Based on pure talent and raw ability, Jadeveon Clowney may very well be the run away top prospect in May’s NFL Draft. At 6-foot-5 and 266 pounds, Clowney posted a somewhat ridiculous 4.53 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in February. However, questions regarding his work ethic and motor have been abundant after his production dipped from 11 sacks in 2012 to just three sacks last season at South Carolina.
Former South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw said he believes Clowney was fighting an uphill battle against perception all last season
“I’ve been there. I’ve watched his work ethic over the summer. Jadeveon Clowney was in a lose-lose situation last year with the media and all the critics,” Shaw said, in an interview with Alex Marvez and Gil Brandt on Sirius XM NFL Radio. “The guy is an animal on and off the field. His work ethic in the weight room, I’ve seen it first hand and if you ask any of his teammates from South Carolina they’ll say the same thing.
“I think he will be a better NFL player than he was a college player. He absolutely wants to be the best. He’s very competitive and when he gets to that next level, he’ll step up to the stage.”
Clowney entered last season as the presumed top selection in this year’s draft. He wasn’t sneaking up on anyone after a dominant sophomore season at South Carolina. Shaw said opposing teams understandably made it a focal point to take Clowney out of the game.
“He had such a monster year his sophomore year that people just expected that the next year,” Shaw said. “Well, all of a sudden you have a tight end on him, a running back on him, your left tackle. He’s getting triple-teamed almost every down. It’s hard. People run away from him.
“He plays banged up. He tried to not let that leak out but he was hurt some of the season playing through injuries.”
The Houston Texans hold the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft. Head coach Bill O’Brien told Josh Kendall of The State he had “absolutely” no concerns about Clowney’s work ethic after his pro day on Tuesday.
Shaw believes that any team that passes on Clowney due to believing he lacks competitiveness and work ethic will regret it.
“I, for one, think he should go No. 1,” Shaw said. “All the scrutiny he’s been facing, I think they’ll realize that they made a mistake once he gets in the NFL.”