NFL Draft 2014 Risers/Fallers: Can NFL teams trust Jadeveon Clowney?
"If he wants to play, we will welcome him to come play for the team if he wants. But if he doesn't want to play, he doesn't have to play."
Those were the words of South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier after standout defensive end Jadeveon Clowney opted to sit and rest his bruised ribs on Saturday, rather than suit up against Kentucky. Clowney's decision drew the ire of Gamecocks fans and draft pundits alike, the latest frustrating moment in what's been a somewhat disappointing junior year from Clowney.
But will it matter come the draft?
Odds are, probably not all that much. You might remember that there were some people at the start of the college football season clamoring for Clowney to sit out the entire year lest he suffer a serious injury. The rib injury, in addition to bone spurs in his foot, finally proved enough to keep him from suiting up.
"Nah, no one will care," an NFL personnel executive told USA Today of the impact this decision will have on Clowney's draft stock. "If he's healthy, works out well and most importantly interviews well, it won't hurt him."
It is another topic for debate, though, right alongside Clowney's statistical drop-off this year. The rest of the 2014 draft class has at least closed the gap on Clowney, too; a couple of prospects (Teddy Bridgewater and Anthony Barr, for example) may have even leapfrogged the South Carolina star in the pecking order.
While this latest development was a disappointing one, it is far from a killer when it comes to Clowney's standing. What will be interesting to watch, however, is what happens next.
• Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State: It may be another year yet before Greene, a junior, heads to the NFL. He continues to serve as a dangerous receiver for the Seminoles, though, and he has benefited -- like the rest of the offense -- from QB Jameis Winston's presence.
Greene had four catches for 108 yards in the Seminoles' win over Maryland. He's now averaging 17.7 yards per catch this season, up from the 13 and 15.7 he posted as a freshman and sophomore, respectively.
• Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State: It took five games, but the Spartans' senior finally recorded his first interception of 2013. Then for good measure, he hauled in INT No. 2. Dennard has been playing at a high level all year, even if Michigan State's true competition has been limited to Saturday's game in Iowa (a team with minimal receiving threats) and Notre Dame. He's a physical, aggressive defender on the outside, capable of locking down NFL receivers.
• Jeremiah George, LB, Iowa State: The Cyclones took a brutal loss at the hands of Texas last Thursday, with the Longhorns scoring a controversial touchdown late. George did all he could up until that point, piling up 13 tackles -- his third consecutive game with at least a dozen takedowns. A steady inside linebacker, George is undersized at 5-foot-11, but makes up for it with the ability to get after ballcarriers.
• Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss: Following Moncrief's breakthrough 2012 season, the signs were pointing toward him bolting Ole Miss after this year for the NFL. A slow first four weeks tempered that talk a bit, but Moncrief finally got back on track Saturday at Auburn.
The dangerous 6-3 receiver showed off his big-play ability, pulling down two touchdown passes and averaging 20.3 yards on six grabs.
• James Franklin, QB, Missouri: Given how loaded the 2014 draft is with quarterbacks, it's been easy to overlook a fringe prospect like Franklin. With each additional Mizzou win, though, Franklin's dual-threat talents become more and more appealing.
The latest showcase: A 341-total yard showing in a road win at Vanderbilt. Franklin has been able to stay healthy thus far in 2013, something he failed to do in 2012. Should he continue to put up numbers against SEC defenses, Franklin may wind up on a few NFL radars come May.
• Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami: What's worse: That Henderson was suspended for the Hurricanes' game over the weekend? Or that his team doesn't seem to miss him a whole lot when he's gone? Henderson has loads of talent -- more than enough to be a starter at right tackle in the NFL -- but he has plenty to answer for come the combine and pre-draft interviews.
• Chuckie Keeton, QB, Utah State: If there was any lingering doubt that Keeton would return to school for his senior season, it likely was put to bed last week when he tore both the ACL and MCL in his left knee. Obviously, we've seen more and more players come back from similar injuries to thrive at the college level, as well as in the NFL. Keeton, though, faces a long road back. It will be imperative that he stays healthy next season.
• Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State: Sutton (not to mention his Arizona State team) had a chance at a statement win Saturday night versus Notre Dame on national TV. The Sun Devils disappointed pretty much across the board, and the Irish's domination up front on offense was a major piece in that puzzle.
Sutton finished with just three tackles, no tackles for loss and no sacks -- the fourth time in five games he's failed to record a sack, after racking up 13 last season. • Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon: Lyerla opted to leave the Oregon football team midway through the season after missing multiple games. His departure apparently came on good terms, per the release put out by the Ducks, but this is a decision that could crush his draft stock. Like Clowney, Lyerla's ability will buy him a little more leeway, but bailing on the Ducks is a head-scratcher. Teams will want to know the exact circumstances that led to that move, then will try to determine if they can count on Lyerla to stick around in the NFL.