If there is any certainty in the NFL draft, it's that pass rushers are held in very high regard. One thing is for sure, Clemson Tigers defensive end Gaines Adams falls into that category. One of the top prospects entering the 2006 season, Adams has caught the eye of more than a few NFL teams and should be selected early this coming April.
Adams grew up in Greenwood, S.C. and went to Cambridge Academy. What is so interesting about that is that he played eight-man football during his time there. In three years as a starter, he accumulated 341 tackles, 10 interceptions and 33 sacks, leading his team to the state championship in 2000. Before signing with the Tigers, Adams attended Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia, where he recorded 58 tackles, 22 sacks and two interceptions in just 10 games in 2001.
After red-shirting as a freshman, Adams recorded 15 tackles in 12 games in 2003. He also recorded his first career sack that season. What was most impressive was the improvement he showed throughout the year, as he recorded 13 of his 15 tackles in the team's last four contests.
In 2004, Adams became a larger factor on the squad. He was a special teams demon, recording two blocked punts. He also recorded 35 stops, including eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage and eight sacks that season.
As a red-shirt junior in 2005, Adams made his presence known. He finished the season fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference in sacks (9.5) while racking up 56 tackles. As the team's starting "bandit end," he made 15 stops behind the line while also breaking up nine passes, showing his athletic ability throughout the year. He even pondered entering the 2006 NFL Draft but decided to return to Clemson upon further consideration.
In his last season with the Tigers, Adams cemented his status at the top of most team's defensive draft boards. He recorded a career-high 12.5 sacks while also making 17.5 stops behind the line. He also broke up six passes while totaling 62 tackles. He also scored his first touchdown in orange, returning one of his three fumble recoveries for six points.
Adams has great height at 6-foot-5, making him even better rushing the passer
and wrecking havoc in the passing lanes with his long arms. His height also
makes him a special teams weapon, allowing him to stretch out to block kicks.
As the team's "bandit end," he was called on to do a variety of things, including
rushing the passer, dropping back into coverage, and defending the run. He is
a fantastic athlete, making him a star and the epitome of what Clemson looks
for at that position.
Adams is very quick and has great mobility. He excels at getting into the backfield fast and making plays. While he may not have the bulk right now to stand up against some NFL offensive tackles, he has a good enough frame that it shouldn't be tough to add more weight on. He has been a huge contributor during his time with Clemson, and it shouldn't be any different for whoever takes him in the draft.
Some people will knock that Adams doesn't have the muscle mass yet to make it in the pros. As touched on earlier, however, he is certainly capable of adding the weight on.
Adams also tends to run himself out of plays with his aggressiveness. Since he didn't play full time at one position in college and played eight-man football in high school, some teams may be worried that he may only be limited as a pro, perhaps as just a rusher in a 3-4 defense alignment. He could stand to play the run a little better (that's probably his biggest weakness), but that will improve with more bulk.
As stated earlier, the NFL puts a high value on premier pass rushers. Recent drafts have seen players like Kamerion Wimbley, Shawne Merriman and DeMarcus Ware shoot up draft boards because of their ability to get to the quarterback. Don't expect anything different here.
Adams is one of the best defensive linemen in this draft, and the only other player in this class that will challenge him as the best in his position is junior Jamaal Anderson (Arkansas). However, if Adams performs as well at the NFL Combine as we think he will, you can guarantee on him being a top-10 selection in April. The most likely scenario would have Adams going to either the Arizona Cardinals (fifth overall) or Washington Redskins (sixth overall).
About Francis Duffy
"Fran Duffy has been involved in sports since he was a child. A Philadelphia native, Fran is obviously a die-hard fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers and Sixers. Fran is desperately waiting to see his first major championship from one of his hometown teams. He is a Broadcasting major at Temple University and has experience on the radio as well as in television production. Fran also currently works with Temple football's video-operation's team and is an avid fantasy sports player. Looking for more experience in writing, Fran joined KFFL in the spring of 2005."
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