When it comes to the 2014 NFL draft, South Carolina Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is commonly referred to as a lock to go No. 1 overall. During Week 5 of the college football season, Clowney had the opportunity to silence the critics on national television against UCF.
Clowney ended up underwhelming, but what does this performance mean to his draft stock?
Few players have ever been as physically impressive as Clowney, and during the course of his career, not many have been as productive. During the young 2013 season, however, Clowney has been quite underwhelming.
Against UCF, many viewers were left asking one question:
What happened to Jadeveon Clowney?— Chris Dufresne (@DufresneLATimes) September 28, 2013
South Carolina beat writer Josh Kendall had a different take:
Jadeveon Clowney has now forced two sacks today but still has none to call his own.— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) September 28, 2013
Clowney does a lot that doesn't show up on the stat sheet, but when you're a superstar athlete, that just isn't enough to placate the football community.
There's no question that Clowney has the physical gifts to play, and there isn't much of a reason to question his ability to rush the passer. Oddly enough, Clowney has been in the national spotlight since Week 1 and has yet to remind the world why we're so hesitant to question him.
Even still, his status as the No. 1 overall draft choice in 2014 is safe.
When it comes to picking No. 1 overall, there isn't a formula for a team to follow or a specific position to target. Every team would love to add a franchise quarterback, but after Andrew Luck was selected first in 2012, offensive lineman Eric Fisher went No. 1 in 2013.
In the end, it all comes down to whether or not one individual talent is a cut above the rest. Clowney is that type of player.
Clowney is a 6'6" and 274-pound freak of nature at defensive end whose underwhelming play has included 2.0 sacks through four games. He won the 2012 Ted Hendricks award, and while the Heisman hype was nothing short of senseless, he is the best prospect in the nation.
Who should go No. 1 overall in 2014?
After five weeks of football, don't expect NFL executives to believe otherwise.
There are some high-quality players with star potential, but none have played under the type of pressure that Clowney has faced. That's to be expected considering Clowney has been labeled as a superstar since he was a high school prospect.
In the end, transcendent athletes will take precedence over all else.
Louisville Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is a star at quarterback, but he's not without his own flaws. While Clowney may be struggling to produce in 2013, Bridgewater has your quintessential cupcake schedule.
There's no rational way to question his NFL upside, but until further notice, Bridgewater has done nothing to overtake Clowney as the No. 1 player in 2014. For that matter, no one has.
Stephon Tuitt and Anthony Barr are two potential superstar pass rushers, but neither has developed the reputation that Clowney has. I'll be the first to admit that I've been more impressed by Barr than Clowney, but three-plus years of praise doesn't disappear in five weeks.
Keep in mind, this is the same player that many felt should sit out the 2013 season because he's a virtual lock to go No. 1 in the 2014 NFL draft.
Mailing It In?
Back in February of 2013, Tom Sorenson of The Charlotte Observer made waves on a national spectrum when he suggested Clowney should sit out the 2013 season. Sorenson's basis for this belief was the fact that Clowney has been labeled as a player who would've gone No. 1 overall in 2013, when he was a sophomore.
Many, and I mean many, echoed Sorenson's sentiment.
Nearly eight months later, it appears as if the world is forgetting just how far ahead of the pack Clowney has been. His level of play in 2013 has been uninspiring, but even as he's battled questions about his stamina and focus, Clowney has managed two sacks.
That's not an awe-inspiring number, but Shane P. Hallam of DraftTV.com put it best:
Jadeveon Clowney could sit on the field every snap and eat a ham sandwich and he'd still be a top prospect to me. He's proven it.— Shane P. Hallam (@ShanePHallam) September 28, 2013
Love him or hate him, that's the bottom line.
Five weeks into the season, it's far too early for anyone to overtake Clowney as the top prospect in the 2014 NFL draft. If the current trends continue as the season rages on, we may have something to discuss, but until that time, it's all premature evaluation.
Clowney is still the No. 1 prospect.