The on-going debate rages on.
"Who should the Texans select as their first overall draft choice?" Unlike some other articles written in favor of him, the answer is not Jadeveon Clowney.
Here are reasons which may go against why I say this:
- He's 6' 5 1/4" and weighs almost 266 lbs.
- He ran an official 4.53 40-yard-dash at the 2014 NFL Combine.
- He bench pressed 225 lbs. 21 times at the 2014 NFL Combine.
- He has a vertical of 37 1/2 inches measured at the 2014 NFL Combine.
- The Texans owner, Bob McNair, is a University of South Carolina alum.
- He would look good opposite defensive end J.J. Watt.
Yet, I still say that he is not #1 overall pick material. Here's why ...
- After a wonderful 2012 season at the University of South Carolina (13 sacks, 54 tackles, 3 forced fumbles), he had a very subpar, injury-riddled 2013 season (3 sacks, 35 tackles).
- His college head coach, Steve Spurrier, said that Clowney's work ethic was 'OK.'
- He has a huge immaturity streak highlighted by two (2) speeding tickets back in December:
- Oh, and his 2014 NFL Combine bench numbers? 36 defensive linemen had more bench press reps than Clowney and even a punter (University of Miami's Pat O'Donnell) had more bench press reps (23) than the 'can't miss' prospect (21).
Yes, people are hyping Clowney as if he's a can't miss prospect. However, he's not. If this were last year, then he would have surely gotten drafted #1. Although the Chiefs drafted for need in picking the very important left tackle of the future in OL Eric Fisher, they would have had second thoughts about what to do. Considering the first seven picks in last year's draft was either an offensive tackle or a defensive end, Clowney would have been the cream of the crop. This year, though, immaturity questions abound.
What makes this selection for the Texans even more difficult is that defensive line isn't a big need for the team. If they were to upgrade anywhere on defense, it would be to beef up their thin, unskilled secondary before getting someone like Clowney. I know. I know. The rule of thumb is that you could never have enough pass rushers. True. However, if Clowney were to be a defensive end on the Texans, then I would give it considerable thought.
Since the Texans run a 3-4 defense, the Texans would either have to convert Clowney to an outside linebacker or switch him around the line like they tried to do Mario Williams, the last Texans #1 overall pick - and a fellow defensive end/outside linebacker. This is what would happen to Jadeveon Clowney as constituted right now: If you decide to have him put his hand in the dirt (defensive end), then right guards would muscle him out of a lot of plays - if not to the ground. Notice I said guards - because the outside linebackers are supposed to engage the tackles. If Clowney lines up at OLB, he may be fast enough to get around right tackles, but he'd have to deal with chips from the running back or one good paw will shove the University of South Carolina star completely out of the way. Most offenses would know that if Clowney is an OLB, then that's at least one less man dropping back in coverage. That means screens, wheel routes and slants would be open all game long for an opposing offense.
For those who say, "He's as athletic at Watt," hold your horses. Watt is almost as tall as Clowney, standing at 6' 5" himself. He may not be as fast (4.81 40-yard-dash time), and his vertical is a shade under Clowney's (37 inches), but we're talking about a guy with bigger hands, bigger size (290 lbs.), and greater power (34 bench press reps). We are also talking about a guy with a far greater motor. Watt is a guy that combines athletic ability with the passion of the game and the work ethic to become even greater. I do not see that in Clowney. Sure he's fast (for a defensive end), but he's also small for one, too. He's also not as strong as an defensive end should be.
Now, I'm not going to say he's a bust waiting to happen. I think he'll have a good NFL career. I just am not sold on him being the guy standing next to the guy - in this case, the man who'll help Watt in the pass rush. He strikes me as a poor man's Mario Williams. He's a little faster than Mario. However, he doesn't have as high of a vertical (Williams has a 40.5 inch vertical), and he isn't nearly as strong as the 2006 overall #1 pick (with 35 bench press reps). Williams is an overall better athlete than Clowney and people question Mario's desire. Imagine having the same thing happen with Clowney - only he's not quite as talented as a Mario Williams.
So, to recap: His college head coach, while complementary, says his work ethic is 'OK'. He shows flashes of immaturity by purposely sitting out a game and earning speeding tickets on South Carolina highways. After a pretty good 2011 season, and an outstanding 2012 campaign, he took the year off in 2013. In the 2014 NFL Combine, three dozen defensive lineman did more reps in the bench press than Clowney. Even punters can lift 225 lbs. more times than he can. The Houston Texans have a bigger need on the offensive side of the ball than they do at the defensive line. If Clowney was stronger, then I'd reconsider my stance. In the trenches, it doesn't matter how fast you are, but how strong. A quick guy like Jadeveon Clowney would be muscled to the turf more times than he would care to remember.
Jadeveon Clowney is a can-miss - as in, "Houston? You can miss picking him and still be a great team with whomever you do decide to choose."