In a perfect world, Jadeveon Clowney would have come out and played for South Carolina this season without any health issues, put up 15 sacks and fed the hype machine with a half-dozen more highlight-reel plays.
It hasn’t happened that way so far, with Clowney recording just two sacks in four games and earning more attention for his alleged conditioning issues (against North Carolina in Week 1) and his decision to not play in the Kentucky game because to a rib injury (surprising his coaching staff shortly before game time) than he has for his on-field play.
The question many are asking is what this means for Clowney’s draft stock, and I can understand why there is some concern. But while these recent issues are certainly ones that NFL teams will investigate as Clowney goes through the draft process, I’ve still got Clowney as the No. 1 prospect on my board and consider him the likeliest player to be taken No. 1 in the 2014 NFL draft.
1. His on-field performance this season hasn’t been an issue
I went back and studied the tape of South Carolina’s games against North Carolina, Georgia and Central Florida, and the truth is that, contrary to popular belief, nothing has really changed with Clowney’s play this season. With the exception of certain stretches against the Tar Heels when he appeared gassed (he was reportedly playing with a stomach virus, and the heat and humidity in that game were unusually severe), he has played a high percentage of snaps, displayed very good effort and been highly disruptive and effective.