Jadeveon Clowney | Defensive End | South Carolina | Junior | 6'6, 274 pounds
2012 Stats: 40 solo tackles, 14 assisted tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, 3 forced fumbles
If you were one of those people whining about the lack of top-end talent available in the 2013 NFL Draft, the 2014 draft will be more your speed. South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney sits atop nearly every board at this point ,and it's easy to see why.
At 6'6 and 274 pounds, Clowney is massive. The way he moves at that size is almost scary. The highly regarded recruit has done nothing to disappoint the Gamecocks in his two seasons with the program, finding his way into the backfield consistently and destroying ball carriers on what seems like a weekly basis.
At this point, it seems that the only things that would keep Clowney from being the No. 1 overall pick are a catastrophic injury or positional value. While defensive ends are coveted in the NFL, a franchise-caliber quarterback will trump a defensive end for a team that needs a passer.
What he does well
Clowney is a freak athlete. At his size, he has no business moving the way he does. He has a tremendous first step off the line of scrimmage and explodes with power out of his stance. His length is such an asset and he knows how to use it well, considering his youth. Clowney consistently plays with outstanding leverage and uses his strength to hold the point of attack and drive blockers into the backfield. His best scheme fit in the NFL will be as a 4-3 defensive end. He could be dominant at that spot, though he would be scary as a five-technique in a 3-4 scheme as well. Regardless, Clowney is a rare enough athlete that any team drafting him ought to mold the scheme to fit his strengths.
As a pass rusher, there is not much that Clowney can't do. He has developed an array of pass-rush moves. Most impressive about Clowney's pass rushing ability is his use of his hands. He has a powerful punch and executes rip-and-swim moves with ease. He has the flexibility to bend around the edge and the balance to maintain his speed and power in getting after the quarterback. Speaking of which, when Clowney does get into the backfield, his hits pack a serious punch. He's a sound tackler with tons of power. Don't believe me? Look at this.
To recap, Clowney is quick, he can beat his blocker in a variety of ways and he is a danger to every opposing player on the field. If that wasn't enough, Clowney plays with consistent effort and has the speed to chase down plays in the open field. He's a special player.
What he needs to improve upon
It's really difficult to poke holes in Clowney's game. The production matches his physical tools, and he's almost always putting forth maximum effort. Clowney's improvement could come when playing in space. It's a bit of a nitpick, but Clowney doesn't look as comfortable making tackles out in the open field as one might hope. It's rare that defenders can slip by him, but it does happen. Given how often he gets into the backfield, though, it's hardly a major flaw.
Throughout Clowney's college career, he has put on weight and gotten more explosive with every pound. As he enters the NFL, he has to continue to do that. I have no doubt that he will, but it would be icing on the cake to see Clowney enter the league in the 285-pound area.
Clowney might be the best prospect I've ever seen when it's all said and done. He's a once-in-a-generation talent, and the hype is more than warranted. Whether he's the first-overall pick depends on whether or not a quarterback-needy team holds the first pick. Regardless, this kid is ready to step into the NFL and compete right away. His strength, technique and explosiveness are off the charts and will make him a rare defensive weapon in the NFL.