New York Jets NFL Draft Deep Dive – OL Cameron Clark

Joe Belic with a deep dive on New York Jets 4th round pick, OL Cameron Clark

The Jets had some question marks in terms of run blocking going into the draft but addressed the issue with two absolute maulers: Mekhi Becton and Cameron Clark.

Clark, the 129th overall pick in the fourth round of the NFL draft, played left tackle all four seasons for the UNC Charlotte 49ers, but it’s widely believed he’s best suited to play guard at the next level.

One part brain and one part brawn, Clark is the perfect combination of smarts and down-right nastiness; his sheer will to dominate defenders is at the heart of his game.  A natural-born leader, his stacked resume includes Dean’s list, offensive MVP, and team captain.  Extremely durable to boot, Clark started 31 straight games during his collegiate career.

The potential to add much-needed tenacity to a developing offensive line is exciting.  Of all day three prospects, Clark, in my opinion, is most intriguing.

Pass Protection:

Clark improved every year giving up zero sacks and only four hurries this past season:

  • 2019: 845 Snaps (461 RBLK and 384 PBLK), 0 Sacks, 1 Hit, and 4 Hurries
  • 2018: 826 snaps (431 RBLK and 395 PBLK), 3 Sacks, 1 Hit, and 11 Hurries
  • 2017: 633 snaps (316 RBLK and 317 PBLK), 2 Sacks, 4 Hits, and 10 Hurries
  • Pro Football Focus Pass-Blocking Grade (2019): 78.3

Breakdown:

For some fans, it’s hard to get excited over a day three prospect, but Clark is different.  He’s already technically sound, regularly displaying solid footwork and busy hands. Feet are the foundation good offensive linemen are built on, and Clark’s NFL ready kick-slide, for example, rivals any prospect coming out of the draft.

Below, Clark (No. 71) quickly kicks his leg back, utilizes his long arms to deliver a two-handed punch, then keeps his hands tight while maintaining the necessary balance and leverage.

Clark showcases his awareness routinely. Watch carefully as he does an excellent job of diagnosing a cross rush and picking up the looping defensive tackle.

In the next clip, the entire offensive line sells the run—to bring the linebackers in—on what was designed to be a quick pass. Clark jumps the edge, jolts him with a nasty punch to the numbers, knocks him off balance, and finishes him to the ground.

Run blocking:

According to PFF (2019):

  • Run-Block Grade: 77.2
  • Zone Grade: 81.6
  • Gap Grade: 63.5

Clark, wielding massive 11” hands, makes his presence known in the run game. His ability to ragdoll defenders is reminiscent of first-round pick Mekhi Becton.  If both players develop as expected, the potential of this line is encouraging; the duo has the chance to be an absolutely dominant force on the left side—if that’s where they end up playing.

Here Clark obliterates the end man on the line of scrimmage opening up a lane for the back to exploit.

Clark is active at the point of attack. Below, he bulldozes the playside 3-technique with a combo block before seamlessly moving onto the second level and picking up the linebacker.

Clark is a tone-setter and plays to the whistle; there is no quit to his game. He looks to enforce his will right off the snap by keeping his hands tight, locking onto opponents, and putting them on their backs while simultaneously feeding them some dirt.

Yet another excellent example of his intelligence: Clark picks up the looping defensive end in a “TED” stunt and creates a nice cutback lane for the running back, who breaks off a long gain.

Final Thoughts:

Alex Lewis, Greg Van Roten, and Brian Winters have the upper hand in securing a starting position, but don’t count Clark out.  He will likely challenge the aforementioned as early as the upcoming season.

Clark doesn’t come without flaws. The “lowest man wins,” and Clark needs to work on keeping his pad level down—especially if he expects to transition to guard—he tends to lose his balance when defenders get into his chest. Although he’s a little stiff in the hips and his lateral quickness isn’t optimal, Clark is a determined player with the work ethic necessary to correct his weaknesses. I have to imagine Clark would have gone higher in the draft if he faced more robust competition. Nonetheless, some of his best film is against powerhouse Clemson and, from my perspective, Joe Douglas found a gem on day three of the draft.

“What I’ve been working on since the combine is my change of direction, all the muscles around your groin, the inside of your legs, and playing with better knee bend and hip bend. A lot of flexibility comes from your ankles, too. I had injured both of my ankles in college, so I’m really stretching my ankles. It’s a lot of barefoot work in the grass, and I probably stretch three times a day for about 20 minutes.” –Cameron Clark

NFL Combine results:

  • Height: 6’ 4”
  • Weight: 308 lbs.
  • Hands: 11”
  • Arms: 34 1/8”
  • 40 Yard Dash: 5.29
  • Bench Press: 26 reps
  • Vertical Jump: 25 inches
  • Broad Jump: 101 inches