INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Jadeveon Clowney wants NFL scouts to rethink their draft strategy.
Instead of settling for one of those glitzy, franchise quarterbacks, he's urging teams to build a fast, physical defense that can stop all those high-powered offenses, and he has the perfect suggestion about where to start. Himself.
"That's one of my goals here, to go No. 1," this year's top-rated defensive end said softly Saturday at the NFL's scouting combine. "I came out of high school as the No. 1 player so I want to come out of here as the No. 1 guy."
Nobody doubts the former South Carolina star has the physical tools to go No. 1 in May. He measured in Saturday at 6-foot-5¼, 266 pounds, with an 83-inch wingspan and hopes to finish the 40-yard dash in the 4.4s, maybe the low 4.5s if he's a little off.
With numbers like that, it's no wonder Clowney is projected to go in the top five in May. But going ahead of quarterbacks such as Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater will take a lot more than athleticism.
The biggest questions Clowney will answer this week focus on his work ethic and desire, and it sure didn't help when he missed Friday night's first round of team interviews because of travel problems. He said he drove from Columbia, S.C., to Charlotte, N.C., to avoid one 2-hour delay only to run into another 2½-hour delay.
While coaches and team executives may excuse Clowney's tardy arrival, they still need to find out whether they'll be drafting the guy who delivered that helmet-dislodging, highlight-making hit on Michigan's Vincent Smith in the 2013 Outback Bowl or the guy critics believe was more concerned with protecting his draft stock than winning games in 2013.
Clowney insisted he was the same guy, though he did admit he would have left school after his sophomore season — if NFL rules would have allowed it.
"I believe I did work hard. You pull out any practice tape from last year, you'll see that," Clowney said. "I'll tell everybody that. I will always be working hard. No matter where I end up I am going to work hard and give a team everything I've got."
The numbers and words seem to tell a different tale.
He finished 2012 with 54 tackles and 13 sacks. And despite the lofty expectations from college football fans after that eye-popping hit, Clowney finished 2013 with 40 tackles and only three sacks.
What happened is a matter of perception.