Perhaps no player garnered more hype entering the 2013 college football season than South Carolina defensive end Jadaveon Clowney.
We all remember the Hit Heard ‘Round the World from the South Carolina-Michigan game during the 2012 bowl season, but Clowney is more than just a highlight reel player, although some of his plays certainly are worthy.
Clowney is the top-ranked player, according to ESPN Scouts Inc., as well the No. 1 overall player on Mel Kiper Jr.’s Big Board. The 6-foot-6, 274-pound physical phenom followed up an SEC Freshman of the Year season by recording a team-record 13.5 sacks and 23.5 tackles for a loss his sophomore season, and not surprisingly was named a unanimous All-American and a rare defensive player in contention for the Heisman Trophy.
He was also the first sophomore to win the Hendricks Award, given to the nation’s top defensive end, and was a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy, Rotary Lombardi Award and Bednarik Awards.
Leading up to his junior campaign, Clowney garnered as much attention as a defensive player could. And despite a slow start, he was still able to put up solid statistics. Clowney earned first-team All-SEC honors after recording 41 tackles and three sacks on the season.
According to Kiper, Clowney may not go first overall to the Houston Texans but is certainly the top prospect in this draft class. Clowney has exceptional acceleration at the point of attack, has the strength to run through blockers and the speed to pursue all over the field. Not only is Clowney capable of rushing quarterbacks off the edge, but can generate a a rush from an interior line position.
Clowney has drawn comparisons to Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams, who went No. 1 overall to the Houston Texans back in 2006. Again the Texans hold the top selection in the draft, but it’s unlikely they’ll nab Clowney with the first pick.
Should the St. Louis Rams opt to stay put at No. 2, they could pick Clowney, though the Rams are set with Robert Quinn and Chris Long headlining their defensive line. That leaves the Jacksonville Jaguars picking third as the most likely suitor for the former Gamecock.
If the Jags elect to go in a different directions, perhaps going after a quarterback — let’s say, a Johnny Manziel — it seems unlikely that Clowney would slip past the Cleveland Browns (No. 4), Oakland Raiders (No. 5) or Atlanta Falcons (No. 6). Perhaps the Falcons, who have a history of making big trades during the draft — would swap picks with St. Louis to make a play for Clowney.