South Carolina star Jadeveon Clowney continued to state his case as to why he should be the first player off the board in the 2014 NFL draft at the Gamecocks' pro day on Wednesday. The defensive end took part in a limited workout, showcasing his skills in positional drills.
According to Josh Kendall of The State, Clowney completed his pro day with a pulled groin:
Jadeveon Clowney was working out with a slight groin pull today.— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) April 2, 2014
Amid questions about his internal drive, Clowney reminded everybody why he was an elite prospect with a tremendous display at the NFL Scouting Combine. He ranked first among all defensive linemen by posting a 4.53 in the 40-yard dash while also rating highly in the vertical and broad jumps.
Those top-tier results didn't come as a major surprise, of course. Clowney established himself as a player with an extremely rare combination of size and athleticism from the moment he arrived at South Carolina three years ago.
At first, the results matched the hype. He racked up 35.5 tackles for a loss and 21 sacks over his first two seasons with the Gamecocks. The impact faded a bit as a junior, however, as he only accumulated three sacks as offenses devoted more resources to slowing him down off the edge.
The drop in numbers led to questions about whether Clowney brings a complete effort on every snap. Jim Corbett of USA Today passed along comments from former head coach Tony Dungy, who believes the South Carolina end is the best player on the board, but the drop-off is a concern:
That would be the thing that scares me. You could get Bruce Smith, Lawrence Taylor. Or you could have Aundray Bruce (a bust as the top pick of the 1988 draft) in Clowney.
You hope you get Lawrence Taylor. Because that's who I saw in Clowney two years ago.
As of now, the Houston Texans own the first overall pick and the team's biggest need is quarterback. It's an extra hurdle for Clowney as he attempts to force his way into that top spot ahead of Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater.
Based on the contingent Houston was expected to send, it's clear Clowney is at least in the conversation. Josh Kendall of The State reported eight members of the organization, including owner Bob McNair, were slated to make the trip:
South Carolina expecting 8 from Texans at Clowney pro day, including HC, GM, and owner and USC grad Bob McNair— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) April 1, 2014
South Carolina provided a picture of Clowney en route to the workout with a gathering of media already following his every step. He just looked like a student. A massive student:
Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network noted the top prospect checked in at the same weight as the combine:
Clowney checked in at 266 lbs today...Same weight at the NFL Combine.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) April 2, 2014
Where should Clowney go in the draft?
Clowney sat out the athletic testing portion of the pro day, opting to stand on his impressive numbers from Indianapolis. He moved around the field doing various stretches and minor activity in order to stay loose while waiting for the positional work to begin.
Ryan Wood of The Post & Courier sent out a look at not only the defensive end finishing up warm-ups, but also the huge crowd of talent evaluators on hand:
Jadeveon Clowney has begun warmups at Williams-Brice Stadium. https://t.co/6uIc3pHSW8— Ryan Wood (@rwood_SC) April 2, 2014
Once the drills got underway, Clowney's athleticism was on full display.
He looked smooth in all of the short-area quickness work. His explosiveness out of the set position was evident. And if somebody ever drops a tube of tennis balls on the field during the game, he proved he's ready for the cleanup in a rather bizarre agility drill.
The South Carolina native also wowed the crowd in a drill where seven bags were lined up directly in front of him. He proceeded to clear them all from a standing start. How that translates to sacking quarterbacks at the next level is unclear, but it was impressive nevertheless.
Kevin Weidl of ESPN said the flexibility and agility Clowney showed in the early work helped him stand out:
The lower body flexibility and overall agility Clowney shows for his measureables (6055,266) are rare. Making it look easy out here.— Kevin Weidl (@KevinW_ESPN) April 2, 2014
Next up were drills to show how the lineman did dropping into coverage. This is probably not something Clowney will do much at the next level, even if he plays linebacker, because a team that drafts him early is looking for him to wreak havoc in the backfield.
Still, Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle shared how Clowney is open to playing linebacker in the NFL:
Clowney said he's fully open to playing linebacker in NFL; actually looking forward to it if opportunity's there. pic.twitter.com/nLTcIJqE8E— Brian T. Smith (@ChronBrianSmith) April 2, 2014
As expected, he wasn't as smooth in that portion of the workout. He still showed off good mobility, but had a little trouble making the twists and turns downfield. That was probably a combination of unpolished technique and fatigue after going through drill after drill for over 30 minutes.
NFL.com's CollegeFootball 24/7 provided Mike Mayock's and Daniel Jeremiah's summation:
Mayock on Clowney dropping into coverage in drills: There's some tightness there + that's OK.— CollegeFootball 24/7 (@NFL_CFB) April 2, 2014
Mayock: Every coach I've talked to is salivating about the opportunity to work w/ Clowney.— CollegeFootball 24/7 (@NFL_CFB) April 2, 2014
Clowney drawing rave reviews. Mayock: I've seen enough. DL coaches are shaking their heads + laughing.— CollegeFootball 24/7 (@NFL_CFB) April 2, 2014
. @MoveTheSticks: I don't think day could've gone much better for Clowney.— CollegeFootball 24/7 (@NFL_CFB) April 2, 2014
Mayock talked with Clowney after the workout on the NFL Network and asked him about the perceptions concerning his desire to become great. CollegeFootball 24/7 noted his response:
Clowney: I want to be the best. I say it to myself every morning when I wake up.— CollegeFootball 24/7 (@NFL_CFB) April 2, 2014
Overall, it was another strong showing for Clowney. Between the combine and Wednesday's pro day, there's no doubt he possesses all the tools to succeed and potentially even dominate as a pro. Whether he will reach that potential is the question that lingers.
Matt Miller of Bleacher Report states the performance shouldn't change where he was ranked on any big boards, but he did solidify his standing:
Pro Day shouldn't move Clowney up any boards, but it should validate athleticism. He shouldn't make it out of the top 3 picks.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 2, 2014
Ultimately, the No. 1 pick comes down more to whether the Texans fall in love with any of the highly touted quarterbacks. If not, they could turn to Clowney or move the pick to a team seeking an elite pass-rushing prospect.
Other NFL teams are already doing their due diligence on him, per ESPN's David Newton:
Clowney says he has visits set up with Rams and Falcons.— David Newton (@DNewtonespn) April 2, 2014
Newton reports Texans head coach Bill O'Brien said the team doesn't have any worries about the South Carolina star's work ethic, but they are keeping their options open:
Texans coach Bill O'Brien after Clowney Pro day says still wide open what to do with top pick. No concern over Clowney work ethic.— David Newton (@DNewtonespn) April 2, 2014
Clowney's former coach, Steve Spurrier, spoke about his work ethic:
Spurrier to @donovanjmcnabb just now: "Jadeveon is a good worker." Reports to the contrary were "misinformation or whatever a while back."— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) April 2, 2014
Should he get passed on by whichever teams holds the No. 1 pick on draft day, he shouldn't be on the board for long. He seems to have held off a challenge from Khalil Mack of Buffalo as the top defensive player available, now it just comes down to waiting to see how it all plays out.
Above all else, the future continues to look bright for Clowney.