Jadeveon Clowney wows in dash
INDIANAPOLIS -- Jadeveon Clowney finished his stay at the NFL scouting combine Monday by confirming what many scouts thought about the former South Carolina star. He also left some questions unanswered.
In his four-day trek through the league's annual showcase of draft prospects, Clowney showed both breathtaking athletic potential and curious decision-making, multiple scouts and personnel executives told ESPN.com.
It's all part of the pre-draft puzzle with Clowney, considered by many to be the most physically gifted player on the board.
Clowney, whose work ethic was questioned by his own coach this past season and who raised eyebrows with a below-average performance in the bench press at the combine, still blistered the turf inside Lucas Oil Stadium and was clocked at 4.53 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Although many NFL decision-makers will say that a player's efforts in games over the course of his career comprise the bulk of his pre-draft grade, a player in position to be the top overall pick can earn an extra push with what happens at the combine or his on-campus pro day. The interviews, medical exams or on-field workouts at the combine can be the last weights to tip the scale.
Clowney's efforts Monday, as well as in the previous days at the combine, both helped his cause and left some issues on the table.
His size -- he's officially listed as 6-foot-5¼ and 266 pounds, with an 83-inch arm span -- makes him an ideal edge rusher in the pass-happy NFL.
Jadeveon Clowney officially ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds Monday, the fastest time for any defensive lineman at the NFL scouting combine.
Clowney's weight was the first thing scouts noted in Indianapolis, given that several scouts who work the Southeast said they believed he played closer to 277 pounds or slightly more at South Carolina. He was listed on the roster at 274 pounds this past season.
Those same scouts said they would be curious to see whether Clowney allows himself to be weighed at his pro day in early April, considering some prospects lose weight to run at the combine and put it back on to go through more football-specific drills at their pro days.
A slightly leaner Clowney showed top-end speed Monday with two 40-yard dashes that were unofficially hand-timed at 4.47 and 4.48, and officially timed at 4.53 on an electronic clock. All were best among the defensive linemen and better than many of the wide receivers who ran the day before.
Clowney's 40-yard dash was faster than all but one of the times posted by a current NFL starting quarterback -- Robert Griffin III -- at the combine since 2006, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
But even as the scouts had barely written those times into their notebooks, Clowney was adding another question or two as well.
After taking part in the 40, broad jump and vertical jump -- things used to measure explosiveness and straight-line speed -- Clowney took a pass on cone and position-specific drills because of what he told those monitoring the workouts was a hip-flexor issue.
At least two general managers told ESPN.com they would've liked to have seen Clowney do the drills, and expected him to, but were not surprised he didn't given there are questions about his change-of-direction skills. The GMs said that Clowney and his representatives simply chose to play to his strengths Monday. Clowney will have plenty of time to work before his April 2 pro day at South Carolina.
But for a player who has carried questions about his work ethic in tow since the start of the 2013 season, it was another example, some scouts told ESPN.com, of Clowney passing on an opportunity to go full-tilt in a competitive situation and simply show what he can do. He benched 225 pounds just 21 times Sunday -- a total that some other successful pass-rushers have posted in previous combines but lower than some expected for the high-profile defensive end.
Clowney said this past weekend that he hopes to be selected by the Houston Texans with the top pick in May's draft.
"That's one of my goals here, to go No. 1," he 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."
With his array of physical gifts, including the speed he showed Monday, many talent evaluators are still trying to understand how Clowney finished this past season with just three sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss.
"Going into last season, I had a lot of high expectations of myself, and things don't always happen like you plan on," Clowney said this past weekend. "I was really trying to break the [career] sack record for us for the next guys coming in. 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. ... I wasn't really worried about my stats, I just wanted to win."
Clowney has said that bone spurs in his right foot -- he's said he's dealt with them since high school -- did not affect his play in 2013 and said shortly after the season he would let the team that drafts him decide whether he needs surgery.
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