In a move that should shock no one, South Carolina junior pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney will skip his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. He made the declaration moments after the Gamecocks' 34-24 victory over Wisconsin on Wednesday in the Capital One Bowl.
Clowney is rated as the No. 1 defensive end prospect for the 2014 draft and the No. 2 overall player in this year's class. Only Texas A&M senior offensive tackle Jake Matthews is currently rated above him. It would be considered a shock if Clowney fell out of the top five picks on draft day.
Arguably the most talented NFL prospect in this class or in recent years, Clowney is a freak athlete for his size (6 foot 5, 275 pounds) with above-average first-step quickness and the ability to convert speed to power. His burst, flexibility and overall strength are outstanding, and they allow him to make an impact as both a run stuffer and pass rusher.
Although his production was down in 2013 (only three sacks compared to 13 the previous season), Clowney's impact cannot be fully appreciated on the stat sheet. He often was double-teamed and received special treatment from opposing offenses, who left a tight end or running back on his side of the field.
Even so, despite the immense natural talent, Clowney is not a flawless prospect, and there will be several questions that he will need to answer during the pre-draft process. His effort and overall passion were questioned by scouts, who saw signs of lackadaisical effort on tape.
"He's a modern-day Randy Moss," an AFC East scout said on Clowney. "J.C. doesn't have the same type of criminal background as Randy did when he was his age, but the dependence on natural talent and problematic effort concerns are very similar. Difference is, Clowney won't fall out of the top seven like Randy did."
The "effort" concerns don't exist because his statistics dipped in 2013 compared to 2012, but rather because he appeared tentative and fatigued too often during his junior year. Was he playing not to get hurt, or are there legitimate effort concerns?
"In high school, he was the best player on the field. Same in the SEC," the scout added. "But he needs to realize that won't be the case in the (NFL). If he wants to have a career longer than a few seasons, the kid needs to wake up, add some glass to his diet and understand that it'll take a lot more work during the week."
Another issue likely to be scrutinized by NFL team's is Clowney's two recent speeding tickets. He was stopped Dec. 26 near downtown Columbia, S.C., when police charged him with going 84 mph in a 55 mph zone. In early December, Clowney was stopped by a South Carolina state trooper after he was reportedly clocked at 110 mph in a 70 mph zone on Interstate 77 north of Columbia.
Clowney also battled a foot injury throughout the season. Although he said Wednesday he has "no plans" for surgery, it is something to monitor.
A native of Rock Hill, S.C., where he attended South Pointe High School, Clowney was the crown jewel recruit when he arrived at South Carolina. His legend kept growing, eventually getting to the point where it was impossible for him to live up to the hype.
Clowney's "football character" likely will be a hot topic over the next few months, but it should also be noted that he plays a position where concerns in that area aren't as magnified for NFL teams as they would be if he played quarterback.