Former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney didn't live up to his massive hype when he bench-pressed 225 pounds just 21 times to kick off his showcase at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, but Monday was a different story to say the least.
The 6'5", 266-pound specimen went through the rest of his workout, although his election not to do certain drills will provide further fuel for his doubters.
Clowney proved why he is one of the most compelling defensive prospects in recent memory at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, posting a best official 40-yard-dash time of 4.53, a broad jump of 10'4" and a vertical leap of 37.5 inches.
Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network broke news of Clowney's official 40-yard sprint:
Jadeveon Clowney official 40 time- 4.53— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) February 24, 2014
With his combination of size, speed and quickness, NFL talent evaluators and football fanatics everywhere were treated with a glimpse of what Clowney brings to the gridiron. All involved were left wanting more at the same time, though.
|Height||Weight||Arm length||Hand size||Bench Press||40-yard dash||Broad Jump||Vertical Leap||3-Cone drill|
|6'5" 1/4"||266 lbs||34 1/2"||10"||21 reps||4.53 (official)||10'4"||37.5"||7.27|
Many were excited to see just how fast Clowney would run the 40-yard dash, and before he went out, he said he was sure he'd run something in the 4.4-second range, per the NFL's official Twitter account:
That turned out to be not too far from the truth, as the clairvoyant Clowney clocked in with an unofficial time of 4.47 in his first attempt. ESPN's Chris Mortensen had one word to describe his thoughts on the freakish speed:
Clowney runs a 4.47 unofficial in the 40. #wow— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) February 24, 2014
Until he hit the turf, there was no telling just what Clowney would do or how fast he would be. He was confident that he'd time well, and did he ever.
CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler was in awe of how quickly Clowney jumped out of the starting blocks:
Clowney's 4.47 40-yd dash is nice, but the 1.56 10-yd split is more impressive. All about quick get off and explosive acceleration at DE— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) February 24, 2014
Albert Breer of NFL Network spoke to one of Clowney's trainers about the 40-yard-dash prediction, and he provided some interesting insight:
One of Jadeveon Clowney's trainers told me he wished the 4.4 prediction hadn't come up, b/c then even a 4.5 would be a letdown. So ... Yeah.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) February 24, 2014
Star Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson poked fun at Clowney for his two recent speeding tickets, but praised what he did in the drill:
It can be kind of hard to appreciate just how amazing Clowney's combination of size and speed is unless it's witnessed in person. Players at his position aren't quite matching that type of swiftness, so to give an idea of how fleet Clowney is, below is a simulcast of him and Johnny Manziel. The result is rather startling.
For even more perspective, Baltimore Ravens speedy receiver Torrey Smith noted how Clowney's time was similar to his, but figured he could run away from him in a game situation:
Clowney almost ran the same 40 time as me 😐....he is to big to be that gifted haha bet he can't catch me on Sunday 😂— Torrey Smith (@TorreySmithWR) February 24, 2014
The second attempt saw Clowney clock in at an unofficial 4.48, prompting NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano to suggest a position change:
Jadeveon Clowney's 2nd unofficial 40-time: 4.48. Put him at WR.— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) February 24, 2014
With how gifted he is from a physical standpoint and the concerns about his passion for the game, Clowney has incited polarizing reactions from draft analysts, fans and anyone who has seen flashes of his brilliance on the field:
NBC Sports' Josh Norris cited reporting by Willie McGinest in stating that Clowney would not participate in any further drills, save for the broad and vertical jumps, due to a hurt hip flexor:
Willie McGinest is now reporting that Clowney said his hip flexor is hurting. Will stick to broad and vertical.— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) February 24, 2014
Clowney spoke about the hip flexor after his workout (via Josina Anderson of ESPN):
On telling a reporter he had a hip flexor injury and skipping the field drills: "I just told them I really didn’t feel like doing it here. I was practicing working on my 40, I mean, on my combine work, and I just felt like I could do it on my pro day."
So hip flexors were never an issue?
"No, it’s fine."
On having concerns that skipping field drills would evoke more work ethic questions?
"No, I didn’t think so. I don’t think it should, but if they feel like it did, I can’t do nothing about it now. It’s over with. I look forward to my pro day."
It would have been fun to see Clowney's quick-twitch ability in the 20-yard shuttle, though he did do the three-cone drill in 7.27 seconds. Considering his short-area quickness and explosiveness, he might have put up even more mind-blowing numbers compared to his 40 time.
Leaping ability can showcase explosion, though, and Clowney did just that. With the high numbers he put up in the broad jump and the vertical leap, the amount of sheer ground the 21-year-old is capable of covering was on full display.
Granted, these limited drills were absent pads, opponents and the scrutiny that comes with being a top-flight draft pick and the expectations of immediate production that come with that label. But there is no question Clowney was facing serious pressure, especially after his underwhelming bench-press effort, and he delivered the goods this time around.
Although it's impossible to gauge how severe his hip flexor ailment was, those who questioned Clowney's work ethic and intrinsic motivation will probably be disappointed in him for not participating. Phil Savage was among those who criticized him, implying that Clowney may have been masking his shortcomings and said scouts would have to wait until South Carolina's April 2 pro day to find out for sure:
Clowney staying away from short shuttle, 3-cone and field drills not a surprise. NFL has ??? about change-of-direction and complete effort.— Phil Savage (@SeniorBowlPhil) February 24, 2014
NFL clubs will now have to wait until 4/2 to get Clowney shuttle numbers, see him move laterally in space and be pushed by coaches.— Phil Savage (@SeniorBowlPhil) February 24, 2014
It was particularly off-putting in a way, considering Clowney said before that he would run through all the drills—not just three:
Jadeveon Clowney will participate in all drills at the combine, he says. "The numbers I am going to put up are going to be amazing."— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) January 18, 2014
The Houston Texans hold the No. 1 overall pick but could use a quarterback. Players like the hometown hero Manziel, former UCF signal-caller Blake Bortles and polished Louisville product Teddy Bridgewater will be on the board.
Count Gil Brandt of NFL.com as a skeptic of Clowney:
Someone will take Clowney very high in this draft. I'm not sure I'd ever be completely comfortable drafting him.— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) February 24, 2014
Being the top overall draft choice is a goal of Clowney's, since he's always been regarded as such a blue-chip prospect. He spoke on that in a report by the Florida Times-Union's Hays Carlyon:
That’s one of my goals here, to go No. 1. I came out of high school as the No. 1 player so I want to come out of here as the No. 1 guy. … In the Super Bowl, defense won that game, shut them down. You had a great quarterback in Peyton Manning, hats off to him also, but defense wins the Super Bowl
In light of Monday's workout, Houston should at least continue to consider pairing Clowney with fellow defensive end J.J. Watt to form one of the best tandems in the NFL. If Watt can instill a strong work ethic in Clowney and teach him how to be a pro from the beginning, there's no telling what the Texans could do defensively in the years to come.
If he'd had an underwhelming workout, Clowney's stock may have fallen a bit. Instead, he blew away the testing and remained a fixture in the conversation for the top selection in the 2014 draft. Questions may still linger about his work ethic, but some team early in the order will be getting a potential franchise-changing defensive player.