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Texans reportedly prefer Khalil Mack over Jadeveon Clowney

Khalil-MackThe NFL draft is quickly approaching, and it remains unclear what the Houston Texans intend to do with the top overall pick. Matt Schaub is gone, so they certainly have a need at quarterback. There is little consensus when it comes to who the best quarterback in the draft is, though some have claimed they are intrigued by Johnny Manziel. Then there’s Jadeveon Clowney and the freak athleticism he has been showcasing during the offseason.

But what if the Texans draft neither? Andre Johnson has already said he believes Houston should trade the top overall pick. On Monday, Peter King cited a friend of Texans general manager Rick Smith who claims the team likes Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack over Clowney.

“FORS (Friend of Rick Smith) told me the Texans general manager likes Khalil Mack over Clowney, and we still don’t know which quarterback Houston would choose if it chooses one first overall,” King wrote. “I still think the Texans would go with a more sure thing with the first overall pick than a quarterback — and that sure thing could also be tackle Greg Robinson.

“But imagine Mack, the outside linebacker from the University of Buffalo, being the first pick in a stacked draft. Wouldn’t that be something — a second straight Mid-American Conference player (Eric Fisher, Central Michigan, by Kansas City) as the top pick in the NFL draft?”

That would indeed be something. Mack was a first-team All-American last year and is a tackling machine. He also terrorized opposing quarterbacks with 9.5 sacks. As Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk noted, some believe Clowney would be a better fit for a 4-3 defense rather than Houston’s 3-4. Smith’s buddy could also be trying to get more teams to offer trades for the No. 1 overall pick.

Given some of the things we have heard NFL executives say about Clowney’s work ethic, we would not be shocked if he is not the first player taken. Having said that, a Buffalo linebacker being taken No. 1 overall in a stacked draft would be quite the curveball.

NFC executive on Jadeveon Clowney: He’s lazy and spoiled

Jadeveon ClowneyJadeveon Clowney once looked like a supreme NFL draft prospect and surefire top pick, but there are now some mixed feelings about him.

Most people agree that he has absurd talent as a defensive lineman, but the concerns about his work ethic are troubling to many.

NJ.com has been having three different NFL scouts/personnel executives give some evaluations on players leading up to the draft, and on Sunday they reviewed the defensive linemen. One of the three execs was critical of Clowney.

“He’s spoiled, and he’s lazy,’’ the NFC personnel man told NJ.com. “He’s never worked hard a day in his life, now all of a sudden you’re going to give him a bunch of money and expect him to work hard. I don’t see it.”

“Oh, he’s going to be a high pick,’’ the personnel man said. “Some team will fall in love with him. But wait and see, just wait and see. I just don’t think you can count on him. I’m betting the under on him.’’

Keep in mind that the same evaluator had a negative overall outlook of the position, calling it the “worst group” he’s seen in a long time. So maybe he was just down on everyone as a whole. But his opinion on Clowney is not exactly unique.

We’ve heard some compare Clowney to Randy Moss in terms of the talent but questionable work ethic/motivation. Even Clowney’s South Carolina coach, Steve Spurrier, describe his former player’s work ethic as only “OK.” That was not a good sign.

Some people may view the criticisms as unfair, but when this many people start expressing the same concerns, you have to figure there’s a good reason for it. The warning signs are definitely there.

Jadeveon Clowney ran 4.47 in 40-yard dash (GIF)

Jadeveon-Clowney-40-yard-dashAnyone who had forgotten just how physically gifted Jadeveon Clowney is was given an incredible reminder on Monday morning at the NFL Scouting Combine. Clowney recorded an unofficial time of 4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Remember, folks, this is a 266-pound defensive lineman we’re talking about.

To give you some perspective, Clowney ran faster than USC wide receiver Marqise Lee, who posted a time of 4.52. Clemson’s Sammy Watkins, who many consider to be the best receiver in the draft, was slightly faster than Clowney at 4.43. He weighs just over 200 pounds.

Some of the faster quarterbacks at the Combine over the weekend were Johnny Manziel (4.68), Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas (4.61) and Miami’s Stephen Morris (4.63). If 40-yard dash times are any indication, those guys won’t be running away from Clowney at the NFL level.

The fastest defensive lineman at the 2013 NFL Combine posted a time of 4.60 seconds. Here’s a GIF that compares Clowney’s 40-yard dash time with Manziel’s:

Are there questions about Clowney’s work ethic? Plenty, and Steve Spurrier did nothing to answer them when given an opportunity recently. When scouts see speed like that, they tend to brush those questions aside.

GIF via Bleacher Report

Auburn DE Dee Ford: I’m better than Jadeveon Clowney

Dee-Ford-AuburnWhile most people are talking about players like Jadeveon Clowney and Johnny Manziel at the NFL Scouting Combine, guys like Auburn defensive end Dee Ford feel that they are flying under the radar. Ford recorded 10.5 sacks last season and established himself as one of the best pass rushers in the country. Clowney, who faced a lot more double-teams, finished the year with only three sacks.

Ford will likely be taken in the first round of the NFL Draft in May, but he won’t be drafted ahead of Clowney. He thinks he should be, as he stated in an interview with Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller on SiriusXM over the weekend.

“I’m better. Let’s put it like this — people like to talk about size all the time. Size is pretty much overrated in my eyes,” Ford said, via Eye on College Football. “You can look at guys like Robert Mathis, Elvis Dumervil,Von Miller. These are 6-2 guys and under. People are just looking at the fact that (Clowney is) a physical specimen. Honestly if you watch the film, he plays like a blind dog in a meat market basically.

“I play with a lot of technique. I watch a lot of film. These are the things I do and it shows up.”

In other words, Ford feels that Clowney relies strictly on his freak athleticism. He may be right to an extent, but you can’t teach size, speed and strength. That’s why NFL teams tend to focus on those things and assume they can refine a player’s game when needed.

Clowney ran a 4.48 in the 40-yard dash at the Combine on Monday, which is incredible for a 275-pound lineman. That said, even his college coach has raised questions about his work ethic. Clowney will either be boom or bust in the NFL. Someone like Ford could be a steal later in the first round.

Steve Spurrier: Jadeveon Clowney’s work ethic was ‘OK’

Jadeveon ClowneyIf there has been one knock on Jadeveon Clowney and his NFL prospects, it is his work ethic. The South Carolina defensive end has openly admitted that he has not always given 100% in practice, and there were questions about his conditioning early on last season. Steve Spurrier has not done much to put Clowney’s critics at ease.

Spurrier, who was blatantly irritated back in October when Clowney sat out against Kentucky, told the NFL Network on Wednesday that Clowney’s work ethic is “OK.”

“He was OK,” Spurrier said, via Jeff Reynolds of CBSSports.com. “It wasn’t like Marcus Lattimore, you know, every player is a little different. His work habits are pretty good, they’re not quite like Lattimore, a Stephon Gilmore, Melvin Ingram, some of those guys, but when the ball is snapped he’s got something no one else has.”

That isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement from the Ole Ball Coach, and it will likely put Clowney under an even stronger microscope at the NFL Scouting Combine this week. Spurrier’s point seemed to be that Clowney has rare talent but does not always display a sense of urgency.

Clowney was once a consensus top-three pick in the NFL Draft, but that talk has since cooled. No one would be shocked if he went very early, but there’s no question the effort questions have had a negative impact on Clowney’s stock.

Roddy White wants Falcons to draft Jadeveon Clowney or trade their pick

Roddy-White-FalconsRoddy White has been with the Atlanta Falcons for nine seasons, and 2013 was one of the worst. The only positive to come out of Atlanta’s 4-12 season is the No. 6 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. On Wednesday, White took to Twitter to share his opinion on how the team should use it.

The Falcons are one of just a few teams near the top of the draft that do not need a quarterback. As a result, they should be in line to draft one of the best non-quarterback players in college football. White believes his team should either draft Jadeveon Clowney or trade the pick.

White’s idea really isn’t that far-fetched, though former teammate Brian Finneran does not believe Clowney will be available at No. 6.

[Read more...]

NFL GM: Jadeveon Clowney is either boom or bust

Jadeveon ClowneyIt wasn’t that long ago that Jadeveon Clowney was considered a lock to be the top overall pick in the NFL draft. Heck, many people felt he would have been the top overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft had he been eligible.

What a difference a year makes.

Between decreased stats, a conflict about sitting out a game, and questions over his work ethic, Clowney is no longer a lock for the top spot or even to be taken in the top five of the 2014 draft. Greg A. Bedard had a great feature on Clowney’s pro prospects for SI’s Monday Morning Quarterback (it’s a very good read if you’re interested in Clowney), and the consensus from the NFL execs he spoke to is that Clowney is actually a gamble.

Among the interesting notes from Bedard’s feature: Clowney is viewed as a fit for a 4-3 defense; there are questions about the South Carolina defensive end’s maturity; and there are a lot of questions about his desire. What makes Clowney tick — the money or the desire to be great — is the biggest question teams will try to decide when evaluating him.

“I think there’s flashes of brilliance and flashes of extreme inconsistency,” an AFC general manager told Bedard. “I mean, it’s a boom or bust thing.”

Is the GM saying Clowney is boom or bust as a draft pick, or that he’s boom or bust during games? And if a player is a bust during games but makes enough big plays, is that enough to outweigh the inconsistency? Those are questions teams will have to answer.

I still think Clowney is a physical specimen who will be a difference-maker in the NFL. I think he’ll be a Pro Bowler and a guy I’d want my team to draft. His questionable desire is probably the difference between him being a Pro Bowler a handful of times and becoming a Hall of Famer, but he should still have a fine career.