Clayborn is a versatile player who could play defensive end in either a 3-4 or 4-3 defense, or defensive tackle in the 4-3, but is most suited for the 3-4. He dropped off during his senior year after a phenomenal junior year, so there is some concern as to what he can do once he gets into the NFL. He will be primarily a pass-rush threat in the NFL, but has the frame and strength to become a quality run stopper on the defensive front. If he can continue to improve on his strength and play with more technique and better fundamentals, he could become one of the better defensive ends to come out of this talented 2011 draft class. Much of his future success will depend on his motivation and determination to improve himself. I project him to be a late-first to early-second round pick.
Although he shows good technique and uses his hands well to fight off offensive lineman, Clayborn has a tendency to get over-powered in the run game, as evidenced in his 2010 game against Gabe Carimi and the Wisconsin Badgers. During his matchup with Carimi, he came off of the ball high, allowing Carimi to gain leverage and consistently take him out of the play. He needs to do a much better job of holding his ground and not allowing the offensive linemen to get under his pads. Adding bulk will be a big need for him as he gets ready for the NFL. The one impressive facet of his run defense is his awareness and ability to constantly keep his eyes in the backfield so that he can track down the ball when it comes his way. Once it comes his way, he does a good job of keeping his field arm free and holding up the runner. Too often, however, he tries to use his size and strength to knock the runner down, instead of making a form tackle. He will need to get better at wrapping, which has been a reason for many of his missed tackles at Iowa. When the ball goes away from him, he does an impressive job of staying home and not allowing the play to break contain. He does a good job of working down the line to track the ball down from behind.
His ability to get pressure on the quarterback is what makes Clayborn a potential first-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. However, that’s just about all he did in 2010: Get pressure on the quarterback. He came into the 2010 season as one of the premier pass-rushers in the nation after tallying 11.5 sacks in 2009. In 2010, he managed only 3.5. He proved all season long that he could get around tackles with little resistance, but just could not manage to wrestle many quarterbacks to the ground. It’s clear that he can put pressure on the quarterback, but he will need to prove that he can bring them down too once he gets to the NFL. When he can’t get penetration, he does a good job of getting his hands up and clogging up the passing lanes. He also needs to develop more moves and not depend purely on strength if he hopes on getting past NFL-caliber offensive linemen. He comes off of the line too high and needs to learn to stay low to avoid linemen getting under his pads and man-handling him.
There have been more than a few times during games that Clayborn has struggled to successfully read and recognize a play. Although he improved in this area during his senior year, he still has a tendency to incorrectly recognize plays as they develop. He can sometimes bite on play action and fakes, and gets sucked it easily on screens. The one good part of his awareness is his ability to keep his eyes in the backfield while battling against offensive linemen, allowing him to make plays when the ball comes his way.
Clayborn does a good job of using his hands to keep offensive linemen at a manageable distance. Sheds blocks well, using a strong pull-push technique to throw linemen off-balance while using his quickness to move past them. Uses his hands well to avoid cut blocks. With a mix of power and quickness, he is able to use a few different pass-rush techniques like the dip or rip moves to slide past tackles on the way to the quarterback. He also uses a strong slap to knock offensive linemen off balance.
Size, Speed, Strength & Agility
Without his exceptional quickness and agility, Clayborn would not be the huge pass-rushing threat that he is. He has a great initial step off of the line which allows him to get the edge on tackles. In pass-rush, he primarily tries to dip his shoulder to work his way past the tackle on the outside, so his quickness off the snap is what makes him so fearsome. Although he has great quickness off of the line, he will need to improve on his arsenal of moves because he doesn’t have the speed to get around the edge against NFL linemen. His agility helps him shed blocks and avoid chops in the run game. Clayborn has good strength when taking on blockers and does a good job of using it to keep distance between them and himself. He possesses impressive lower-body strength that allows him to get off blocks and is able to power through tackles. Although he looked strong against college linemen, he will need to get stronger and bigger in the NFL if he hopes to hold his ground against pro offensive linemen. His explosiveness is great, as he shoots out of his stance with power and has the ability to blow up linemen off of the line of scrimmage. He has the frame to add more bulk, which will be a necessity.
There doesn’t appear to be any durability issues with Clayborn. He never missed a game since becoming a starter for the Hawkeyes in 2008 and even played in almost every game during his redshirt freshman year in 2007. He has kept himself on the field and should be able to do the same at the next level. Although he never missed time due to injury, he will need to work on getting in better shape as there were instances where he looked gassed during games.
Clayborn was arrested in 2009 for allegedly assaulting a cab driver and in 2010, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in exchange for having the assault charges dropped. He is a very smart player, but will need to do a better job of keeping himself prepared off the field (i.e. staying in shape) in order to play up to his potential.
He had a tendency to fade during long, arduous game due to his lack of stamina, which will need to be addressed and fixed by his coaches in the NFL. Aside from his lack of conditioning, Clayborn plays tough and has somewhat of mean streak, often doing his best to unload on running backs as they come through the line of scrimmage. When he wants to, he can power his way through double teams and has all of the tenacity necessary to make big plays. It will all come down to whether he can push himself to do the things necessary for him to be great.
Clayborn could easily be one of the best defensive ends to come out of the 2011 draft class. He plays with tenacity and power, using his size, strength and burst off of the line to make life difficult for opposing linemen. If he can work on building bulk, solidifying his tackling and getting in better shape, he could become one of the premier 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL. A big part of his future success will come down to the amount of effort he’s willing to put into improving his game. He has all of the physical tools to be great.
2010: Started 13 of 13 games; Totaled 52 tackles including 19 solo, 7 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 pass defended, 1 blocked field goal
2009: Started 13 of 13 games; Totaled 70 tackles including 36 solo, 20 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 2 passes defended, 1 blocked punt, 1 TD
2008: Started 13 of 13 games; Totaled 50 tackles including 15 solo, 8 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 4 passes defended
2007: Played in 11 of 12 games; Totaled 20 tackles including 3 solo, 2.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 pass defended, 1 blocked field goal
Majored in Interdepartmental Studies at Iowa.
Awards & Honors
2010: First-Team All-American by AFCA and Walter Camp; Third-Team All-American by AP and Phil Steele; Honorable Mention All-American by Pro Football Weekly; First-Team All-Big 10 by coaches/media and Phil Steele; Finalist for Rotary Lombardi Award, Ted Hendricks Award and Chuck Bednarik Award; Hayden Fry “Extra Heartbeat” Award; 2010 Iowa Leadership Group
2009: FedEx Orange Bowl MVP; First-Team All-Big 10; National Defensive Player of the Year by College Football Performance Awards; Third-Team All-American and First-Team All-Big 10 by Phil Steele; Honorable Mention All-American by Pro Football Weekly; Defensive Hustle Team Award; 2009 Iowa Leadership Group
2008: 2008 Iowa Leadership Group
Played both linebacker and tight end in high school. He was also a four-year letterman on his high school basketball team as a power forward.
Nothing of note.
Prospect Video Clips
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