Jadeveon Clowney may want to go big at the NFL Scouting Combine, and some may want to see him do so, but the South Carolina product could choose not to participate at all, and his stock would be just fine.
There are two facets at play here.
For one, the combine itself is far from the only thing that goes into a franchise's decision to select a player. Years of film tell front offices what they need to know about a potential selection. In fact, interviews are likely the most important part of the process.
Two, the NFL is more than aware of what Clowney is capable of on the field. A good number after a drill while running around in his underwear only means so much—if anything at all.
Clowney surely knows this and is being advised as such, but he still wants to post big numbers, according to Josh Kendall of The State:
Jadeveon Clowney will participate in all drills at NFL Combine, he says. "The numbers I am going to put up are going to be amazing."— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) January 18, 2014
Let Clowney have his fun at a once-in-a-lifetime event—just do so with the understanding he does not need it.
There is no defensive end in Clowney's area code who will actually threaten his status as first off the board at the position, although Buffalo's Khalil Mack will likely come off the board in the top 10, too.
At 6'6", 274 pounds, Clowney is simply head and shoulders above the rest of the defenders on the board. Even after a "down year" in which his sack total dropped from 13.5 to three, Clowney's stock has not changed at all.
NFL teams have film on him, which showed two or three players being thrown in his direction at once on a given play in an effort to shut him down. It rarely worked, as the resources Clowney commanded opened things up for those around him—especially when teams blatantly refused to even run to his side of the field.
There were injuries and allegations of taking plays off, but the former has yet to be anything significant or chronic, and the latter is the case with most players at any level. That is especially true for a top-flight prospect attempting to stay healthy and not lose millions of dollars (literally) on draft day because of a potential career-threatening issue as a result of being forced to play another year for free.
That is not to make excuses, but Clowney is what he is. He understands that his draft stock is cemented. A dip in numbers for a variety of reasons (the majority of them good), a nagging injury and questionable effort at times did not hurt his stock, so neither will anything that happens at the combine, barring an epic collapse.
The notion that Clowney can prove at the combine to the NFL that he does not have motivation issues is inherently flawed. There is something wrong with observers who raise this question when Clowney's explanation makes the most sense of all, via Anwar S. Richardson of Yahoo! Sports:
If you watch our tapes, everybody can see I’m playing hard. Guys that don’t know anything … People expect me to get five sacks, 10 tackles for loss every game, but that wasn’t going to happen the way teams were playing me. I’m taking 80 snaps a game, all our snaps per game, I’m playing them all. Coaches were like, ‘Keep playing the way you play. We love the way you play.
The only thing Clowney can do at the combine is hope to prove to franchises at the top of the draft that he is worth the investment over a potential franchise quarterback. Even then, that decision is likely out of his hands as teams have a good idea of whether or not a quarterback will be the pick in the top five.
Clowney will undoubtedly put on a show at the combine, but he just does not need to at this point. His participation—and perhaps enthusiasm—is a PR move. His ultimate placement in the draft, which is somewhere in the top six picks, depends more on how the board falls at this point because Clowney has nothing left to prove.