Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (HT: 6'5¼"; WT: 266 lbs)
First Round: First Pick
NFL Comparison: Julius Peppers, DE, Green Bay Packers
+ Once in a generation athlete
+ Plays with uncommon raw power to overwhelm blockers
+ Frequently plays in his opponent's backfield and makes big plays
+ Draws the full attention of opposing play-callers
+ Has the ability to truly take over football games
- Inconsistent intensity and overall effort level
- Not a true edge-bender as a rusher
- Will lapse in discipline as a run defender by guessing
- Raw technique
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Physical traits are what set Jadeveon Clowney apart. In the body-measurements department, he's the prototype. His height, weight, length and hand size all match the characteristics of a high-end defensive end prospect.
Clowney's athleticism is even better. Combine numbers only confirm what the tape shows: He has rare closing speed for a player of his size coupled with an explosive first step. His lateral quickness and overall body control are also uncommon.
Clowney's desire and work ethic have been openly questioned throughout the draft process. His college coach Steve Spurrier didn't exactly paint a bright picture when asked about Clowney's work ethic. Similar concerns have come from others as well.
After Clowney admitted that he probably would have entered the draft after his sophomore season if it was possible, his dip in production leads to question marks regarding his intent to improve himself as a football player. Multiple speeding tickets were blips on the character radar for Clowney, even if small ones.
Technique is a double-edged sword for Clowney. As it stands, his technique is not great. Considering the impact he made without it, NFL position coaches should have grand visions of what he could become if he can develop in this area of his game.
His pad level isn't always what it needs to be. By keeping his pads down into contact, he would gain leverage and be able to apply his strength more properly.
The biggest culprit is hand usage. He tends not to fire his hands into the frame of blockers, which would allow him to control them by utilizing his long arms. His over-reliance on his swim move gets him into trouble. When blockers stay balanced in their sets, they can deliver their punch to his exposed ribs and negate all of his power.
As Clowney tries to put a swim move on Clemson tackle Brandon Thomas, he exposes his chest to the punch and stop his momentum at once.
Having recorded few sacks in 2013, Clowney's pass-rushing merit has come into question. His sack total of 13 in 2012 was no fluke, though. The increased attention and his reaction to it was largely the reason for the statistical drop. Clowney's athletic ability gives him the potential to be a sack artist in the NFL.
Clowney is actually quite raw in terms of pass-rushing technique and moves. The building blocks are all there, though. His explosive first step, lateral quickness and strong hands will all be put to good use as an NFL rusher. If Clowney takes to coaching and develops a repertoire of pass-rush moves, the sky is the limit. Even in flashes like this one, you can see the natural strength, balance, and tenacity that he has.
The first facet of Clowney's ability to play the run is a remarkable ability to split gaps and make plays in the backfield. He can also absorb waves of blockers, freeing teammates to make plays. In terms of backfield disruption, his lateral quickness to meet run-blockers unexpectedly is J.J. Watt-like.
His run defense still needs development when it comes to stacking blockers at the line of scrimmage and shedding to make tackles according to where ball-carriers appear. He's far more comfortable trying to work around blocks and into the backfield. If taught to generate his momentum into the blocker and use his hands to create space, he could become a dominant run defender on the edge.
Clowney was purely a 4-3 right defensive end during his days at South Carolina. He was periodically moved to the left side or inside during his junior campaign. As an NFL player, he's a 4-3 end with his hand in the dirt as well.
At the same time, defenses who employ the 3-4 should not be dissuaded from drafting Clowney and finding ways to use him. Whether that is adapting schemes to keep his hand down or testing out his ability to play from a two-point stance, his talent rises above strict schematic fits.