Who will replace first-round picks?
May, 9, 2014
By Travis Haney | ESPN.com
Stephen M. Dowell/Getty ImagesWill South Carolina defensive end Gerald Dixon be able to fill the void left by Jadeveon Clowney?With a dizzying first round in the books, the NFL’s 32 teams will move Friday and Saturday to the value picks in the middle and later rounds.
But the college teams replacing first-round selections? They have long since turned the page.
Starting with the No. 1 pick, Jadeveon Clowney, here are some updates on the positions left vacant by some of the NFL’s future stars.
Defensive end, South Carolina Gamecocks
The draft pick: Jadeveon Clowney (No. 1, Houston)
The replacement: Gerald Dixon
There’s no doubt the position is going to take a step back after losing Clowney -- the school’s second No. 1 pick -- as well as underrated vet Chaz Sutton and Devin Taylor the previous year. The turnover is to the point that defensive coordinator Whammy Ward has hinted that the Gamecocks might tinker with more 3-4 looks and shake up their 4-2-5 base.
Dixon is developing into a very serviceable SEC defensive end, similar to what Sutton became toward the end of his career. But the key to the position is how far redshirt sophomore Darius English progresses.
Ward told me last summer that he had a raw, pure pass-rusher in English. But English struggled to put on enough weight to be anything more than a specialist. When I texted Ward on Thursday, he said English had added 15 pounds to get to 250.
“It will help,” Ward said.
If he can hold his ground and be something closer to a three-down end, it would certainly aid the transition.