COLUMBIA -- A year ago, it was automatic. Jadeveon Clowney was the top professional prospect in college football. He would be drafted by whichever team was unfortunate enough to have the top pick in the NFL Draft.
Then Clowney played his junior season.
His stats dropped dramatically.
Things don't look so automatic anymore.
Clowney had 10 fewer sacks and 12 fewer tackles for loss than his sophomore season. His three sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss even trailed fellow South Carolina defensive lineman Kelcy Quarles. Now, whichever team drafts Clowney must answer where the lost production went.
After evaluating Clowney's film from last season, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay doesn't believe it's hard to explain.
"I thought he was the most schemed-against player I've ever evaluated," McShay said. "Double teams, singles and then chips, triple teams, throwing away from him to wear him down, running away from him to wear him down. Then when they did come play side, then the doubles and triples were back on.
"I think his production was more in the disruption and the occupying of offensive players. So it was up to everyone else to step up, and most of the time they did."
McShay was impressed with what he saw from Clowney on Wednesday at South Carolina's Pro Day. He said the former All-American proved he has the versatility to playing linebacker in the NFL, something he might be asked to do if he's drafted No. 1 by the Houston Texans.
"I think it's either going to be Clowney or Bortles at the end of the day. I really do," McShay said. "I don't know, but if I had to guess I'd say they're kind of narrowing it down to those two players. It'd be hard to pass on Clowney, man. I know quarterback is the most important position. As Bruschi said, and he's got a good point, 'At some time you've got to stop spraying perfume on some of these quarterbacks. Making them smell better than they do.'
"I just don't know how you pass on Clowney. You make him fit."