This post is part of a series on the prospects of Gamecocks in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Measurements: 6'8, 307 lbs
Summary: Clifton skipped his senior season after doing spot duty in 2008 and starting for most of 2009. Clifton had a very solid 2009, registering three 41 tackles, 8.5 for loss, 3 sacks, and a forced fumble. Much of his best play came late in the season. Gamecocks fans were disappointed that he chose to forego his final year of eligibility, as his late-season improvement sparked hopes that he would be an all-league performer in 2010.
What the Pros Have Right: Clifton is rightly prized by scouts for his tremendous upside. He is tall, wide, strong, and fast, and his large frame suggests that he can put on even more pounds without losing much in the speed department. His steady improvement suggests that he can come through on his potential if given time and opportunity.
The pros are also rightly concerned over his lack of experience. Clifton doesn't have a ton of experience and has only shown flashes of brilliance on the field. If Clifton were to bomb after being taken high, it wouldn't be the first time a player didn't pan out after being taken based solely on physical tools. Scouts know that.
The pros are also probably right that he should have stayed one more season. I'm not saying this because I resent his choice to leave, although I certainly think we'll miss him somewhat. I'm saying this because he now has everything riding on a great combine. That's not an enviable position. If he does well, he'll be an early round pick. If he bombs, he risks not being drafted at all. If he had stayed for 2010 in Columbia, he would have likely been our sack leader and an all-league performer. That would have guaranteed him a first- or second-round selection, meaning he wouldn't have to be worrying over his status as he is right now.
What the Pros Have Wrong: Some scouts have expressed concern over Clifton's behavioral issues. I think they should be a non-issue. Clifton's run-in with disciplinary problems at the beginning of this season were a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Clifton comes from a good background, has generally been on the up-and-up, and will continue to be so in the NFL.
Fun Fact: Clifton is from a family of NFL talent that includes his brother Robert, father Robert Sr., and uncle Jumpy, the latter of whom was a star defender for many years. His brother Kwame plays for Georgia and also has a bright future.
Are the Mocks Right?: The mocks show little consensus on Clifton, which is to be expected with a player who is something of an unknown quantity. Most mocks mention how much he has riding on his combine performance, and I'd say that's right. He needs to prove his freakish athleticism there, because if he doesn't, teams will hesitate to take him based on his on-field performance.