South Carolina alumnus Bob McNair and his Houston Texans currently own of the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. McNair, has already described Jadeveon Clowney as "a-once-in-every-10-years type of physical specimen." McNair has spoken candidly about how remarkable of a prospect Clowney is, but is it enough to make the former Gamecock take the other former Gamecock with the top pick in the draft?
Can the Texans afford to bypass a potential franchise quarterback like Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel and team Clowney up with arguably the NFL's most elite defensive end in J.J. Watt?
Whether it's the 4.53 that Jadeveon Clowney ran at the NFL Scouting Combine, "the hit" that he delivered to Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the 2013 Outback Bowl, or the 4.5-sack performance against Clemson in 2012, it's no secret how physically gifted the former South Carolina defensive end is. But to fully contextualize the value that Clowney can bring to an NFL franchise, it's helpful to compare him to other defensive lineman currently in the NFL.
In the first installment of our Gamecock Doppelgangers series, we take a look at Jadeveon Clowney and how his playing style matches up to similar defensive ends around the NFL.
Clowney's skill profile
Clowney measures at 6'5", 265 pounds with a 83-inch wingspan while running 4.53 40-yard dash. Obviously the speed that he possesses is freakish, but what allows him to standout above any other defensive end in the draft is how he's able to utilize his speed in order to move his frame through the line of scrimmage and disrupt an entire offense.
A defensive end's success is often gauged on sack numbers, but an important number that shouldn't be overlooked is tackles for loss (TFL.) Clowney registered 47 TFL during his three years at South Carolina, a skill-set that his future NFL defensive coordinator will love out of a defensive end.
Another skill that Clowney brings is his ability to break into the pocket and disrupt/deflect the pass. While his numbers aren't overpowering statistically in that sense (7 career passes defensed.) It's just another tool that Clowney has in the bag. If Clowney does end up in Houston, there's a certain defensive end on the other side of the line that has made the art of "swatting" a staple in his game. J.J. Watt has logged 27 swatted passes in three seasons. That's tops amongst defensive ends in the NFL in that span. It's safe to say he might be able to give J.D. a few pointers.
Robert Quinn, St. Louis Rams
Measures at 6'5", 265lbs with a 82 5/8 wingspan while running a 4.6 40-yard dash. Robert Quinn is arguably the strongest candidate in which Jadeveon Clowney can be compared to. They are similar in size, frame and speed. Quinn, now a veteran of three NFL seasons has solidified himself as one of the leagues premiere young pass rushers. After a quiet rookie season where he registered a mere five sacks, Quinn has increased that number each season. In 2011, he finished with 10 sacks and after a breakout 2013 campaign, he ended the season as a finalist for NFL Defensive Player Of The Year honors with 19 sacks and 7 forced fumbles. If Clowney can mimic the path that Quinn has taken, he's in line for a solid NFL career.
Carlos Dunlap, Cincinnati Bengals
Dunlap measures at 6' 6', 280 pounds with a 84" wingspan while running a 4.71 40-yard dash. Although Carlos Dunlap is a little slower on paper he is still the type of player that measures up with Clowney's skill-set. Coming out of Florida in 2009, Dunlap was considered one of the top sack artists entering the league. In four professional seasons, Dunlap has yet to register double digits in sacks, but still remains a force on the Bengals defensive line. Although we'd like to think that Clowney can surpass Dunlap statistically, it's a similar style in which you can expect from Clowney at the professional level.
Chandler Jones, New England Patriots
Measures at 6'5", 265 pounds with nearly an 86" wingspan, while running a 4.85 40-yard dash. You can see size-wise, Chandler Jones is a good argument for comparisson. The 40-yard dash however is not even in the same realm, but let's be honest, out of the guys we've already named, it's going to pretty hard to compare anybody else to Clowney. Chandler Jones is a 2012 first round pick of the New England Patriots and is quickly making a name for himself as a top NFL defensive end. In his rookie season, Jones only managed 6 sacks while playing in a defensive rotation. In 2013, Jones was on the field for over 95% of the defensive snaps and almost doubled his rookie sack total. Again, Jones does not posess the speed that Clowney does. However, the sack total might be an accurate representation of what we can expect to see out of Clowney as his career progresses. If anybody is expecting Clowney to come out of the gate and register 15-plus sacks in his rookie season, you're setting a pretty unreasonable mark.
Mario Williams, Buffalo Bills
Williams measures at 6'6", 290 pounds, with an 83" wingspan while running a 4.7 40-yard dash. A previous No. 1 overall pick of the Houston Texans, Mario Williams is a great comparison for how we might expect to see Jadeveon Clowney used in the NFL. Williams is often used in a 3-4 as a pass rushing linebacker, while in other sets he puts his hand down and comes off the edge as a defensive end.
During his pro day, Jadeveon Clowney was worked out by Texans defensive end Romeo Crennel in drills for both linebackers and defensive ends. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock has mentioned that some teams are looking at Clowney in a "Willie McGinest type-role", basically a hybrid defensive end/linebacker.
At the time, Williams was in a similar situation in which critics were well aware of his talent, but was a defensive end worthy of passing over a potential franchise quarterback or running back? The Texans chose wisely that year as they elected to go with Williams, rather then selecting Vince Young or Reggie Bush.
The Houston Texans have a huge decision to make come May 8th, but they've already proven that selecting the single-most talented player in the NFL works when they selected Mario Williams in 2006. With the Texans current quarterback situation being in shambles, it only makes the decision harder. Do they open the season with a Blake Bortles or a Johnny Manziel? Or do they open the season with the NFL's scariest tandem of defensive ends in J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney?
Houston... you're on the clock. No pressure.