John Clay, RB, Wisconsin

Scouting reports of the running backs and fullbacks in the 2011 Draft.
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John Clay, RB, Wisconsin

Postby Pudge » Tue Mar 08, 2011 11:31 am

Wisconsin Junior
40: 4.87, 4.65e


Physical runner that at times runs hard behind his pads. Shows ability to smash through the hole up the middle. Has a good stiff arm. Keeps feet moving after contact and manages to pick up extra yards. Patient, follows his blocks and shows good straight-line speed to the hole. Shows decent footwork for his size, and has enough speed to occasionally challenge the edge.


Can be slow to the hole. At times too patient, waiting for holes to develop and may not have great vision. Power can be inconsistent at times, as he doesn't always show great power as a downhill runner. Struggles to change direction and isn't really a factor to make guys miss. Lacks the gear to really be effective when he gets into the clear on the second level, and lacks the speed to really consistently challenge the edge. Gets tripped up a bit too easily when defenders hit him below the waist. Misses assignments in pass protection on the rare opportunities he has on passing downs.


Clay is a powerful runner that at times reminds you of other successful big backs in the league, but isn't as consistent or dominant as you'd want to make that a reliable comparison. He definitely has the potential to shine in a short-yardage role and does his best work between the tackles behind a powerful man-blocking line like that at Wisconsin. But injuries and conditioning have been issues that have plagued Clay throughout his career. He missed 2 games this past year due to a sprained knee, following off-season surgery on both ankles. He still managed to rush for 1012 yards (5.4 avg) and 14 touchdowns in 11 games. His best year was as a sophomore, where he had 287 carries for 1517 yards (5.3 avg) and 18 touchdowns despite playing with those sore ankles throughout the year. As a freshman, he was the backup behind P.J. Hill, and had 884 yards on 155 carries (5.7 avg) and 9 touchdowns. Through his career, he only caught 11 passes.


I think Clay was in his best conditioning when he was a freshman and was weighing around 235 pounds and was his most explosive. So it was smart to get his weight back down for the Combine, unfortunately he ran a piss-poor 40 time despite those issues. His weight ballooned upwards to 260 or more while at Wisconsin, and that's something that will have to be monitored. When his weight gets up that high, he just becomes fat and slow. The ankle issues also have to be monitored because he's struggled with those since high school. Hopefully the surgeries fixed that, but I'm sure it could easily come back if his weight continues to rise. When you're fat, it puts pressure on the joints and players tend to have a lot of lower body injuries, and there seems to be a lot of circumstantial evidence that Clay falls into that camp as well. I think his NFL potential projects somewhere between T.J. Duckett and Brandon Jacobs. It would be easy to compare him to Ron Dayne, which wouldn't be a bad comparison. If Clay is in shape and healthy, I think he has the potential to be as effective a player as Jacobs has been at his peak, which is a guy that can work very well splitting carries and be a nice first option in a committee. More often than not, he'll probably be closer to Duckett which is a short-yardage back and goalline runner, but not consistent enough to be a reliable option between the twenties and on most downs. His limited value as a receiver and blocker also hurt his ability to project at the next level. Obviously, he can develop there, but like Duckett it may take the better part of his rookie contract before he's trusted enough there. But even so, he's not the type of guy that will probably give a team more than 10-15 catches a year. You see the potential with him that he can be a solid 15-20 carry back on a team that wants to be a power-oriented run team. But that will only occur if he's healthy and in shape. And there are enough red flags to doubt that he can do that at the next level. And if he's not healthy and in shape, then he's just going to be an above average backup at best. Unless he goes to a team like the Titans that have a real need for such a player behind a guy like Chris Johnson, then he isn't going to offer a ton of long-term value. So he's a player that may have difficulty landing a second contract with a team just like Duckett and may have a relatively shorter shelf life than most NFL runners.


Clay has a chance to stick here in Atlanta and be a good long-term replacement for Turner. They have similar tools, but the key with Clay as previously mentioned is staying healthy. The Falcons will need to monitor his weight and probably put clauses in his deal that incentivize him staying below 240-245 range. The Falcons blocking scheme is similar to Wisconsin's, so he can be a productive runner as the Falcons like to use off-tackle. Like Turner, he's not going to be a factor on passing downs. BUt if he's healthy and well-conditioned, down the road he has the chance to take over for Turner as a powerful lead back for the Falcons. He's not as explosive as Turner and will struggle to generate those 20+ yard runs that Turner can get you, so the Falcons would need to upgrade their depth to have a better back behind him. He probably won't contribute a ton as long as Turner and Snelling are on the roster. Initially, his running ability isn't significantly better than Snelling, and unless he quickly gets up to speed on special teams or third downs, he'd likely be inactive for most of his rookie season and even going into his second year. But the value of him is that two or three years down the line if/when Turner looks to be done, he can potentially slide into that lead back role. He's more a long-term insurance policy than someone that is going to upgrade the Falcons depth and contribute as a role player.


For a team looking for a big, powerful short-yardage back, he offers late round value that could probably go as high as the sixth round. Any team that doesn't have such an open niche on their roster is probably better off trying to snag him in the undrafted market.

1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite

Speed: 1.5
Power: 4.0
Agility: 2.0
Vision: 2.5
Hands: 1.5
Blocking: 1.5
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.

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