Sep 7, 2013; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs guard Mark Beard (79) throws a key block against South Carolina Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (7) on a touchdown pass play during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Georgia defeated South Carolina 41-30. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Jadeveon Clowney slipping; Teddy Bridgewater making case to go No. 1

Standing on the edge of South Carolina’s defensive front, Jadeveon Clowney looks even more physically imposing than ever. He reportedly added 20 pounds of muscle this offseason and still ran a 40-yard dash in a sub-4.6 time.

However, people know better than to test the monster now.

They saw what he could do as a freshman All-American in 2011 and then as the Hendricks Award winner in 2012. They saw him set the South Carolina Gamecocks single-season sack record. Most importantly, they saw him storm through Michigan’s offensive line untouched and obliterate running back Vincent Smith to change the entire complexion of the Outback Bowl.

Opposing teams are now fully aware of just how dangerous Jadeveon Clowney is and they’ve schemed accordingly. Two weeks into the season, both the North Carlina Tar Heels and the Georgia Bulldogs have limited Clowney’s impact by running the football away from the consensus All-American.

It’s a pretty simple concept, which is why it must be so frustrating for Jadeveon Clowney.

He voiced his frustration after Saturday night’s loss to Georgia in Athens that will make any SEC and national championship aspirations seem far-fetched at this stage of the college football season. However, while I’m sure that’s the biggest concern on Clowney’s plate thus far, seeing teams take Jadeveon Clowney out of the game so effortlessly may have another affect.

Jadeveon Clowney, once the indisputable No. 1 NFL prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft, might be on the verge of being surpassed by Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater to go No. 1 overall next April. Granted, there’s a lot of ifs going into that proclamation–both Bridgewater and Clowney are juniors with an additional year of eligibility left–but it is certainly a possibility.

Through two games, Bridgewater has vaulted himself to the top of the Heisman Trophy watch list. Against Ohio in their opener, he was nearly flawless save a meaningless interception. Against Eastern Kentucky, it was more of the same, and the gaudy numbers he racked up against inferior opponents will certainly come in handy come early December in New York.

However, also on display was a devastatingly accurate, poised and confident quarterback. The kind of kid an QB-deficient NFL franchise will go absolutely insane over.

For that reason, I think Teddy Bridgewater is slowly positioning himself to be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

There are certainly other variables that will go into whether or not that prediction comes to fruition. Who selects first next season (and don’t think your fluke victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are fooling anybody, Jets) and what their positional needs are will obviously influence the decision. But, considering what a quarterback-driven league the NFL has become and continues becoming, I like Bridgewater’s chances.

Now, Jadeveon Clowney is still a generational-type talent at defensive end that I don’t think we’ve seen since Bruce Smith in 1985. However, there has to be some concern over seeing such simple adjustments render him ineffective.

Obviously if a team is running away from you, it makes it more difficult to make an impact, but it’s not impossible. Teams still have to throw the football–Aaron Murray dropped back 23 times on Saturday–and that should always be an area of the game where Clowney’s presence is felt.

Ultimately, teams at every level are going to shy away from Jadeveon Clowney because he is a physical freak, but he has to continue to find a way to make an impact, otherwise he could be seeing his slot money decrease (only slightly, he’s still a Top Three pick) throughout the year.

And, even more damning for Clowney, it’s certainly not gonna help his draft stock when ESPN’s stats department reports that the South Carolina defense gives up three times as many yards with you on the field as they do with you off of it.

Maybe Jadeveon Clowney is right. Maybe South Carolina does have to scheme a little differently and line him up all over the field to make it difficult for opponents to scheme him out of the game, but at some point Clowney just has to start making hustle plays from the backside. If he doesn’t, he can expect teams to do this on a weekly basis until he does something to break the mold.

Until then, I’ll take Louisville Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and move his proverbial magnet one spot higher on my 2014 NFL Draft big board. Directly above Jadeveon Clowney.

Tags: 2014 NFL Draft Football Jadeveon Clowney Louisville Cardinals Popular Sec Football South Carolina Gamecocks Teddy Bridgewater

  • Gamecock Fan

    This is ridiculous. NFL scouts don’t pay attention to hype or only respond to big blow up the field type plays. Clowney’s stats through two games, not that stats really reflect a DEs impact, are identical to last year. He did not face a potential first round draft pick in those first two last year (he has this year), and (as you noted) teams didn’t scheme away from him nearly as much. Calling Clowney ‘ineffective’ is also a mistake, and a bit odd as you have acknowledged how effective he has been in changing opponents offensive game plans even before he steps on the field. Go back and watch the tape of all of his snaps from the UNC game (available on the Garnet and Black Attack website), or check ESPN’s Kevin Weidl’s twitter account from yesterday for some stats on how effective Clowney was. I’m not sure about the UGA game, but for some perspective on the UNC game, Renner’s completion percentage was about 20 points lower with Clowney on the field.

    Bridgewater may very well be the #1 pick, but if so, it’ll be because the team who drafts first desperately needs a QB, not a DE, and will have nothing whatsoever to do with how Clowney has performed these first two weeks, which has been exactly up to par with his performance to this point last year, if not better. Barring injury, do you really feel any defensive player will go ahead of Clowney this year?

    • Ryan Wooden

      I made very specific mention of the fact that positional need would be a MAJOR factor in if Bridgewater went No. 1, and at no point and time did I say that any defensive player would be taken before Clowney.

      I do, however, appreciate the UNC numbers. That’s interesting. Unfortunately, Clowney’s impact in the UGA game was decidedly more negative. With Clowney on the field, the Dawgs averaged over eight yards per play, while they averaged less than three with him off the field. That’s not the type of impact a guy with Clowney’s talent should be having in a critical SEC divisional matchup.

      Anyways, I appreciate the read, and I don’t entirely disagree with anything you say. However, I’ll stand by the fact that I think if they were to draft now, Bridgewater would go No. 1. That’s the entire premise of the column.

      • Gamecock Fan

        My bad, I missed the bit about positional need being a driving factor. Also, interesting point about the yards per play avg against UGA, I didn’t know that. I also agree with you that Bridgewater will most likely be the first offensive player taken. There are a few things which make me feel like Clowney is still a pretty solid lock at #1, barring injury, though. First, SC has played two quality opponents, and (hopefully) Clowney’s stats and on the field impact will be more impressive as the year goes on. Also, no matter what else happens this year, there’s the combine, and I anticipate an epic performance from Clowney there, which should solidify any doubts. Thirdly, I’d wonder if positional need will have as much to do with it as we’re both thinking, or if we’ve anticipated the ways that may play out. Whichever team ends up with the #1 pick will obviously have a lot of needs, so even if they’re not planning on taking Clowney first, they could make it appear as though they are in an effort to get an amazing trade to a team who desperately needs defensive line help. The upshot of this being there are countless factors which will go into who becomes the #1 overall pick, at this point we’re all just shooting into the wind. But, I don’t think anything I’ve seen from Clowney this year has hurt his draft stock.