Mark Dominik called the pick "unanimous," and there's a good chance that extended well beyond the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' draft room at One Buccaneer Place.
On Thursday night, Dominik began his third draft as the Buccaneers' general manager with the selection of Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn in the first round. Tampa Bay may not have been as locked in at defensive end as most analysts figured, but Clayborn's presence at pick #20 was exactly what the team was hoping for. Though other highly-regarded ends were available in the midst of what many considered a very deep class at the position, the Bucs eagerly snapped up the Big Ten defender.
"It's about toughness," said Dominik. "It's about the football player, the mentality in terms of how hard you play. He's a relentless football player. He will go full-bore on every play, as long as he can, as hard as he can. I'm looking forward to our fans seeing this guy play in pewter and red because he's going to be a guy that really attacks the football field, attacks the runner. He has some very physical hits, he's a very good runner, has good change of direction. We're really excited about him. He's going to be very productive player for us and I know he's going to make us a better team up front."
In four seasons at Iowa, Clayborn started 37 games and racked up 192 tackles, seven forced fumbles, 19 sacks, 19 quarterback pressures and 37.5 tackles for loss. In the process he built a reputation as a non-stop gamer – in 2009 he was given Iowa's "Hawkeye Hustle" award in recognition of his relentless effort. Though he has a quick step off the edge and is a natural pass-rusher, Clayborn is projected as an every-down defensive end who is equally capable against the run.
"He's a guy that's going to go out there and hunt, not only the quarterback but anybody that has the football," said Head Coach Raheem Morris. "Also, he falls right into the line of doing whatever's best for [quarterback] Josh Freeman. I know he's on defense, but the more times you stop people and get the ball back, the more for Josh. That immediately helps. He's going to be a force on the football field and that's what we want. That's why we went out and got him."
Clayborn's finest season, statistically, came in 2009, when he racked up a career-high 11.5 sacks and four forced fumbles while helping Iowa rank fifth in the nation against the run. Though his sack total dropped to 3.5 last fall as a senior that hardly noted a downturn in his play. In fact, at the end of the 2010 campaign Clayborn was named an All-American by the Associated Press and a finalist for the Ted Hendricks award, given to the nation's top defensive end.
"Teams knew that my play was still there, but that the numbers were down a little bit from double-teaming and stuff like that, but it wasn't a concern," he said. "My motor was still going and my skills were still there. It wasn't like I lost my step."
As Clayborn was told during his pre-draft visit to One Buccaneer Place, the team's scouts had seen a very productive player on tape, regardless of the senior-season sack numbers.
"When you look at sacks, you can't just determine a man that way," said Dominik. "If he came out last year, we'd be talking about how many sacks he did have. This guy's a productive player. He creates havoc on the football field, he helps the players around him become productive players. He's going to continue to generate the push and the pressure that we want to apply to quarterbacks in our division.
Continuing the theme of his perceived value within the Iowa family, Clayborn received the team's "Extra Heartbeat" award and was a team captain for the second year in a row. While it doesn't show up in the stat line, that is something taken quite seriously by the Buccaneers' personnel men.
"He also ties into the two-time captain [trend]," said Dominik. "That's two years in a row now we've taken a first-round pick who was a two-time captain at a major university. He's a leader. He brings a lot of traits that we think are important to this football team."
The St. Louis native first moved into the starting lineup as a redshirt sophomore in 2008 and recorded 50 tackles and two sacks. His strong play helped the Hawkeyes gain a spot in the Outback Bowl, where they routed South Carolina, 31-10, at Raymond James Stadium. Now he'll be spending his home Sundays in the same venue, joining the youngest team in the NFL in 2010 as a new, long-lasting core of talent is formed. Not long after he was selected By Tampa Bay, Clayborn got a call from the Buccaneers' 2010 first-round pick, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who envisions a powerful defensive front with his new teammate.
"He said he was excited," said Clayborn. "He thought that they got a great pick in me. He's excited and I'm excited to be there and work with him a little bit. That's one thing that [McCoy] talked to me about. He said that he was going to guide me the right way through this whole process. I'm excited to have a guy like that to help me out."
The 2011 NFL Draft resumes on Friday evening with the second and third rounds. The Buccaneers are scheduled to pick 19th in Round Two (51st overall) and 20th in Round Three (84th overall). Clayborn will visit One Buccaneer Place on Friday afternoon for his introductory press conference, which will be carried live on Buccaneers.com beginning at 2:00 p.m. ET.