Will Clarke had his best season at West Virginia his senior year after becoming the starter during his sophomore season. As an angled 5-technique defensive end that could slide to a base end in an even front or a rush tackle, Clarke had terrific length and burst that allowed him to create havoc with speed and quickness. The son of a former Duquesne basketball player, Clarke is still growing into and filling out his body as he heads to the NFL.
Clarke has an intriguing combination of speed and quickness in a big body that can play as a base end in a 4-3 or a developmental 5-technique end in a 3-4 front. He loves to attack opponents with speed and quickness, showing the ability to disrupt plays. Clarke can rush the passer and has the potential to be a full service player, but needs to get stronger and do a better job at the point of attack. He may have a more difficult transition to being a starter in a 3-4, but may also have more upside there in the long term. Clarke projects as a third day pick that has an interesting amount of upside to start and star in the league if he can stay on a roster.
Vitals & Build
Clarke measured in at 6’6” 271lbs at the scouting combine with an arm length of 34 5/8”. He has a long, lean build but has some impressive burst as well. His quickness and speed are notable considering how big he is. On the other end, his strength can be pretty underwhelming for the most part and needs to improve. His motor is good and displays impressive body control for the most part. Clarke’s potential is pretty high because he is a great athlete and if he can improve his functional strength, he can add another dimension to his game.
Snap Anticipation & First Step
For the most part, Clarke gets off the ball well and can get a quick advantage against his opponents going inside or preferably for him, coming from the outside. He is aggressive with his first step and tries to get a lot of real estate with those long legs.
Clarke is inconsistent with his pad level coming off of the ball. When he is anticipating contact or sees himself as a run plugger, he will generally come out lower and try to get more leverage. When he is anticipating pass or is uncovered on the outside, he stands up too much and he exposes his chest. If he can improve there, he can get more burst forward and protect his body from contact more effectively.
Clarke is at his best when he is able to avoid getting engaged in blocks. He tends to struggle when opponents are able to get into his body, take away his arms and force him to try to win with strength it does not appear he currently possesses. The times he is able to initiate and dictate contact, he is able to keep opponents at a distance and work where he wants to go.
Clarke has trouble because he rarely uses a bull rush and clearly does not believe in it at this point. Some of it is due to the fact that he has trouble unleashing the power in his hips. He likes to win with speed and go around opponent and keep them honest by knifing inside. Clarke wins when he is able to get half the man.
Clarke tends to struggle at the point of attack when it comes to the run. He will still try to get up the field and try to bend around to make plays, which will occasionally result in Clarke taking himself out of his gap and opening a running lane behind him. The times they run him on stunts or he attacks inside, he is quick enough where he can catch a running play before it starts.
In general, he struggles to maintain pad level and can get overpowered. He needs to get stronger and be more confident in his ability to play straight up against an opponent. This is exemplified when he faces double teams and will get shoved down the field, even when he has a good body angle. His length and size would suggest he is stronger and stouter, but he is much more comfortable playing a quick, speed game.
Clarke has an intriguing amount of ability rushing the passer because he is so quick off the ball. The Mountaineers often lined him up at a 5-technique or even a 9-technique end with a natural advantage to attack up the field and use his speed. Clarke can bend around the edge, flatten out and track down the quarterback.
Clarke tends to rely too heavily on that outside rush and can be too predictable. He tries to keep opponents honest by attacking inside on occasion or with stunts. Clarke is definitely quick enough where he can get inside and disrupt the play or get to the passer but his wingspan also makes it so he can be a threat to deflect passes.
His arms are a big advantage and he has great reach. Clarke needs to work, get more effective and confident with his strength as well as his pad level, so he can make it a more viable option as a pass rusher. On occasion, he will shift speed to power and catch opponents by surprise in combination with his quick hands to get into the backfield. At times, he is fast enough where he can really catch opponents by surprise.
Clarke’s length and quickness has been an asset in his ability to help when it comes to blocking kicks. He should find a home there almost immediately.
Clarke can certainly play a defensive end in a 4-3 or 3-4. He is probably more likely to be a full time contributor in a 4-3, but his long term potential is probably higher in a 3-4 because of his combination of length and athleticism. Long bodies like his can take a while to bulk up and strengthen, but if he can do it, he could not only evolve into a starter, but a great player.
Clarke has some of the same qualities as Quinton Coples of the New York Jets. They have that same type of length and burst, though Clarke is not quite as powerful as Coples was when he came out of North Carolina. Nevertheless, Clarke may have a better motor and if he can play with good leverage and continue to add power, he could have success in the NFL for a long time.
Will Clarke has a lot of qualities that NFL teams will like, but he is still a work in progress. His speed and quickness with his frame are impressive, showing off the basketball genetics he inherited. If he can get better with his leverage and strength, he can become a full service player and a possible star. Right now, he looks like he is more suited to be a situational pass rusher until he can add that power and provide a quick spark off the bench. Clarke projects as a third day pick in a deep draft, but has long term upside that could allow him to be a great player down the line.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com