Jadeveon Clowney looks the part of the best player in the NFL Draft. The South Carolina defensive end stands 6-foot-5, weighs 266 pounds, runs a 4.53 in the 40-yard dash, bench-presses 225 pounds 21 times and has a 37 1/2-inch vertical.“Very talented, extremely talented,” Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said. But….“He’s the scariest, freakiest, physical specimen I’ve ever seen since I’ve been doing this as a potential upside defensive lineman,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “However, that doesn’t mean I’m saying he’s the best defensive lineman in the draft or the best player in the draft, because he worries me with some of the red flags.”Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp is the latest to jump on Clowney, whose work ethic has been questioned since last season. “I look at Jadeveon Clowney’s tape, and I don’t see a guy who is playing the game with his hair on fire,” Sapp said on NFL Network’s Total Access.Clowney recorded only three sacks last season, and his coach, Steve Spurrier, called him out when Clowney failed to tell coaches during the week that he couldn’t play against Kentucky because of a muscle strain near his rib area.“If he doesn’t want to play, he doesn’t have to play,” Spurrier said then. “Simple as that.”Spurrier cleared the air with Clowney, but the coach again raised questions about Clowney in February when Spurrier called Clowney’s work ethic “OK.” “I’m not going to comment on what coach Spurrier said,” Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “I’ve watched Jadeveon on film. He’s obviously a very good player, and I think he played very well this year. But there are a lot of good players in this draft. When I sit down and evaluate the players in this draft, I see a lot of talent, a lot of exciting players, guys that bring different skill sets to the table. Jadeveon’s one of those guys.”Clowney was the favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013 if he had been eligible. He had 54 tackles, 23.5 for loss, with 13 sacks and three forced fumbles as a sophomore in 2012. Clowney also won an ESPY for play of the year, hitting Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the backfield, forcing and recovering a fumble that led South Carolina to victory in the Outback Bowl.Clowney’s stock is back up. He ranks as the favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick of the Texans, a goal of his. No matter, he said his work ethic won’t be an issue in the NFL.“I believe I did work hard,” Clowney said. “You pull out any practice tape from last year, you’ll see that. … I will always be working hard. No matter where I end up, I am going to work hard and give a team everything I’ve got.”OverviewThere is talent at defensive end, but it is not as deep as teams want at the top. South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney could be the No. 1 overall pick, but defensive ends such as Missouri’s Kony Ealy, Boise State’s Demarcus Lawrence, Auburn’s Dee Ford and North Carolina’s Kareem Martin could be pushed up the board because of the lack of elite talent outside of Clowney. As many as four defensive tackles could go in the first round, led by Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald. The DT position offers good mid-round value, too.Cowboys’ needsThe Cowboys struggled to get to the quarterback with only 34 sacks, the same number they had in 2012 when they still ran the 3-4 scheme. The franchise has not had fewer than that since 2004. And now, the Cowboys have lost two of their best pass-rushers. Dallas released defensive end DeMarcus Ware, the club’s all-time sacks leader with 117, after a decline in production failed to match his salary. Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher, who led the Cowboys last season with 11 sacks, left for Washington in free agency. Defensive end Anthony Spencer, who played only 34 plays last season before undergoing microfracture knee surgery, did re-sign with the Cowboys on Saturday. George Selvie, a street free agent signed last July when Spencer first injured his knee, returns at left end after recording a surprising seven sacks last season. Tyrone Crawford, who missed last season with a torn left Achilles, will compete for the right end position. Free-agent signee Henry Melton, who had 15.5 sacks in four seasons in Chicago, replaces Hatcher at the three-technique. Nick Hayden, who had 51 tackles and 16 quarterback pressures, returns at the nose. The Cowboys, who signed tackle Terrell McClain and end Jeremy Mincey in free agency for depth purposes, hope to use their first pick on a defensive lineman. And they will add more than one defensive lineman to the mix.Top three DEs Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina, 6-5, 266, 4.53, The draft’s top prospect had 24 career sacks and 47 tackles for loss. Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State, 6-3, 251, 4.80, He had 20 sacks and 34 tackles for loss in two seasons. Kony Ealy, Missouri, 6-4, 273, 4.92, He had 12.5 sacks in three seasons, including eight last year.Top three DTs Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh, 6-1, 285, 4.68, He had 181 tackles in four seasons, including 66 for loss, with 29.5 sacks. Timmy Jernigan, Florida State, 6-2, 299, 5.06, He had 138 tackles, including 25 for loss, and 8.5 sacks in three seasons. Louis Nix III, Notre Dame, 6-2, 331, 5.42, He had 122 tackles, 14 for loss, and 2.5 sacks in three seasons.Sleeper Ethan Westbrooks, DE, West Texas A&M, 6-4, 267, 4.90, He had 60 tackles, 29.5 for loss, and 19.5 sacks as a junior, winning the Division II National Defensive Player of the Year award. He also dominated at the East-West Shrine Game.Top Texas ties Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas, 6-3, 247, 4.63, The son of Jim Jeffcoat, projected as a third-round pick, won the Ted Hendricks Award with 86 tackles, 22 for loss, and 13 sacks last season. Josh Mauro, DE, Stanford, 6-6, 271, 5.21, The Hurst L.D. Bell grad, projected as a fourth-rounder, had 51 tackles, 12.5 for loss, with four sacks, an interception and two forced fumbles last season. Kerry Hyder, DT, Texas Tech, 6-3, 290, 5.10, The possible sixth-round pick had 176 tackles in four seasons, with 34 for loss, and 11 sacks. Tevin Mims, DE, South Florida, 6-4, 260, 4.95, The possible seventh-round pick, a Round Rock Stony Point grad who spent his freshman season at the University of Texas, had 75 tackles and 3.5 sacks the past two seasons combined.Source: Heights, weights and 40 times were compiled from CBS Sportsline.
Charean Williams, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @NFLCharean