Sunday, March 2, 2014

College Football-NFL Comparisons: Jadeveon Clowney

         What will Jadeveon Clowney be able to do at the next level? Most people expect great things of him, but there are those who, in hushed tones, speak of potential to be the greatest defensive end, ever. "The Andrew Luck of defenders" nicely describes the hype, while "the best ever" is over the top. The reports range, but I simply can't agree with the crazy speculation of all time great, seeing as he is not in the league yet. Such talk speaks to the excitement surrounding Clowney though. This is a guy who at the combine ran a 4.53 40. People won't stop talking about that for a long time. Let's look at other fast dashes in the combine. Marquise Lee, one of the top receivers in the draft from USC posted a 4.52. Mike Evans, probably the second receiver to be drafted from Texas A&M, ran a 4.53. DeAnthony Thomas, for Pete's sake, ran a 4.50! These are guys who are getting drafted to be the fastest players on the field. Receivers and backs who are renowned for their speed, (Thomas' speed in Oregon has at times seemed the stuff of legend.) and they will be some of the fastest players on the field. We have now learned that if Clowney is on the field as well, they won't be alone. He is, of course, a small defensive end, at 250 lbs, but he can be that size if he proves to be as explosive as he looks at times. He is a game changer on defense, recording 24 sacks in 3 years at South Carolina. I, like many observers out there, have to think he's going to bring that in the NFL. Potential suitors include the Texans or the Falcons. I can only imagine J.J. Watt and Clowney on the same defense…

       I have heard comparisons with Julius Peppers (Clowney is a "meaner, nastier version") but what stands out to me is a comparison with Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller. The 24 year old two time pro-bowler played defensive end in college, and at his combine he posted, wait for it, a 4.53 40 yard dash and did 21 reps at the bench press. These are the only two defensive players to post numbers like that in the combine in quite a while, stunning performances. But beyond uncannily similar body types, both these players have some doubts about maturity or off the field issues (Miller way more than Clowney, but still) and have frankly elite potential (a potential which Miller has in some part already fulfilled, regardless of a bad 2013 season.) Clowney and Miller are part of a select few of elite defensive players who absolutely change a football game. They need to be game-planned around, and at the NFL level that says something. Many people are saying different things about Clowney, from "the best pro prospect in the draft by far" to "not ready to make an impact yet." For me, the answer obviously lies somewhere in the middle. Though I can't see Clowney having a phenomenal freshman season I can see him having what might be deemed a phenomenal career. Whether he does or not remains to be seen. 

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