Instant Debate: Jadeveon Clowney has to answer for 'huge flag'?

An NFL scout told USA Today that Jadeveon Clowney's decision to sit out the Kentucky game a few weeks ago is a "huge flag" and something he'll have to answer for in the draft process. Do you agree?

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  • Bucky Brooks
  • Clowney will have to answer for play, behavior

Jadeveon Clowney remains the top prospect in college football, but he will definitely need to address several concerns during the pre-draft process to become the No. 1 overall pick on the 2014 draft, if he decides to leave South Carolina after this season.

Although Clowney's talent, physical dimensions and production rate off the charts, the looming questions regarding his work ethic and football character should make NFL scouts, coaches and executives nervous. The pro game places extraordinary demands and expectations on top picks, especially those drafted at the top of the board. Therefore, team officials must be convinced that Clowney will work to prepare and play like a dominant player worthy of his draft status. Moreover, the coaches and scouts want to feel good about his ability to live up to the expectations associated with being a team's "franchise" player.

In the scouting world, a top-five prospect should develop into a perennial Pro Bowl player and eventually rank among the top players at his position within the first three years in the NFL. He should exhibit dominant qualities from the first time he takes the field, and quickly become one of the team's top players on the roster. Additionally, he should emerge as one of the leaders on the team through his performance, production and commitment to preparation. Given those factors and the external expectations that come with being a No. 1 overall pick, scouts should be concerned about Clowney's subpar play and questionable behavior this season. Guys typically don't change when they enter the NFL and start making money, so you better feel good about everything Clowney brings to the table as a player and person before adding him to the roster.

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  • Charles Davis
  • Would take something big to knock Clowney off perch

Sure. This question and many others will be asked of Jadeveon Clowney and all of the top draft prospects when negative stories break. His play the rest of this season, in addition to what the South Carolina coaches (and professors, his high school teachers and coaches, other people around Columbia, S.C., neighbors from his hometown, waitresses at his favorite eatery ... he will be vetted to the "nth" degree) and others around the program have to say about him, including opponents.

But, at the end of the day, it will boil down to this: "Can you pass on a talent like him? Can you pass on double-digit sacks, and other big plays each year? Julius Peppers gets that rap on him all the time ... the entire league would take him now."

Provided that no major off-the-field issues arise, I'll see you among the top-three selections, Jadeveon Clowney.

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  • Matt "Money" Smith
  • Clowney will be unscathed by questions

Don't agree one bit. It also depends on what you qualify as "he'll have to answer for in the draft process." Might he be passed over for a QB at No. 1 if the two are somewhat close on their grades? Sure. But it's certain that would happen regardless. Clowney is a stud that will look like a stud through the draft process, and the risk of passing on him is way too high to justify taking another non-quarterback in the top five.

There is no doubt that Clowney will have some explaining to do for any team interested in making him a first-round draft pick, but that doesn't mean his status in the draft itself will necessarily suffer. It remains awfully hard to fathom that questions about mental makeup could cause a player of Clowney's raw talent to tumble significantly in the draft. Nevertheless, NFL clubs will want to hear the right answers from Clowney on topics such as his absence from the Kentucky game. How much he loves the game will at be the root of the NFL's tenacious probe into his psyche. But with a player of Clowney's size, strength, speed and instincts, there isn't anything else to question. For any team concerned about his mental toughness, there will be more that are dazzled by his measurables.

Perhaps it's a "huge flag" to that scout, but for some reason, I think Clowney will be fine on draft day. I cannot remember a player whose every play in every game is fodder for Twitter and those in the blogosphere: "Oh, look, Clowney didn't even chase that guy who was on the other side of the field and 10 yards downfield. Shameful! He will be a bust." Does he take some plays off and not always practice all out? Hey, which college player doesn't? There's a maturation process at work here, and Clowney's blend of sheer talent and athleticism will make him an NFL star and quite rich. And, hey, if it's not for that scout's team, so be it. I doubt Clowney will care.

Stick around the party just a little too long, somebody will be waiting to kick you out. That's the point the Jadeveon Clowney Express has arrived at this season, and now everybody is taking turns piling on.

Clowney is still a dominant player. He will have several more big stages to prove that, including the rivalry game with Clemson to end the season, likely the SEC championship game, and a top-tier bowl. And while surgery to remove bone spurs from his foot might keep Clowney from participating in the combine, one absurd 40-yard dash would have everyone jumping back on the bandwagon.

Though, with Clowney, it's more like a runaway freight train.

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