One of the best size, speed, athletes in NFL Draft history
Extremely fast, runs as fast most wide receivers
Elite speed for an edge rusher
Intimidates offensive players and game plans
Able to beat other elite players
Raw, natural power
Can beat double-teams
Excellent & underrated run-defender
Strong at the point of attack
Repertoire of moves
Plays his best in clutch time
Strives to be game changer
Agility to sink his hips/shoulder
Able to use hands and feet at same time
Has the strength to anchor and hold his ground vs. the run
Adept at forcing fumbles
Lightning get off
Consistent source of pass pressure
Strong at shedding blocks
Ability to bull rush heavy tackles and guards
Can take over games
Can rush from a variety of spots, including inside
Has the ability to drop in pass coverage as a 3-4 OLB
Should be able to produce quickly
Plug-and-play in any defense
Dominated college football's best conference
Tons of upside
Took plays off, especially in 2012 season
Lackadaisical work ethic in conditioning
Can he handle the pressure?
How will he respond to money?
Summary: The hype around Jadeveon Clowney is justified. He is the best defensive prospect to enter the NFL draft this century - with the possible exception of Ndamukong Suh in 2010. Clowney has a rare skill set with an elite combination of speed, strength and athleticism. He is the "Andrew Luck" of defensive draft prospects; a high-pick lock who is extremely coveted by every team in the NFL and a safe selection to turn into a franchise player.
Coming out of high school Clowney was the No. 1 recruit in the nation, and he was a Day-1 contributor for South Carolina. Clowney was the SEC Freshman of the Year and a Second-Team All-SEC selection in 2011. He totaled 36 tackles with eight sacks, 12 tackles for a loss and five forced fumbles as a teenager. In one of Clowney's first games, he beat Cordy Glenn for a sack while Clowney was a rotational player with Melvin Ingram and Devin Taylor.
As a sophomore, Clowney amassed 54 tackles, 23.5 tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles, two passes batted and 13 sacks. His season performance saw him finish sixth for the Heisman Trophy. Clowney was an animal with the ability to make huge plays in clutch time. He would have entered the 2013 NFL Draft if allowed and would have been the first pick.
Clowney totaled 40 tackles, three sacks, 11.5 tackles for a loss, four passes defended and a forced fumble in 2013. Teams made a concerted effort to limit him with steady double-teams and rolling plays to the other side of the field.
Athletically, there is nothing Clowney can't do on a football field. Saying that he is extremely fast is an understatement. At the Combine, Clowney timed as fast as a wide receiver, and he plays with that speed. His burst off the snap and ability to close on the quarterback are out of this world. Immediately, Clowney will be one of the fastest front seven defenders in the NFL. Clowney also has natural power. He uses that strength to shed blocks and can bull rush offensive tackles down the pocket. Clowney has a great repertoire of pass-rushing moves that will only get better with more coaching. It would be a shock if he wasn't a steady double-digit sacker in the NFL.
It gets lost with Clowney's pass-rushing ability and crazy athletic skill set, but he is also a very good defender against the run. Clowney fires into the backfield regularly to blow up runs and disrupt plays. He is strong at the point of attack and doesn't get pushed around. Clowney has a lot of natural strength that should only improve after time in an NFL strength and conditioning program.
Additionally, Clowney intimidates the opposition. Blockers are scared to go against him, and offensive coordinators change their game plans because of him.
The only negative around Clowney is a concern about his work ethic. Back on Aug. 25, we reported that Clowney wasn't blowing away NFL evaluators with his work ethic. Leading up to the 2013 season, he lacked dedication in his conditioning and took a significant amount of plays off in 2012. However, sources told us that Clowney's effort and conditioning was solid this past season after an embarrassing outing against North Carolina in the season opener.
League contacts aren't concerned with Clowney's numbers being down in 2013. The junior faced an obscene amount of extra blocking attention, and offenses schemed their game plans to go away from Clowney. Sources say there is no way any NFL offense could get away with that or function well with those kind of limitations.
While Clowney had an incomplete performance in the field work at the Combine, sources say it was "mission accomplished" for him in the team meetings, as he did very well. The teams we've spoken to came away impressed, including two teams picking in the top five.
Many of Clowney's critics say that his work ethic could lead to him never reaching his potential, but one thing those critics fail to address is Clowney's floor. Even they agree that Clowney's upside and ceiling is out of this world, but his floor is still extremely high. Even if Clowney's work ethic isn't among the best in the NFL, he should still turn into a pass-rusher who regularly has sack totals in the No. 11-14 range just on his natural ability. Thus in my opinion, Clowney is a very safe pick to turn into a difference-maker and franchise player on the defense.
Clowney fits any NFL defense. He has the agility and athleticism to be a standup linebacker in a 3-4 defense and, obviously, fits well as a base end in a 4-3 defense. Clowney's amazing talent makes him able to beat other elite players. He projects to having the ability to go against the best left tackles in the NFL and get his share of wins.
There is no doubt that Clowney is the No. 1-rated prospect for the 2014 NFL Draft. He would have been for the 2013 NFL Draft as well. I almost never say this about a player, but Clowney has the athletic skill set and upside to turn into a Hall of Famer.
Player Comparison: Mario Williams. The closest thing to an edge rusher like Clowney to enter the NFL in the past decade is Williams. Like Clowney, Williams (6-6, 292) is a size-speed freak. Williams was the first-overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, and Clowney is the top player in his draft class as well. Williams has had four double-digit sack seasons in eight years. In the NFL, I think Clowney will be a better pass-rusher than Williams. Clowney is a better player entering the NFL than Williams was.
If you want some other comparisons, I think Clowney could also be compared to Julius Peppers. The veteran was an elite prospect coming out of North Carolina. There are also times where Clowney reminds me of watching old Lawrence Taylor highlights.
NFL Matches: Houston, St. Louis, Jacksonville, Oakland, Atlanta
There aren't a lot of teams that can conceivably land Clowney. The Houston Texans have the first shot at him, and taking Clowney makes a lot of sense for Houston. Clowney and J.J. Watt could form a legendary tandem. The Texans need a pass-rusher on the other side from Watt, and Clowney would be perfect as an outside linebacker and defensive end.
Houston is going to have to go against Andrew Luck for the next decade. Having Clowney and Watt would give the Texans the firepower to limit Luck with their pass rush. Houston is the perfect landing spot for Clowney because he wouldn't have to be the man right away with Watt already in place. Clowney would be pushed hard to greatness by Watt and defensive line coach Bill Kollar. It would be hard to double-team both players. If a team did double-team both Clowney and Watt, the Texans would face 9-on-7 advantage. Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel would also be a great coach to develop Clowney.
If Houston passes on Clowney, the Rams could consider him at No. 2. St. Louis could rotate Clowney with Chris Long and Robert Quinn to give the team a three-headed monster. However, the Rams are likely to trade down, so they could pass on Clowney for a position that is a bigger need.
The Jaguars have had a pathetic pass rush for years, and Clowney would be a huge upgrade for Jacksonville. Head coach Gus Bradley and defensive line coach Todd Wash would be good coaches to work with Clowney.
If Clowney falls further in the top five, he could land with the Raiders. They badly need to improve their pass rush, and Clowney would be an instant improvement for Oakland.
It seems impossible for Clowney to fall out of the top five, but if it happened, Atlanta would snap him up. Clowney has stated he'd like the Falcons to trade up for him because they are the closest team to his home in South Carolina. Thomas Dimitroff has made aggressive upward moves for Atlanta in the past, so you can't rule out the Falcons trying to move up for Clowney as he would fill a huge hole for a franchise player on defense.
Other teams that could consider trading up for Clowney if he falls out of the first few picks include: Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Tennessee and Dallas.