Will Clarke Giving Bengals Less Reason To Draft Defensive Linemen

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Jan 4, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Will Clarke (93) warms up before the 2014 AFC Wild Card playoff football game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals have been known to draft “project” players over the last few of drafts.  Cincinnati prefers to bring their young players along slowly, so we as fans our left waiting for some time to see how these players will benefit the team.

One of these players was last year’s third round selection Will Clarke.  The West Virginia product came to the Bengals as a serious project.  Although Clarke offered great size at 6’6″, 271 pounds, his technique needed serious refinement.  Clarke offered nice upside in this way though.  At West Virginia, he earned the “Iron Mountaineer” award three times, which is given to the best-conditioned athlete at West Virginia.  He’s the only Mountaineer to ever do so.

Clarke also came to the Bengals as a player with high character both on the off the field.  He’s intelligent and hard working, which makes him a coach’s dream.  With leadership traits and durability in tow, Clarke offered everything the Bengals could ask from a player other than being ready-made for the NFL.

Upon being drafted, defensive coordinator told the press that he felt Will Clarke could add muscle and play at 290 pounds.  And though, according to Geoff Hobson, “no one told Clarke to come back at 290,” he did just that.  Apparently Guenther suggested that Clarke develop his lower body, and the 20 pounds of muscle likely did that.

In the piece Clarke talks about the reasoning’s behind adding all the muscle, the method(s) he employed to get there, and says:

"“I just wanted to add more strength. I thought that would help make me a dominant player.”"

Gaining 20 pounds of muscle won’t make Clarke a dominant player by itself.  But what will are the qualities he’s proving to possess.  He listened to his coach and humbly took the “redshirt” year.  He spent his time developing his body and learning what will make him better.  And though the article doesn’t specifically speak to it, if Clarke listens this well to the subtle suggestions of his coach, I suspect he listens equally well when learning from more accomplished veterans.

Until his performance proves otherwise, Will Clarke will head into 2015 continuing to carry his “project” label.  But having done what he could thus far to prove himself more than simply a project, it seems reasonable to suspect that Clarke could become a valuable member of the defensive line in the near future. All the more reason why the Bengals will likely choose to focus their draft investments at positions of greater need.

Next: Reggie Nelson Could Influence Bengals' Draft

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