Jadeveon Clowney is a mutant. He’s the most impactful player in college football. Barring Kansas City Chief silliness, he would have probably been the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Clowney is only two years removed from high school, though, so he remains ineligible. His toil next season will benefit ESPN, CBS, South Carolina and the Southeastern Conference.
Tom Sorensen of the Charlotte Observer raises an interesting hypothetical. Would Clowney be better off avoiding the risk of injury by hiring an agent, quitting South Carolina and spending the next year training for the NFL Combine? It won’t happen, though it is an interesting thought exercise.
What does Clowney gain from playing college football one more year? Exposure? He has no need of it. A further year of football development? Maybe. Replicating live competition may be impossible, though does a year of destroying those less gifted improve him more than spending a year of intensive technique training?
One could argue the social and intellectual value of a year spent in college, but (a) he’s majoring in football (b) he could continue to attend classes without playing football and (c) good citizenship has never been a requirement for playing in the NFL. Do the benefits of playing against live opponents and spending a year in college heighten his draft stock? Do they do so enough to outweigh the risk of injury?
Would NFL teams, acting with pure, cynical self-interest, frown upon a player, acting with pure, cynical self-interest? Perhaps. An ESPN talking head might blow off steam. A “league source” might leak a bitchy comment to a reporter. But in a league that tolerates animal torturers, domestic abusers and reasonably doubted rapists, does that really affect his draft stock? Does a team take the less freakish defensive end because that fellow was true to his school?
Jadeveon Clowney will return to South Carolina next year, though the only beneficiaries are college football fans and business interests. He’s just biding time.
[Photo via USA Today Sports]