2014 NFL Draft: Why Jadeveon Clowney Is A “Once-in-a-Generation” Prospect

Jadeveon Clowney is a rare talent with the skill set to be an elite NFL defensive end. (Photo: USA Today Sports Images)

BBD Staff Writer: Evan Sidery

If Jadeveon Clowney was eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft, he would have gone with the first overall pick. He is ranked at the top of my initial 2014 big board, and is going to be very tough to unseat from the top spot this year.

Clowney has the game to fit any defense on the next level. He could put his hand in the dirt as a 4-3 defensive end (what he did at South Carolina) or stand up as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He is a once-in-a-generation prospect who should make an instant impact in the NFL. Clowney is an even more dominant prospect defensively than Andrew Luck was offensively as the consensus No. 1 overall selection in the 2012 NFL draft.

Clowney made a name for himself with this play in the 2013 Outback Bowl vs. Michigan:

There’s much more to Clowney, however, than just one play.

Build

Listed at 6’6″ and 274 pounds, Clowney fits the billing of an outside pass-rusher in any defense. If you want to put Clowney in a 4-3, he fits at home over the left tackle. If a 3-4 team drafts Clowney though, he would have to add a few more pounds to his frame to play defensive end, but could also kick back to outside linebacker. His size should make him a hot commodity to every single team next year, regardless of the scheme they run.

Clowney ran a 4.5 forty yard dash at almost 270 pounds during offseason workouts, according to ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi. That is an absolutely ridiculous combination of size and speed. Clowney is a rare physical specimen that scouts simply do not see every year.

Against The Run

Clowney is not as good at stopping the run as he is rushing the quarterback, but he is still above-average at this.

Clowney’s first step off the line of scrimmage is absurdly quick. He can already anticipate the snap like the NFL’s best pass-rushers.

Clowney is actually human though, as he has some negatives when defending the run. He struggles a little bit against the option due to being too aggressive. He tends to go straight for the quarterback every time, rather than actually diagnosing the play.

Below is a play of Clowney against Clemson when he had to defend Andre Ellington and the option offense.

On this play, Clowney does better against the run by staying at home and reading how the offensive line develops the holes for Ellington. He plays the role of edge-setter here by forcing Ellington to keep the ball inside. Clowney saves a potentially big gain here by staying at home.

On this play versus Vanderbilt, Clowney jumps off the snap with great anticipation from the start here. He stops his momentum almost completely as he notices Zac Stacy turning back around for a counter.  He then sheds off the left tackle and tackles Stacy inside for a one yard gain. His block-shedding techniques help him thrive on plays like this.

The final photo I will show of Clowney against the run is versus Kentucky.

The technique Clowney uses here is also one of his signature moves in his pass-rush as well. He used a dip and rip move to quickly advance past the left tackle to have an open lane on the running back. He stops the runner three yards behind the line of scrimmage. Clowney does nede better technique when tackling, however, as this would be an obvious penalty (grabbing/ripping at the helmet).

His long arms will also help him against the run. Watching every snap of his during the 2012 season, Clowney used his arms to create the critical separation you need to set up the “finishing move” to get around the offensive tackle. His block-shedding ability, combined with his overall anchor makes him a force to move off the line of scrimmage. If he can improve his reads against plays like the option, he could have a high ceiling against the run.

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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina, Top Prospects

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