Blame it on the nauseating around-the-clock coverage and endless mocks. Tweets from basement draft experts and work ethic critics have been abundantly available since January.
If I’m general manager Rick Smith, I’m keeping the No. 1 pick on May 8 in the NFL Draft and handing a check to South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney.
I’m ignoring the negativity, the laughable speeding tickets and going with my gut. Four years worth of highlight footage — including a senior prep season at South Pointe High featuring the infamous ‘chase-down’ play — is enough for me.
The defensive end’s been the best player in football for years, the subject of message board hype since the eighth grade. But since his junior season’s numbers didn’t reflect that dominance, experts question his production at the next level.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Clowney would’ve been the No. 1 pick after last season if he was eligible to leave. Remember the two months of endless coverage following the public dismissal of Michigan’s Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl?
As a result of that helmet decapitation along with 21 sacks compiled over the previous 25 games, the 2013 All-American and coaches’ pick as the SEC’s top defender could have sat out this season and trained in prep for the draft.
But he didn’t.
Any lingering notions about his want-to or willingness to help his team should’ve ceased there. Did he go half-speed at times after being double and triple-teamed the previous snap? Yes. Did he choose to sit before the Kentucky game because of a nagging injury? Yes.
This doesn’t mean he hates football. If anything, he was protecting himself along with a big payday a few months later.
Paired with J.J. Watt, Clowney would instantly provide the Texans with the best combo of young pass-rushing bookends in the NFL. Most importantly, he levels the playing field in a South Division Andrew Luck will dominate for many years without the fear of attacking defenders.
With the top overall selection, you disregard need — unless there’s a franchise quarterback waiting — and draft the best player. And Clowney’s been college football’s top freak of nature since 2011.
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