As secure as Jadeveon Clowney's status for the 2014 NFL Draft, assuming the star junior declares early eligibility as expected, the same topic conitnues to come up among scouts where his evaluation is concerned.
And it's not that the South Carolina defensive end still has only two sacks on the season with only five weeks left to play.
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His decision to sit out the Kentucky game, and perhaps more alarmingly, skip the normal player-to-trainer-to-coach protocol that governs injury status beginning early in the practice week, figures to be something he'll apparently be asked about ad nauseum when NFL clubs eventually get an opportunity to interview him.
"A huge flag," the scout said of the missed game. "Obviously, you can't write the kid off. He's immensely talented. The question is, when he comes up to that next level, what's he going to do? In scouting, 99 percent of these guys don't change. They stay with the path they've been on. That's what you kind of worry about - because he's certainly going to get nicked up at this next level, and the season's twice as long. Obviously, I'm sure whoever the agent is going to be will have an explanation for why this all happened. This thing's far from over."
Two NFL executives indicated to the publication that Clowney's draft status remains unaffected despite a drop in statistical production, and questions about his health, effort and desire. Clowney has been double-teamed routinely this season, and when not double-teamed, opposing offenses are often running plays opposite Clowney's side.
"People say the same thing about Julius Peppers," the scout said, regarding whether Clowney takes plays off. "Hell, I'd kill for Julius. Those guys are few and far between. When they go, they go."