Several of the prospects invited to the 2011 NFL draft at Radio City Music Hall have announced they will attend in the past week or so, but Adrian Clayborn, a defensive end from Iowa, was the first to say he accepted his invite late last month. He made the announcement on Twitter after the NFL Players' Association decided not to boycott the draft, but to instead hold events of its own in New York during the draft weekend.
PFW recently spoke to Clayborn, who is expected to be drafted late in the first round, and asked him about the decision to make the trip. We also discussed whether he thinks having Erb's Palsy — a condition that stems from his birth, when he suffered nerve damage in his neck and right arm — affects his play and whether he has any regrets about not entering the draft last year. Some say Clayborn might have been a top-five pick had he left Iowa one season earlier.
While his stock is not quite as high this year, draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki ranks Clayborn as the eighth-best defensive lineman in the draft in PFW's 2011 Draft Preview book.
Clayborn is working with Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle in Iowa City, but he said if there is still a lockout after the draft he plans to head to Scottsdale, Ariz., to work out at the facilities of Performance Enhancement Professionals.
PFW: What went into the decision to accept the invitation to the draft and how difficult of a decision was it to make?
Clayborn: I'm pretty sure I'm going to be picked in the 20s or the late teens, so I mean, it's going to be a tough day being in the green room for that long and seeing other guys go and stuff like that. I wanted to be at home with my family at first. They just told me it was going to be a good experience for me. It's going to be once in a lifetime. (They said) I should go and then come back home and have a little celebration with them. They gave me the 'go,' so I figured I should go and enjoy it.
I'm excited about it. I'm glad we get to go out there a couple days before and hang out with the guys I saw at the [NFL Scouting] Combine, enjoy the first couple days and then Draft Day be a nervous wreck.
PFW: Did you feel any pressure from the players' association to not attend the draft?
Clayborn: I didn't call any calls from the NFLPA. I know they have events going on Friday and Saturday and if all goes to plan and I'm drafted on Thursday, I'll go to those events as well.
PFW: What teams have shown the most interest in you?
Clayborn: I wish I knew. There are a few out there, but I'm not really sure. Every team says the same thing so you don't really know what team's interested in you. They come in, work you out, say you did good and then they're pretty much on their way. You can't really get a feel for what team likes you the most.
PFW: What do you say when teams tell you they are concerned about you having Erb's Palsy?
Clayborn: No team has actually said that to me as far as (being concerned about it). I just tell them that I've been playing college football for 4½ years and I've never had a problem. They haven't expressed any concern to me and team doctors haven't. It's been all good. You never know with teams. They've got their poker face on, so they might be concerned. They just don't tell me.
When I go on team visits, they further analyze it and probably do a second physical on me or whatever. But, I mean … they can't really say much. I've been playing college football for 4½ years, never had a problem, never had an injury, never sat out for it. It is what it is. Some teams it might scare away. … Wherever I end up is where I'm supposed to be. That's how that goes.
PFW: Does your condition limit you in any way?
Clayborn: Not on the field. As far as in the weight room, I don't do certain stuff, which I've told the NFL teams. As far as on the field, it doesn't affect me.
PFW: Do you have any regrets about playing another season in college and bypassing the draft last year?
Clayborn: Not really. I wish there wasn't this whole lockout thing going on, but as far as me personally, I feel like I'm more ready for the NFL than I would've been last year. … As far as me mentally and physically being ready for the NFL, I think I'm way far ahead of where I was at this point last year. … I have more experience. I'm more knowledgeable about the game. I'm more of a film bug. I'm more in shape, more mentally prepared for what I have ahead of me.
Pro Football Weekly's 2011 Draft Preview book is now on sale.