The 2015 draft class looks very promising so far. It could end up being another stellar JS draft year.
Most of the attention so far has been directed at Tyler Lockett. He was one of the most polished and NFL ready receiver of the whole class. So far he displays it on training camp and should be a contributor this year.
However, the pick I am really impressed with is Frank Clark.
Off the field issues has been the main focus point With Clark. Those were serious issues that totally clouded what he can bring to the table as a player. At the time when pass rushers ride their combine success and move up the charts, Clark had to battle his tarnished image just to be considered at all. A lot has been said about those issues after he was picked. Everything else he brings was pushed aside.
So far we have heard almost nothing regarding Frank Clark. When you consider that the only questions regarding Clark are over off field issues, the silence is a very good sign.
It's time to take a look at Frank Clark the football player.
Before the draft I didn't pay him much attention. Personally, I figured that the Seahawks would rather avoid having to deal with the public scrutiny over picking a player with domestic violence issues.
After he was picked with our first pick at the bottom of the 2nd round i had to go back and study the guy all over again. It didn't take me long to see why they risked the fallout over his DV issues. I started with his physical attributes. Most referred to him as "athletic" and some mentioned that "Clark has some explosive qualities and power to his game". Not the most glaring physical praise. I then took the time to dig deeper into his numbers and a totally different picture appeared.
The combine craze is utterly biased towards the 40 yard dash. Once Clark registered a mediocre 4.79 seconds he was out of the SPARQ FREAK discussion. He later improved on it with a 4.64 and a 4.68 on his pro day. That's not far from Fowler's 4.60 but not in the same league of Bruce Irvin's 4.50. (I'll be using our own SPARQ freak Bruce Irvin and the top DE in this year's draft, the 3rd pick - Dante Fowler Jr. as a reference for Clark)
So, are we dealing with a slower, sluggish DE? Not at all.
Once you let go of the all mighty 40 yards dash and move on, you find that at 271lbs (compared to Irvin's 246lbs and Fowler's 260lbs), Clark's 10 yard split time is 1.58 (Irvin's was 1.55, Fowler was 1.59). That by itself tells us a totally different story regarding Clark's speed. As a pass rusher he doesn't need to run 40 yards downfield to get to the QB and his short range burst is bordering on the elite. Such short range speed for a 271lbs player is very very rare.
The next logical step was to evaluate his "explosiveness". Clark posted 38.5 vertical jump at 271lbs. How good is that? Well, it was good enough to be the 2nd best score of all players tested for the DL this year. It was much better than Irvin's 33.5 or Fowler's 32.5. It is a stunning number indicating how fast he can explode out of his stance. This number plus his short range speed are enough to merit Clark with the physical excellence badge but we are far from over.
Next on the agenda are the agility and stop/start capabilities. Those are found when you evaluate his 20 and 60 yard shuttle times. Imagine my surprise at finding a 271lbs DE at the top of the draft class on both categories. Let me say that again, Frank Clark posted the best 20/60 shuttle times of all DL candidates of the 2015 draft. His 4.06 on the 20 yards shuttle falls just behind the combine record holder Irvin at 4.05 as second all time DL candidate. His 11.22 on the 60 yards shuttle falls just behind the record holder Manny Lawson at 11.08. Both are way ahead of Fowler's 4.32 and 11.85. Those are incredible numbers for a big guy. Just incredible.
His 7.08 3 cone time is just one hundredth of a second behind the leader in this draft class placing him 3rd of all DL in the 2015 draft. (Fowler managed a 7.40) WOOW.
All those numbers indicate that Clark should display the explosiveness and quick-twitch athleticism needed to play the position at the highest level.
When you take a look at Clark's physical dimensions, two facts jump off the screen. At 6-3, 271lbs, he is not going to be easily moved or pushed around. This is one big and strong puppy but his greatest physical weapons are his arms and hands. Clark is equipped with enormous 34.5 arms with two huge 10+ inch meat hooks at the end. For a pass rusher that doesn't rely exclusively on speed, those are valuable weapons. Being able to place your hands first and direct the lineman ahead of you is a vital element for someone of Clark's size.
All together, what we have here is JPP on steroids. His numbers are better then the 263lbs Aldon Smith. He is almost Irvin fast, with an extra 25lbs of strength and length. Physically there is no limit to what this guy can do.
Okay. So he is a very impressive physical specimen but what can he do on the field, right?
To start, PFF has ranked Clark as the 3rd most productive pass rusher and the 6th most productive run stopper in college this year. The 3rd pick in the draft (Fowler Jr.) was ranked 8th as a pass rusher and didn't make the top 20 as a run defender. That's a very good start. Combine that with the above physical traits and you can wonder how high he would go without the off field issues clouding the issue.
What else can we learn from Clark's tape?
Clark is the high motor, plays to the whistle player the Seahawks love. He always seems to be there whenever the play is anywhere he can reach. He is constantly causing havoc in the back field. It's not just sacks and QB hits. It's pressure, TFLs, moving the QB, holding the edge and redirecting plays. Clark is always there providing big play after big play. His size and length makes it almost impossible to stop him dead on for long or move him of his spot. He uses those massive arms to disengage quickly and his chase & pursuit are second to none in this draft class. Lacking the ability to just rely on speed has helped Clark to develop a full arsenal of moves. His speed rush is there, he shoots into the gaps, he can explode downfield, bend and turn the corner but he can just as easily convert speed to power, bull rush, take on a blocker, disengage and get to the QB.
He is very effective stunting inside and shows a swim and a spin move (both are not polished or effective enough but there is something to work with). The most impressive element that I noticed is his awareness of the play. You will rarely see Clark going in the wrong direction. He is always playing the right play. He shifts very quickly from rushing the passer to playing the run and vice versa. He knows his position on the field and will usually make the right call as to what to do next. He brings so much more then just pin your ears back and go for the QB.
Frank Clark looks like the complete package against both run and pass. With proper NFL training he should be very effective this year within the rotation and could be ready to take his place as a key starter within a year or two.
The more I learn about Frank Clark the more positive I am that without his off the field issues he would not have been there at the end of the 1st Round, not to mention the bottom of the 2nd round where Seattle picked him. Clark has all the attributes you find with players that are risers on the draft chart. He shows All Pro potential across the board and his only down side is off the field.
I'm very glad that we heard almost nothing about him so far. By the time the players put on pads and helmets and start playing physical football during training camp, I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot about Frank Clark. I won't be surprised if we'll start the 2017 season with Clark replacing Bennett's 8M cap space. He could be that good and much more.