Marrone will "even be around to pay for this deal once its full price tag comes due?" The Bills "perennially finish in last place in the AFC East, so boldness was perhaps called for in this case" (SI.com, 5/9). Meanwhile, the Bills announced Thursday that players this season will "wear a commemorative patch on their jerseys" honoring late owner Ralph Wilson Jr. (ESPN.com, 5/8).
FAN BASE JOLTS: In Orlando, Mike Bianchi writes the Jaguars "did something to excite Orlando -- the franchise's biggest TV market" by drafting QB Blake Bortles, a native of Oviedo, Fla., and "it's about time." Orlando residents now "have a reason to want to watch the Jaguars games every Sunday instead of having to watch them" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 5/9)....In S.F., Ann Killion writes the Raiders deserve credit for "working very hard to give their fans reason for optimism." They "hit it big Thursday night in the first round" and did "as well as they could have hoped with the fifth overall pick" by picking LB Khalil Mack. The pick was "universally applauded, which doesn't happen often for the Raiders" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 5/9).
CONCERNS REMAIN: In K.C., Sam Mellinger writes the Chiefs used the No. 23 pick to take LB Dee Ford and "unwittingly let down a fan base hoping for something else." The pick is "something like a buzzkill for a fan base that had momentarily been worked into a frenzy" by the possibility of the team drafting QB Johnny Manziel (K.C. STAR, 5/9)....In Nashville, Jim Wyatt notes the Titans "have no concerns" about OT Taylor Lewan's "off-field issues or character, even though their first-round pick faces assault charges in Michigan." Titans GM Ruston Webster said, "We addressed those with Taylor. We addressed them prior (to the draft). Obviously, we talked about it even (Thursday) just to make sure. I feel pretty comfortable with where he is. Taylor is a tough guy. I feel pretty comfortable that we're going to get a solid guy here" (TENNESSEAN.com, 5/9)....In Detroit, Bob Wojnowski writes the Lions' selection of TE Eric Ebron at No. 10 is "not a popular pick or even a logical pick" -- unless QB Matthew Stafford and the new coaching staff "make it work" (DETROIT NEWS, 5/9).
ROWDY RAVENS: In Baltimore, Jon Meoli reports current and former Ravens players "joined more than 1,000 fans Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium for the team's draft party." Fans "lined the concourses in search of autograph stations, ran shuttle drills and 40-yard dashes ... and kicked field goals through the stadium uprights" (BALTIMORE SUN, 5/9).