I've said before that Jadeveon Clowney is the most talented defensive end prospect that I've seen in my 20-plus years around the NFL. He validated that opinion with his sensational workout at South Carolina's pro day Wednesday.
Measuring 6-foot-5 5/8, 266 pounds, Clowney put on a spectacular athletic showing that suggests he possesses all of the physical tools to be a dominant player on the edge. From his explosive first-step quickness and short-area burst to his fluid agility, Clowney showed scouts that he has the ability to "bend and burst" around the corner as a rusher. Additionally, he flashed solid hand skills going through "hand-to-hand" drills with position coaches. Most important, Clowney displayed the ability to transform speed into explosive strength and power by destroying various bag drills.
From a technical standpoint, Clowney shined during the positional workout. He was explosive out of his three-point stance in pass-rush drills, showing tremendous first-step quickness and change-of-direction ability. Clowney was impressive redirecting quickly after rushing up the field, which is essential to be an effective pass rusher in the NFL. Additionally, Clowney exhibited tremendous balance and body control executing the "Figure 8" drill, showing the ability to bend and burst around the corner. The coaches also instructed Clowney to pick up tennis balls while running around the big hula hoop, and there is little doubt he has the flexibility to explode off the edge as a pass rusher.
Watching Clowney go through the bags, I saw a fluid athlete with exceptional lateral quickness and explosiveness. He effortlessly changed direction on lateral-slide shuffle drills and didn't skip a beat executing the W-drill. In addition, he showed outstanding explosion leaping over seven bags and quickly reaching down to scoop up tennis balls on the run. Although the drill doesn't simulate any of the movements that he will do on the football field, it showcased his overall athleticism and allowed me to project his potential as a disruptive defender.
In coverage drills, Clowney remains a work in progress as a defender. While he is a superior athlete with tremendous physical tools, he doesn't have a lot of experience backpedaling or breaking and driving on throws. He will get better with more repetitions, but it's something that must be taken into consideration when projecting Clowney as a potential 3-4 rush linebacker in some schemes.
Overall, I believe Clowney's workout will solidify his status as the top player in the 2014 class. He is a freakish athlete with rare physical tools and ability. While his motor has been questioned from scouts and observers this season, I thought he addressed concerns about his desire by showing up in tip-top shape for his workout. Clowney not only gave tremendous effort during the workout, he appeared to enthusiastically welcome instruction from the coaches running the drills. This is important because he might've changed some of the perception that has clouded his evaluation in meeting rooms around the league.
Did Clowney cement his status as the top prospect in the draft?
Absolutely. There is no doubt that Clowney is the most talented prospect in the class after studying the film and watching his pro day workout. He has rare physical tools, and every defensive coach in the league would love to take advantage of his natural gifts. Clowney must continue to work on his technical skills to flourish as a pass rusher at the next level, but he is a blue-chip talent capable of changing the fortunes of a franchise with his arrival.
What else does Clowney need to do to erase doubts about his work ethic?
Clowney has already started to change the narrative about his character and work ethic through his interviews at the NFL combine, but he must continue to convince evaluators that he will be the ultimate pro at the next level. If he is able to impress head coaches and personnel executives on team visits over the next month that football is his top priority and he wants to be a great player as a pro, I would expect Clowney to be the first prospect to hear his name called May 8.
Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.