It had been alluded to for weeks, including by his own head coach. But South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney officially announced that he will enter the 2014 NFL draft following the Gamecocks' 34-24 win over Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day. In a postgame interview on ESPN that seemed like it lasted about a second and a half, reporter Tom Luginbill asked Clowney if he was headed to the NFL. Clowney responded with a simple, "Yes, sir."
Clowney has gone through a crazy 365 days, from his hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith to his speeding tickets to the constant questions about his commitment from the media. Given his hype entering the year, he would've been hard-pressed to live up to expectations no matter how he performed.Though he lacked eye-popping stats, he was double teamed constantly. He also wasn't fully healthy throughout the year.
None of that changes his potential at the next level, however. Players as big, strong and fast as Clowney come around very rarely, and although the top few picks of the NFL draft tend to shift around like the cup game, it won't take long for Clowney to hear his name called by commissioner Roger Goodell. The Rams, who acquired the No. 2 overall pick from the Washington Redskins in the RGIII trade, should be in a perfect spot to grab him. If they elect to pass, it's incredibly unlikely that he'd fall past the Oakland Raiders at No. 5.
On Dec. 30, SI.com's Chris Burke projected Clowney to the Rams. He wrote:
It’s honestly difficult to envision the Rams — or any team that might trade up to this spot — would pass on a player that could be dominant at the next level. Clowney is the best overall prospect in this class, and he would be more than capable of stepping into whatever role the Rams envisioned for him up front.