INDIANAPOLIS -- As he strolled down the hallway moments after addressing a large contingent of NFL combine reporters, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney paused for a moment as he pondered an inquiry about the Atlanta Falcons.
"I wish they could trade up for me," Clowney told ESPN.com, "but I hope I don’t fall to No. 6. I like Atlanta – a lot. They’re pretty good. They’ve got some guys from South Carolina on the team, also. And it’s close to home."
The 6-foot-5, 266-pound Clowney is touted as the most athletically gifted player in this year’s draft class. The Falcons desperately need to improve their pass rush, but Clowney is unlikely to be available if they keep the sixth overall pick.
However, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said during the Senior Bowl that he would keep open the option of trading up. He reiterated his stance this week at the combine.
"I’ve said that from Day 1 since 2008 that I always want to have the light on for business," Dimitroff said. "I never want to be one of those teams that people pick up the phone and they quickly throw the phone back down and hesitate to reach out thinking that we’re not going to be straight up. … Whenever you’re able to cultivate trades, it’s about being honest with people in your dealings. And I think that we’ve done a nice job with that. And we’re always going to be open for business."
Dimitroff pulled the trigger on a blockbuster deal before, when he surrendered five draft picks in order to move up from the 27th overall pick to sixth for game-changing receiver Julio Jones in 2011. Dimitroff admitted trading up from the sixth overall pick this year would be less taxing.
"Yes, in the top 10, I believe it’s a little easier to move around," he said.
Clowney maintained he wants to be the No. 1 overall pick to Houston, but the Texans could target a quarterback for new head coach Bill O’Brien. St. Louis, with the second pick, and Jacksonville, with the third, both have expressed a willingness to trade down. Rams general manager Les Snead and Jaguars general manager David Caldwell worked under Dimitroff in Atlanta.
As for Clowney, he seems likely to solidify his high draft status with strong workouts at the combine. Defensive linemen take the field on Monday.
Clowney hadn’t met with any teams as of Saturday afternoon because flight issues got him into Indianapolis late Friday night. He said he anticipated running the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds and boasted that his speed is his greatest asset.
Clowney addressed the issue of his work ethic when asked about South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier's recent comments about other players he coached working harder.
"I believe I did work hard," Clowney said at the podium. "You pull out any practice tape from last year, you’ll see that. I’ll tell anybody that. I’m always going to be working hard. No matter where I end up, I’m going to work hard and give the team everything I’ve got."