With the NFL slowly turning into a pure-passers league, applying pressure to the quarterback has never been as important as it is now. This is why you saw 15 defensive linemen and 3-4 outside linebackers drafted in the first two rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft. It’s why defensive end Mario Williams signed a $100 million contract last year, the largest ever for a defensive player. It’s also why South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney will be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
- Elite size/speed/strength combination. Elite height, length, strength, speed and quickness.
- Very rare breed of athlete. Is always the best athlete on the field, and it’s easy to see on film.
- Truly elite get off. Explodes off the ball as well as anyone in the collegiate game possibly ever.
- Shows the kind of flexibility in hips and in overall on-field awareness to play 3-4 outside linebacker.
- Outstanding footwork both in rushing the passer and dropping back.
- Can be very stout against the run.
- Natural born pass rusher. Has great length and incredible body control.
- Shows an ability to master a wide range of pass-rushing moves.
- Has elite lateral quickness and great punch.
- Does a great job of keeping his hands inside and employs strong push/pull.
- Outstanding in pursuit. Shows elite closing speed, and even appears to have a second or third gear.
- Must be accounted for every single play.
- Is as fast off coming off the edge as perhaps anyone we’ve ever seen.
- Has actually gained weight and gotten faster.
- Plays with a great motor and with a menacing swagger.
- Lives up to the hype. Always been the top guy athletically and has played like it.
- Can get too high off the snap sometimes, exposing his chest to offensive linemen. This is particularly evident when performing stunts and counter moves inside.
- Can have inconsistent hands when rushing the passer.
- Often times relies on his natural athleticism to win many battles, which won’t always be the case in the NFL.
- Doesn’t always finish through on rips/swims.
- While he has a vast arsenal of pass moves, he doesn’t always employ all of them.
- Sometimes coasts on plays taking place on the opposite side of the field. Inconsistent effort has been brought up before.
- Only injury was a sprained neck in early 2013, which appears to be fully healed now.
Clowney’s on the same level athletically as Calvin Johnson and Julius Peppers, and might actually be the most athletic of the three. He’s always been the top player nationally, going back to his days in Rock Hill, S.C., and has produced as such (35.5 TFL’s, 21 sacks, 8 FF’s through two years in the SEC).
Barring injury, Clowney will have another outstanding season, and should be in the range for 15-plus sacks and could be the first defensive linemen ever to win the Heisman Trophy. He’ll be an outstanding fit in any defense professionally, both 4-3 and 3-4. If there was a truly elite quarterback prospect in the upcoming draft like Andrew Luck, I could see Clowney sliding to No. 2, but there isn’t. Simply put, he’s the best college football player I’ve ever seen, and possibly the most naturally gifted pass rusher I’ve ever studied. He should be the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft, and has the potential to be a Hall of Famer.
2014 NFL Draft Prediction: Top-three pick overall, depending on how the quarterbacks of this class play.
Film Watched: vs. Clemson (2011, 2012), vs. Florida (2012), vs. LSU (2012), vs. Vanderbilt (2012), vs. Michigan (2012), vs. Tennessee (2012), vs. Georgia (2011, 2012), 2011 Under Armour High School All-American Game.