Extra Points: Is Clowney in play for Texans?
(.com) - Bill O'Brien was brought to the Lone Star State to fix the quarterback problems in Houston, but that doesn't mean it's a fait accompli the Texans will be taking a signal caller with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
If Las Vegas was handicapping the Texans' intentions, the draft's top three QBs -- Louisville product Teddy Bridgewater, Texas A&M stalwart Johnny Manziel and Central Florida hard-charger Blake Bortles -- would remain the most likely options for O'Brien and general manager Rick Smith. That said, the once-in-a- generation physical skills South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney brings to the table almost have to be creeping into the subconscious of both men.
Teaming a motivated Clowney with J.J. Watt could produce the most dominating defensive line since the 1970s when units like Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain and Minnesota's Purple People Eaters ruled the NFL landscape.
The 6-foot-5, 266-pound Clowney is an overwhelming physical specimen, who ran the 40-yard dash at a blazing 4.53 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine and showed off his explosiveness with a 37 1/2-inch vertical leap, along with a broad jump easily surpassing 10 feet.
"I'm a fast guy, quick, move well," Clowney said when discussing his strengths as a player. "Just my speed. Strength-wise, I am pretty strong also, just need to work on my pad leverage."
Clowney proved to be speedier than either Cam Newton or Colin Kaepernick were when they invaded Indy for their workouts. His lone questionable performance of the combine -- 21 reps on the 225-pound bench press -- was alleviated by the historical numbers elite pass rushers like Julius Peppers (22), Greg Hardy (21), Robert Quinn (22) and Aldon Smith (20) put up.
To be blunt, if there were no ancillary issues with Clowney, there would be no debate over who should be the No. 1 overall pick. His ceiling as a player is akin to the heights of Empire State Building, while the rest of an admittedly deep class fighting for the second-best prospect tag might reach Yao Ming stature. That's the kind of chasm between Clowney and the rest of the field.
So why is it almost a given that Clowney won't be the top pick overall?
Some of it stems from the fact that quarterback is undeniably a far more important position than defensive end, but there are other reasons.
As they say in football, the eye in the sky never lies and Clowney left a lot of bad film to look at during his final season at South Carolina. His head just wasn't into it and mentally he had already moved on to the NFL.
No matter what excuse Clowney apologists want to give, however, they are just that -- excuses. Sure, he had the physical skills to jump to the NFL a season earlier and wasn't allowed due to an arcane rule, but that doesn't mean he had to give up on his teammates.
Most people in the game of football believe you really can't succeed -- at least on a consistent basis for the long haul -- if you don't love it. The yearly grind is just too much for people who care about nothing save the pay stub, and more than one scout believes Clowney's work ethic during his final year in Columbia was proof that he doesn't really enjoy his soon-to-be profession.
"He was OK," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier told the NFL Network when asked about Clowney's effort level. "It wasn't like (notorious workout warrior) Marcus Lattimore, you know, every player is a little different. His work habits are pretty good, they're not quite like Lattimore, a Stephon Gilmore, Melvin Ingram, some of those guys, but when the ball is snapped he's got something no one else has."
Spurrier's take was only accentuated in Indianapolis by Clowney's run-of-the- mill bench numbers -- which could be an indication Clowney didn't take this whole process as seriously as he should have -- and the fact that he did not participate in certain drills at all.
"I don't really have nothing to say about (Spurrier's comments)," said Clowney, who indicated his plan all along was to use his April 2 pro day for the drills he skipped. "I believe I did work hard. You pull out any practice tape from last year, you'll see that. That's what I told them. 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."
Fellow SEC star Dee Ford of Auburn -- the second-rated defensive end on most draft boards -- disagreed and took direct aim at his competition on Sunday, pointing to Clowney's undisciplined style of play.
"I'm better (than Clowney)," Ford said on Sirius XM NFL Radio. "People are just looking at the fact that he's a physical specimen. Honestly, if you watch the film, he plays like a blind dog in a meat market, basically."
Ford, who had to bow out of the combine due to a back issue, also swiped at NFL scouts who value physical attributes above all else.
"I play with a lot of technique, I watch a lot of film, these are the things that make you a great player," Ford continued. "These are the things I do, and it shows up, rather than -- this is all my opinion -- you can see these things on film. Go watch the film.
"There are a lot of intangibles that you need to have to be a great player. You can't just look at the fact that he's a physical specimen. I think the NFL should have learned that by now."
Ford tallied 10 1/2 sacks and 14 1/2 tackles for loss at Auburn last season despite missing the team's first two games with a knee injury, while Clowney has just three sacks and 11 1/2 TFL with South Carolina.
"Going into last season I had a lot of high expectations of myself," Clowney said when defending his pedestrian numbers. "Things don't always happen like you plan on. There were a lot of ups and downs but we won 11 games, were 11-2, won our bowl game, finished No. 4 in the country for the first time in South Carolina history, so I was pretty excited about the season.
"I wasn't worried about my stats really. A lot of game changing went on when we played teams. Quick passes, two-on-one, opposite side runs, but that happens. I wasn't really worried about my stats, I just wanted to win."
If the Texans or another organization with the ammunition to trade up believe that spin, Clowney will reach the heights people have been predicting of him since high school.
"That's one of my goals, to go No. 1," Clowney said. "I came out of high school as the No. 1 player, so I want to come out of here as the No. 1 guy."
The next four weeks will determine if he has a chance.
"I have to work on everything to make my game an all-around game, not just one thing," Clowney said. "Everything I am good at, I need to work on my craft and a lot (more) on everything I am bad at."
February 25, 2014, at 04:27 PM ET
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