The term "workout warrior" is often given to prospects who can put up good numbers during a workout but can't exactly translate that to the football field. For Jadeveon Clowney, that is not the case—he is every bit as effective on the football field as he is in workouts.
Ever since he was a high school student, Clowney has been a freakish athlete with a boatload of NFL potential. He's had a decorated path to the league thus far and will look to further prove that he is a blue-chip prospect at this weekend's NFL Combine.
NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock has said (via The Greenville News) that Clowney is "as freaky as they come." Just by looking at his game film, it's evident that he's very deserving of the "freak" label, and his physical prowess will be on display in Indianapolis.
He's currently listed as Matt Miller's second overall player on his 2014 big board, but, with a strong showing at the combine, Clowney could potentially move up to be the 1-B to Teddy Bridgewater's 1-A, as the Louisville quarterback is largely considered the best, most pro-ready player in this year's class.
The combine will be a great chance for NFL teams to poke and prod the former Gamecock while also getting a feel for where he's at physically and how he's progressed since the season's end. It will also be an opportunity for Clowney to show exactly what he's capable of athletically.
He possesses a rare combination of speed, size and strength that is truly an anomaly amongst defensive ends. Clowney stands at 6'6" and is 270 pounds, which an ideal build for a defensive end, but what's most impressive about him is his speed and explosion.
The positional drills will be where we see the greatest display of his explosion, mainly in the broad jump and vertical leap. Don't be surprised if Clowney also shows off a bit when he hits the bench, as he's a very strong player who could easily break into the 30s (possibly even 40s) in terms of repetitions.
When it comes to his speed, very rarely do we see players with his size run as fast as he does. Clowney previously claimed to have run a laser-timed 4.46 40-yard dash, and if he runs anywhere in that neighborhood at the combine he will make it tough for any team to pass him up.
To put things in perspective, Clowney's 4.46 time would've ranked third among last year's running backs and 11th among its wide receivers.
It's unlikely the Houston Texans will draft him with the first pick given their monumental need for a quarterback, meaning that he could go anywhere between the St. Louis Rams at second overall or sixth to the Atlanta Falcons.
Considering they already have two Pro Bowl pass-rushers, the Rams aren't exactly in the market for a defensive end, although there is an off chance they consider Clowney too good to pass up. The following two teams are the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns, who will also be looking for a franchise quarterback in the first round come draft day.
Barring a trade, I believe Clowney will end up getting drafted at fifth overall by the Oakland Raiders or at sixth by the Atlanta Falcons. The Raiders don't have an outstanding need for a defensive end, but Clowney would surely be an upgrade. Conversely, the Falcons are desperately hoping that the former college star falls to them.
In fact, that's where Clowney ultimately ends up in Miller's latest mock draft. He highlights Atlanta's need for a force on the defensive edge after a couple of bust free agents and believes that Clowney will be its best move come draft day. He continued:
The team missed badly on free agent Ray Edwards and then let John Abraham go in a cap-saving move that happened a year too soon. Its attempts to fill that hole with Osi Umenyiora didn't work out too well, either. Now general manager Thomas Dimitroff will go back to doing what he does best: drafting to fill needs. Clowney has the rare blend of speed, strength and potential rarely seen in a prospect.
While there are some concerns held by critics such as Mayock (via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution), mainly in terms of Clowney's work ethic, his growth and maturation will likely be sped up by whichever NFL team drafts him. He's always been ahead of the curve physically, and now he will need to focus on getting his mentality right.
Do NFL teams need to worry about Jadeveon Clowney's mentality?
Many NFL rookies have growing pains when they first enter the league as they have to adjust to bigger and faster competition, but it's a bit different for Clowney.
His growing pains will come in the mental sense; he won't be a big fish in a small pond anymore, and he can't just rely on his natural ability to succeed. It's not far-fetched to think that he may have cut some corners during his college years because he was so far ahead of everyone else physically, and he will have to correct that now that he will be in the National Football League.
Clowney will be facing top-tier tackles from day one and will need to put in the work necessary to blossom into a top defender in the league. He already has all the physical attributes he will need to have a great career, and as long as he can mature his mind along with his body, he will be just fine.
The combine is the next stepping stone for Clowney on his path to the NFL, and it will likely be where he makes his biggest statement as the class' best player.