Furthering the notion that he could become the only player on the defensive side of the ball to garner a top-five draft selection this spring, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney easily outperformed his contemporaries during Monday’s testing at the NFL Combine.
Clowney, who stands 6’5” and weighed in at 266 pounds upon arriving in Indianapolis, clocked an official 40-yard dash time of 4.53 seconds, a figure that would have ranked among the best times by running backs on Sunday. By comparison, no other lineman registered a figure below 4.60 seconds.
That performance backed up Clowney’s comments while addressing the media on Saturday, when he predicted a 4.4 to low 4.5 showing.
Clowney, who established a new South Carolina school record with 13.5 sacks during his sophomore season with the Gamecocks, is widely viewed as the premier pass-rusher in this year’s class. He professed no bias as to defensive scheme or stance while speaking with media on Saturday.
“It doesn’t matter to me, hand up or hand down,” Clowney said. “The scheme I played in at South Carolina, my hand was always down, but I don’t mind playing hand-up, also.”
While his on-field exploits Sunday elicited a significant reaction from draft experts, there is perhaps no better gauge of Clowney’s promise as a premier NFL defensive end than what he accomplished in his career at South Carolina. Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan, who is also widely projected as a first-round draft choice this spring, was tasked with containing Clowney in last year’s Outback Bowl, and said there is no comparison when ranking this year’s top defensive talents.
“That game was unreal, just having a month to prepare for a guy like that, knowing he’s going to be a top-10 pick in the NFL draft,” Lewan said. “His speed, his strength— he’s a quick player and you can only do so much against him,” Lewan said.
Prior to Monday, Clowney had already been dubbed the outlier in what has often been deemed a deep draft with a heavy tilt toward the offensive side of the ball. Monday’s showing only offered further confirmation toward that end.
News and Notes:
-A day after stating that he views himself as a superior defensive end to Clowney, Auburn defensive end Dee Ford was a medical scratch from Monday’s testing. Ford was flagged for a 2011 operation on a herniated disk in his lower back.
-UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr, who remains somewhat of a novice to the defensive side of the ball, having only played the position for two years, showed Monday that his athleticism is certainly NFL-ready. Barr ran an unofficial 4.66-second 40, slightly behind another highly-touted linebacker in Buffalo’s Khalil Mack, who registered a 4.65.