Jadeveon Clowney is perhaps the most polarizing but undeniably talented of all the prospects available in the 2014 NFL draft. The South Carolina product has the skills and size to become a Hall of Fame pass-rusher, but many cite his work ethic as an area that leaves something to be desired.
Because of his tendency to take plays off and other knocks on his motor, some teams may be leery to nab Clowney at the top of the draft. Others will sprint to the podium if he is available and will leap at the chance to bring a prospect with his raw physicality and elite athleticism into the fold.
Let’s take a look at the best and worst situations Clowney could wind up in when the draft begins on May 8.
Best-Case Scenario: Houston Texans at No. 1 Overall
The Texans have a wide range of options to choose from with their top overall selection, but Clowney will prove to be the best of the bunch. The Gamecocks star is oozing upside and potential on top of an impressive body of work stemming from his time in Columbia.
While Bleacher Report’s Dan Pompei is reporting that Houston is looking to trade down from this coveted catbird position, the club would be wise to hold tight and nab Clowney. He simply has the makeup of a true superstar in this league and is most likely to be remembered as the premier player in a loaded 2014 class.
Clowney’s combination of athleticism, power, size (6’5”, 266 pounds), agility, speed and more makes him a true freak of nature at his position, and the Texans would be passing up on the chance to lock down a rare talent that only comes around once every long while.
That should be enough to overlook his questionable work ethic, which South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier described as mediocre in a discussion with Jeff Reynolds of CBSSports.com: "He was OK. It wasn't like Marcus Lattimore, you know, every player is a little different. His work habits are pretty good, they're not quite like Lattimore, a Stephon Gilmore, Melvin Ingram, some of those guys, but when the ball is snapped he's got something no one else has."
Even if Clowney takes a play off now and then, he will still make enough of an impact to completely change a game. Considering established star J.J. Watt would also be rushing the passer and hustling hard on every snap, there may not even be reason to worry about this young man’s motor.
The question of whether Houston will go with Clowney remains. After a two-win season, the organization clearly has a few other needs outside of pass-rusher, but it would be wise to hold off on addressing those.
The franchise has 11 selections this year, including five in the first four rounds, to try to unearth a quarterback and talent at other positions of need. The Texans simply cannot afford to let Clowney slide down the board, as it will come back to haunt them.
ESPN’s Tania Ganguli caught up with the elite prospect and asked how he would react if Houston decided to go in another direction on draft day:
Asked how miserable he'd make #Texans if they passed on him & the Jags drafted him, Clowney says, smiling, "I have to make them miserable."— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) April 2, 2014
A motivated Clowney would not be a good thing to face, especially twice a year if he lands with the Jacksonville Jaguars. While that obviously won’t be the reason the Texans select him, it's just another reason the struggling franchise should look to right the ship by adding the world-class pass-rusher on Thursday.
Worst-Case Scenario: St. Louis Rams at No. 2
There is almost zero chance Clowney falls outside the top three selections on draft day, so the most realistic worst-case scenario for the Gamecocks stud is being selected by St. Louis at No. 2 overall.
The much more likely scenario is that the Rams trade down and give a team like the Atlanta Falcons a crack at Clowney for costly compensation. However, in the event that the club cannot find a suitable deal and the superstar edge-rusher is sitting on the board at No. 2, there is a chance St. Louis goes with the best player available and takes him.
Unfortunately, Clowney isn’t all that great of a fit for the Rams. The team is absolutely loaded with talent along the defensive line and boasts one of the premier young defensive ends in Robert Quinn.
Chris Long is also a fixture on the defensive front, as is William Hayes, so there is little opportunity for Clowney to see snaps without bumping a productive, entrenched contributor.
That would likely leave the South Carolina product coming off the bench in a situational role, a duty that is far below his talent level. It would be a waste for both the franchise and the player, so hopefully this marriage doesn’t happen on May 8.