The Jacksonville Jaguars will be looking for two main positions in the 2014 NFL Draft, quarterback and pass rusher. It's highly likely that they'll pick one of those with the No. 3 overall pick and South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is likely near the top of their board.
Clowney played three seasons for the Gamecocks, notching eight sacks his freshman season and following it up with 13 sacks his sophomore year. Clowney's sack total went off a cliff his final season, notching just three, but there were quite a few circumstances contributing to the decline in his box score stats.
Clowney is listed at 6'6" and 275 pounds, of which he appears to be all of when watching the film. He's exceedingly quick and agile for his size as well as showing the functional strength at his position. As far as physical concerns, there aren't really any with Clowney.
Where Jadeveon Clowney Wins
The biggest area Clowney wins is just his overall physical ability. He's an imposing defensive lineman who can play all over the line and despite his size can bring speed off the edge as well as power. He's explosive off the snap and has a good first step, allowing him to get on offensive lineman and exert his power and speed to get in the backfield and disrupt.
Clowney also shows excellent hand fighting, as he is not often corralled by an offensive lineman if they get their hands on him. He can rip inside if the lineman overcommits and can also swim past around the edge and get to the quarterback.
While Clowney can beat most offensive tackles off the snap and around the edge with his speed, he does not rely on it and mixes up his rush moves between power and speed often.
Clowney is also scheme versatile, in that he can be an effective player from the five-technique, the three-technique on passing downs, a traditional 4-3 defensive end and even at times standing up to rush the passer. He's equally as good at holding the point against the run. He's adept at running stunts and twists, which Carolina often did to get him off the double teams.
Where Jadeveon Clowney Needs To Improve
The biggest criticism for Clowney is his lack of effort, while overblown, is something that shows up. Personally, I think that Clowney is bored and unchallenged, just biding his time to get to the NFL. It's not an issue I would be overly concerned about, because when he needs to turn it on and make a play, he does it. He was also nursing a foot injury all season that will require offseason surgery. It shows up on tape, but I think it's something that will be a non-issue going forward at the NFL level.
Coming off the edge Clowney also isn't a natural bender, but other tools in his game make up for it and it's not necessarily a huge flaw. It's rare that players in the 6'6" range have that natural low dip, but unlike some defensive ends Clowney isn't stiff in the hips, he's just not as flexible as others.
Clowney also tends to get caught up in cut blocks too often. He's agile enough to avoid them, but for whatever reason tends to end up on the ground more often than you'd like.
His production his final season is also a big knock by some, but while he didn't show up on the stat sheet if you watch the film he still had a big effect on the game. Teams would often commit two or three players to blocking and chipping Clowney to neutralize him and taking their chances with the one-on-one match ups with the rest of the South Carolina defensive line. While Clowney's sacks took a nosedive, his effect on the quarterback and in the backfield largely remained the same.
Clowney to me overall is the best player in the 2014 NFL Draft, but he's far from a perfect prospect. There are some minor concerns in his game, but overall I feel most teams would sprint to the podium to take him in the Top 5. As far as the Jaguars are concerned, I think if they can't get whatever quarterback they want at No. 3, Clowney would be their primary target. He's not a traditional LEO in the Jaguars defensive front, but he can play all over the line. Look to how the Seattle Seahawks use Michael Bennett, inside and out, and that's how the Jaguars could utilize Clowney as an every down player.
Grade: 8.0 -- Elite prospect