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April 9, 2011 @ 8:18 am
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Pewter Prospect: RB John Clay

Written by Charlie
Charlie Campbell


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Do the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a need for a physical running back? How would John Clay fit in Tampa Bay's offense? Find out in this prospect profile.
All right, draftniks. You know that Pewter Report is the undisputed king of Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft coverage. We’ve listed players, such as wide receiver Mike Williams (2010), wide receiver Arrelious Benn (2010), defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (2010), quarterback Josh Freeman (2009), wide receiver Dexter Jackson (2008), offensive lineman Jeremy Zuttah (2008), quarterback Josh Johnson (2008), defensive end Gaines Adams (2007), linebacker Quincy Black (2007), wide receiver Maurice Stovall (2006), quarterback Bruce Gradkowski (2006), middle linebacker Barrett Ruud (2005), cornerback Torrie Cox (2003) – among others, at their respective positions in the Bucs’ Best Bets sections of Pewter Report’s annual Bucs Draft Preview.

As the 2011 NFL Draft approaches, Pewter Report’s resident draft experts, Scott Reynolds and Charlie Campbell, have spent countless hours watching over 12 college games per week and scouting which prospects would look good wearing red and pewter next year. With over 500 college games to review dating back over the last four years and countless scouting contacts throughout the NFL, Reynolds and Campbell are armed with the inside scoop needed to put together these scouting reports on players who might fit Tampa Bay’s schemes on offense and defense.

These regular Pewter Prospect profiles on PewterReport.com will scout out players that are candidates for the Buccaneers to select in next April's draft. Pewter Report's predictions of who the Bucs will take will be in the Bucs' Best Bets in the digital Bucs Draft Preview magazine and the Bucs 7 Round Mock Draft on the website.

Will one of these players wind up being the next Barrett Ruud, Mike Williams or Josh Johnson? We’ll all find out next April when Tampa Bay is on the clock.

VITAL STATS: The Badgers standout checks in at 6-foot-1, 230 pounds. At the NFL Scouting Combine Clay ran the 40-yard dash in 4.87 seconds. At his pro day he improved his time to 4.72.  

In his three-year collegiate career Clay was a bell cow running back that carried the load for the Badgers offense. Clay ran for 3,413 yards (5.4 yards per carry) on 629 carries with 41 touchdowns. He also caught 11 passes for 72 yards. Clay had 10 fumbles in his career and lost five of them. 

Clay’s best season came as a sophomore in 2009 when he ran for 1,517 yards on 287 carries (5.3 average) with 18 touchdowns. Last year Clay ran for 1,012 yards and 14 touchdowns as the Badgers transitioned to a three-back rotation. As a red-shirt freshman, Clay ran for 884 yards and nine touchdowns. He is seventh in school history in rushing.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have their long-term starting running back in LeGarrette Blount. However, the Bucs are looking for some depth at the running back position. They would prefer a change of pace speed back, but also would consider adding another power back to pair with Blount to wear down defenses.

There is a school of thought in the Tampa Bay organization that the NFL is trending bigger. Some believe that more and more the league will be a big man’s game. With that in mind they think having two big power backs could be an asset to pound defenses, and be able to maintain the Bucs offensive identity if Blount were to go down with an injury. The Buccaneers also think that it will be even more of a big man’s game if the NFL goes to an 18-game regular season.

Clay is powerful North-South runner that is capable of wearing down defenses. He is a physical back that rarely goes down due to the first contact. Typically it takes multiple defenders to pile onto Clay before he gets tackled. Clay has a good stiff arm that he uses to gain yards when he breaks into the open field. He has no problem handling a high number of carries and seems to finish games better than he starts them. 

In his career with the Badgers Clay was not called on to catch a lot of passes as the Badgers had a run dominated offense. At the NFL Clay will need to develop his skills as a pass receiver and blitz protector because he rarely was called on to do that in college.

At the college level Clay had enough quickness and burst to hit the hole and get to the second level of the defense. That is a question concerning Clay for playing at the NFL level. 

Tampa Bay feels that Clay can slide into the offense smoothly. The Bucs running plays are very similar to the plays that Clay ran in college. The Buccaneers think that Clay’s one-cut downhill running style would be a fit in their offense.

Clay is a hard-worker and the Bucs have gotten a recommendation on Clay from Wisconsin coach Brett Bielema, who is good friends with Raheem Morris’ assistant Jay Kaiser. Sources with the Bucs have told Pewter Report that they like Clay, and they have some interest in taking him late in the draft or signing him as an undrafted free agent.

The biggest weakness in Clay’s game is a lack of elite speed and quickness. That causes some to believe that Clay won’t be able to succeed at the NFL level.

9/11/10 vs. San Jose St. 137 yards on 23 carries and 2 touchdowns
11/14/09 vs. Michigan 151 yards on 26 carries and 1 touchdown
12/5/09 at Hawaii 172 yards on 24 carries and 3 touchdowns
10/3/09 at Minnesota 184 yards on 32 carries and 3 touchdowns
9/12/09 vs. Fresno State 143 yards on 21 carries with 1 touchdown

Clay is considered to be a late-round pick at this time.

North Carolina MLB Quan Sturdivant

Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward

Maryland MLB Alex Wujciak

Marshall MLB Mario Harvey

Kansas State RB Daniel Thomas

Pittsburgh RB Dion Lewis

Missouri DE Aldon Smith

Kentucky RB Derrick Locke

North Carolina DE Robert Quinn

Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn

Wisconsin TE Lance Kendricks

Georgia DE/OLB Justin Houston

Florida G Mike Pouncey

North Carolina LB Bruce Carter

North Carolina State LB Nate Irving

Florida State G Rodney Hudson

Mississippi State OT Derek Sherrod

Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan

Florida S Ahmad Black

Oklahoma State RB Kendall Hunter

Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara
Last modified on Saturday, 09 April 2011 08:21

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  • avatar

    Wouldn't draft him unless its a late 7th rounder
  • avatar

    What is meant by a big man's game? Are the defenses expected to get bigger or the RB's or both? If the defenses are expected to be bigger to me that's all the more reason to have at least one faster, elusive RB that's a bit smaller to compliment Blount. I've always believed in fighting fire with water instead of fire with fire. Those bigger defenders are sometimes slower, but they are always less agile. If you have an elusive back where the defenders have to change directions it can make for many homerun plays.
  • avatar

    Would love this guy as an UFA. Maybe Bielema can convince him to go to Tampa if he is undrafted and help out his former buddy Kaiser. Would love to see him battle in camp, and if he turns out to be better than Lumpkin or anybody else we have by then, thats great value. If not and he proves to be too slow, nothing lost. I agree that the most I would use on him is a 7th rounder.
  • avatar

    Like most Wisconsin running backs, he will be a bust. Too slow. Wont be able to get past line of scrimmage in NFL. Will be good training camp fodder for a team somewhere. 7th round flyer at best if they think he can be a short yardage back.
  • avatar

    In the seventh round no problem, but not before. The one trait that gets exposed in RB's in the transition from college to pro is lack of speed. Blount weighs ten more pounds than this guy and runs a 4.5. Clay has the speed of a FB in the body of a RB. Don't see how he can be more than a third or fourth RB on the depth chart.
  • avatar

    John Clay is projected to go in the 7th rd or even free agency because of his 4.83 forty at the combine. If you watched the highlight tape you will see that he plays faster at game speed. Clay would be a good red zone back or a back-up to Blount. I like this pick as a UFA.
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