This year's draft could produce some highly intriguing NFL tandems, especially if the double-down strategy is the prevailing one early in the first round.
The Texans, mulling their options with the No. 1 overall pick, have greater needs elsewhere, but might ultimately decide to pair another potentially elite pass rusher in Jadeveon Clowney with two-time All-Pro DE J.J. Watt. It's a similar situation in Detroit, where the Lions are reportedly showing a ton of interest in landing the draft's top receiver, Sammy Watkins, to play opposite Calvin Johnson even though there are big holes to be filled on defense. It's conceivable that the Bucs won't be able to pass on a chance to draft OLB Khalil Mack with the seventh overall pick, if he's still available, even though they already have an All-Pro OLB in Lavonte David.
In all three cases, there's a case to be made that the team would be ignoring a more pressing need if they double down, and some people might scratch their heads wondering why a glaring hole on the roster wasn't filled when so many other great talents were still available. This feeds back into the classic debate of taking the best player available vs. drafting based on need. There are merits and risks to both, but here's a look at the potential pairings and why doubling down in each case is more than reasonable:
Texans: Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt
We just watched a Seahawks defense loaded with pass rushers shut down Peyton Manning and play a leading role in a championship run. It wasn't too long ago that the Giants loaded up on pass rushers on the way to a couple titles. We've seen what a great defense, led up front by a dominant pass rush, coupled with a good, maybe not spectacular, offense can do. Can you ever have enough good pass rushers?
What if Houston doesn't take Clowney, choosing to fill its quarterback need instead? The Rams, who already have a great DE tandem of Chris Long and Robert Quinn, hold the No. 2 pick. Would they turn down Clowney? Or would they make the position even more of a strength as they chase the 49ers and Seahawks? To me, Clowney should be in play for them, too, even though DE is not a position of need.
Lions: Sammy Watkins and Calvin Johnson
Megatron is great, but he takes a beating, and that takes a toll. Detroit has had some complementary receivers for him over the years, but no one with Watkins' potential. How much better could Detroit's offense be if you take some pressure off Johnson? Adding Watkins would be huge for them -- it would also help Matthew Stafford, take pressure off the offensive line and boost the running game. It makes sense to me. That said, it's likely going to take a trade up for the Lions, who hold the 10th overall pick, to be in position to land Watkins. There's talk he could be off the board as early as No. 2 to St. Louis, but Detroit still could have a shot at another coveted receiver like Mike Evans.
Bucs: Khalil Mack and Lavonte David
We're accustomed to seeing 4-3 teams operate with a fast-flowing run-and-chase weakside linebacker and more of a thumper on the strong side, but those distinctions are becoming less important to NFL teams. Outside linebackers need to be able to do it all at each position and need to be almost interchangeable. Can you pair Mack, one of the draft's biggest risers, with David? I don't see why not. One of the Bucs' biggest needs is a player that can bring pressure off the edge, and Mack, while not a defensive end, certainly seems up to that task.