*Our DL grades can and will change as more information comes in from Pro Day workouts, leaked Wonderlic test results, etc. We will update ratings as new info becomes available.


The proper thing to do with a report out on Jadeveon Clowney is to assume he is already beyond great, and then bicker about whether the Texans should book-end him with J.J. Watt. I am going to try to bring something fresh to the Clowney debate...and we'll see whether it lands or not.

First, let me say: Jadeveon Clowney, of sound mind and sound body is most likely the best DE prospect in the draft. Notice, I did not say, "best defensive" or "best overall prospect." The gap between Aaron Donald and other top DT prospects of the past few years is much wider than Clowney is among DE prospects in 2014, or the past few years of DEs. Ryan Shazier is more of a 'freak' OLB than what Clowney is comparative to recent DE prospects. Strictly taking the biggest 'freak' player at #1 in the draft should not land you on Clowney...but he is in the discussion.

Jadeveon Clowney, even if the best DE prospect in this draft, should not automatically be the most coveted single prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft. I might argue he is not in the top-5 most valuable overall. He might very well be drafted #1 overall, and I would bet that he will be, but I'd argue he shouldn't be. A team desperate for DE help might consider that leap but taking him just because he is so "all world" (so says many fans and analyst) is wrong...and it discounts all the other 'freaks' in this draft class.

That statement is potentially a shock to some of your systems, so let me make my case and see if will inch closer to my side of the debate.

Let me use a comparison player from a long, long, long time ago...way, way, way back in the year 2013. I want to compare Detroit Lions/BYU DE Ezekiel Ansah and Clowney...just a pure physical comparison. From their NFL Combines:

  • 40-yard dash: Clowney (4.53), Ansah (4.56)
  • Height: Both 6'5.2"
  • Weight: Ansah (271), Clowney (266)
  • Arm length: Ansah (35.13"), Clowney (34.50")
  • Hand-size: Ansah (10.25"), Clowney (10.00")
  • 10-yard split: Clowney (1.56), Ansah (1.58)
  • Bench Press: 21 reps each
  • Broad Jump: Clowney (10'4"), Ansah (9'10")
  • Vertical: Clowney (37.5), Ansah (34.5)
  • Three-cone: Ansah (7.11), Clowney (7.27)

To contain any unnecessary debate, you could say that Clowney and Ansah were about the same in athleticism and physical profile. I'd argue Ansah is the 'better' NFL athlete because of carrying the extra five-pounds, plus longer-arms and more agile, but it's all so close you could not argue anyone by saying, "they are about the same."

Your first reaction might be: So what? Ansah had a very nice rookie season, and was a #5 overall pick in 2013, so it's a compliment. I don't disagree. That's not my point.

All throughout this pre-draft process you have been sold that Jadeveon Clowney is a 'god'. Everything he did at the NFL Combine brought middle-aged men to orgasm in their coverage of it. The echo chamber media just picked up the vibe and ran with it. Now, many football fans, enslaved to the State sponsored football coverage have been infected with the disease. The Stepford fans just walk in lock step with the "Clowney is god" story with no questions asked. 

Never will you see written or spoken on television: "Wow! Those Clowney workout numbers are very Ezekiel Ansah-like." I'm pretty sure you cannot sell magazines or grab increased podcast downloads with "hot Ezekiel Ansah talk." The fog that is being created with the media push of Clowney is that he is a once in-a-lifetime DE prospect. The story really should be: "He really profiles well for the NFL. He could be really good, or great even. Now, about that work ethic, attitude and crappy 2013 season..."

Years ago, WR prospects who ran a 4.4-anything time in the 40-yard dash in a pre-draft workout were gawked at and fawned over. Today, WR prospects are running 4.3s and not getting drafted. Speed times in the 4.4s used to make a WR prospect the "Belle of the Ball" in the NFL Draft process, but now it only worth an invite to the dance...it doesn't ensure you any dance partners.

In a like manner, we all probably need to start getting over ourselves with DE prospects running a 40-yard dash in the 4.5s...because it's going to become 'normal'. Normal-good, but still more normal. I'm not talking about just any ole' DE prospect running those kind of times, like only the lightweight ones who weigh as much as a big RB...I mean even the big DE prospects, those who weigh over 255+ pounds will run with speed in the 4.5s.  Last year, Ezekiel Ansah and Cornelius Washington both posted mid-4.5s in the 40-yard dash...and both weighed 265+. Drop the weight limit, and Dion Jordan and Barkevious Mingo join the 4.5s party among DE prospects in 2013.

At the 2014 NFL Combine, Bloomsburg DE prospect Larry Webster (6'5.6", 266) ran a 4.58. That makes six (with Clowney included) DE prospects (on our list) who ran in the 4.5s in the past two seasons. We only show five other DE prospects in the prior decade who did the same: Connor Barwin, Lawrence Sidbury, Quetin Groves, Cliff Avril, Trevor Scott. *With all this there may be other DE names we classified as OLBs, so forgive an omission.

DE prospects are getting bigger and faster...the judgment scale needs to start sliding in this new era. If NFL teams do not slide with it, they are going to make a mistake of seeing something unique that isn't...or something that is kinda unique now but won't be next year. The 2015 draft season could yield another bumper crop of DE prospects that run in the 4.5s...and then how special is Jadeveon Clowney, or the others? You could trade for Miami Dolphins 2013 high draft pick DE, and 4.5+ runner, Dion Jordan right now according to reports...

One of the major reasons that I do not see Jadeveon Clowney as super-special is not just because a few other similar-sized DE prospects are running similar 40-times. There is a huge issue we think is going overlooked: Clowney posted a 7.27 three-cone (agility) drill time. That's a decent time, but not 'special'...not at all. We show over 130+ DE prospects over the last decade that could post a 7.30 time or lower in the three-cone.

You could profile Clowney as straight-ahead awesome, but so-so going East-West...and many would argue that the three-cone is more critical for a DE prospect. Not only from the perspective of getting past Offensive Tackles, but also in trying to hunt down a RB/WR running the ball at them. Clowney might be the most awesome DE prospect running straight ahead as there is in football, but how many times will Clowney have a straight-line shot at the backfield...except that one-time against Michigan? Clowney will have to zig and zag past the new breed of bigger, swifter OTs, and I'm not sure he is that much better at the zig-zag than any garden variety 'good' DE prospect.

I may be becoming too biased with the three-cone data, but when I watch Clowney on tape that's what I see: A guy who blasts off the line, and it's a great initial explosion at times, but a solid OT can just maneuver/dance him away. Against lesser OTs, Clowney's burst will push the line back into the QB. Against better OT's he's just absorbed, and the plays go right past him before he knows it...or can agility-adjust to it. He pursues like a cheetah when he is chasing in a straight line or making an L-cut. He's not as good running an S-pattern. It's like what they tell you to do when chased by an alligator: Run serpentine because they cannot cut like that very well, but they can move straight-ahead rapidly and make you a midday snack. Clowney may fall in that odd pigeon-hole to some degree.

That last paragraph may not be as evident in college, because Clowney's agility is more 'A' grade among college football. However, it might be "C+/B-" level in the NFL according to the measurements. That's why we rely more on the data then the tape, because tapes lie (as do numbers sometimes...but it's not numbers only. Your scouting eyes are the worst deceivers of all time).

I don't say all this to call Jadeveon Clowney a 'bust' for the 2014 NFL Draft. He will likely be our top-ranked DE prospect for the 2014 NFL Draft. It's just that we do not see that he is the far superior top overall pick in this draft. He is not the "Calvin Johnson" of DE prospects. He's not a full-freak; he's a partial-freak. Which is a good thing, I wish I was a partial freak DE prospect. 

If Clowney is not Superman, then how much more do you discount his value for his off-field resume? His own coach has kinda kicked the can on him being 'lazy'. Clowney gave us diva moments before the 2013 season, and in-season. He missed time in 2013 with what his coaches hinted were minor or phantom injuries.

Was his 2013 debacle of a season (statistically) really because of extra emphasis blocking him? Am I to believe that no human could figure out that they needed extra help to block him in 2012, but then it 'magically' dawned on them in 2013? I saw some extra attention from time-to-time on the 2013 tape, but mostly I saw a DE who is really good getting blocked from the play as much as other 'good' DE prospects (thus the 3.0 sacks in 20913, in 11 games).

There might be an issue with Clowney's motivation as-is, so what do you think will happen when he is handed a bunch of money and spotlight? We already know he is capable of mailing it in by looking at his 2013 performance. It is a reasonable question to ask (a) before a major financial, and franchise investment, but more importantly (b) if there exists as good, or better player options out there.

Clowney is a very good, potentially great prospect, but we do not see him as "A++++," more just a nice ole' 'A' with some concerning red-flags.


Jadeveon Clowney, Through the Lens of Our DE Scouting Algorithm:

There is no sense in arguing Clowney's 2013 output. If you do not like him as a prospect, it's the perfect thing to point to because his 2013 season (for an elite prospect) was awful...the thing future 'busts' are made of. If you love him as a prospect, you look at 2012 and marvel about "what is possible"...and that's legit. We are looking at Clowney based more on that 2012; the "what's possible" Clowney. He achieved it, so he is capable of it. Arguing future motivation is fun, but hard to quantify here. I'd like to debate it, but in this section,  we are looking at "what's possible." What's possible is that Clowney is a helluva NFL pass-rush prospect, but as Bruce Irvin has proven (so far)...you hope there is more than just that one 'thing' (just rushing the passer); as valuable as that one thing is.

When you look at Clowney's 2012, it's very good. Having a 20+ TFL, 10+ sack college season is great, but not unchartered waters. We currently show 23 other DE prospects who have banked those kinds of numbers in their best season of play in college...that's just DE prospects, not OLB or DT's we have labeled.

The thing is when we look at DE prospects who produced monster TFL and sacks tallies, they also had bigger tackles totals. When we look at the whole output picture from 2012, Clowney had an awesome season, but a great season that 10-15 other DE prospects had as well...many of them went on to be good-great NFL players. I point that out to say that Clowney is not Superman, he is not doing things never done before. He is an 'A' producer historically, with 'A' measurables in my book. That's still an 'A' average...nice, but Superman.

What then scares me a touch is that Clowney put up the 2013 debacle season. I have to decide with Clowney if my coaches, my franchise will be able to unlock, and sustain the 'A' grade/2012 Clowney...or will we get 'C-' producing Clowney from 2013. Which is a land of unfulfilled promises, and coaches/GMs getting fired.

The Historical DE Prospects to Whom Jadeveon Clowney Most Compares Within Our System:

Ryan Kerrigan may not excite you as a comparison, but that guy was a monster for Purdue...and he has been pretty good, not amazing in the pros. He was a Pro Bowler in 2012.

Ezekiel Ansah was used in comparisons earlier, but scored a little lower for us, because his best college season was mediocre in output like Clowney's 2013. That's all we could go on with Ansah. It's hard to quantify that he was just learning football still (former soccer player). Plus, there were the questions on his true age.

Robert Quinn was nicely rated on physical measurables, but just 'good' in his college performance. Quinn reminds me of where Clowney is probably headed. If with a great defensive coach and playing with other talents on the D-Line, he'll be statistically awesome. If on a weak team and system, he'll wind up like Mario Williams...a guy who disappoints from higher expectations.

If you wonder why Mario Williams is not a comparison for us with Clowney, it's because back in 2006, Mario Williams was a freak. Today, Mario Williams would be pretty impressive still, back then he was mythical. That's my wonder with Clowney...is he a Superman-lite today, with red-flag concerns, who we will then see more and more DE prospects like him piling into the NFL over the next few years making Clowney less enthralling?

The grade below is Clowney at his absolutely best a la 2012. You enter questions of his mindset, etc. and consider the 2013 season, and he is more of a 7-8 grade prospect. It's hard to judge motivation statistically. We are just looking at "what's possible" with Clowney.

DE Score








Tackle, Strngth Metric

Speed, Agility Metric

Pass Rush Metric

Tackle Metric





So Carolina
















































Boise St




















*A score of 8.00+ is where we see a stronger correlation of DEs going on to become NFL good/great/elite. A score of 10.00+ is more rarefied air in our system and indicates a greater probability of becoming an elite NFL DE.

All of the DE ratings are based on a 0–10 scale, but a player can score negative, or above a 10.0 in certain instances.

Power-Strength Metrics = A combination of several measurements. An attempt to classify the DE prospect as more of a battle-in-the-trenches type of DE, a 'bull-rusher', and/or a DE prospect who has some DT capabilities.

Speed-Agility Metrics = A combination of several speed, agility, size measurements. A unique measuring system to look for DEs who profile more as speed-rush, stand-up DEs, and/or possible OLBs.

Pass-Rusher Rating = A combination of physical measurables, and college performance, graded historically for future NFL profiling. In the simplest of terms, this is an attempt to classify whether a particular DE is likely to achieve high sack totals in the NFL. We know the 'system'/scheme the DE goes on to play in has a part in future success...but so do the player's skills and performance history. "You can't keep a good man/DE down," we'd like to think.

Tackling Rating = A combination of physical measurables, and college performance, graded historically for future NFL profiling. In the simplest of terms, this is an attempt to classify the DE as one more likely to be involved in a heavy amount of tackles, tackles for a loss, and forced fumbles. Lower-scoring DEs in this subcategory tend to be more pure pass-rushers/specialists. This is also our attempt to quantify, if it's possible, the 'toughness' of a player.

2014 NFL Draft Outlook:

Well, I'm going to guess that Jadeveon Clowney is going #1 in this draft...that's not a shock statement, but it's not a sure thing either. My nickel guess is the Texans trade the pick, and some other team nabs Clowney #1. I'll guess it will be Atlanta or Oakland, but who knows. He likely doesn't fall past #3, unless he has an off-field thing pop up.

If I were the Houston Texans GM, I trade out of this pick. For a talent like a Luke Kuechly or Andrew Luck, I would stay in the #1 spot, but not for Clowney. As Texans' GM, I should take Aaron Donald #1 if I didn't already commit to a 3-4 defensive coordinator like Romeo Crennel...that's not the right fit for Donald. I have at least one other defender (so far) I would take ahead of Clowney, and I would not rule out taking Jake Matthews or Greg Robinson ahead of him if the OT need was great (for me it's Matthews, more on why in our OT reports). Point is, I don't think Clowney is a 'god'. Therefore, I am willing to trade him to a team that sees him as one, if they make it worth my while.

NFL Outlook:   

Probably Robert Quinn or Mario Williams. He either becomes a guy with a true menacing pass-rush reputation, or he becomes a guy with a 'Superman' rep, but never really accomplishes anything that swell...like Mario Williams.