7 DE Jadeveon Clowney (6’5″ 256 pounds, JUNIOR)
Jadeveon Clowney is bigger, faster, stronger, and better than you. And he knows it. The 2012 Heisman finalist and 2013 Heisman hopeful will have to wait more than one calendar year to hear his name called on draft day, as the draft has now been moved to May 8th, 2014, but certainly he won’t have to wait much longer than that. I don’t want to bore you telling you what you already know about Clowney, but his accolades and resume’ are already incredibly impressive considering he has only played two years of college football, and he is only getting bigger and faster. At South Carolina’s Spring ‘training camp’, he reportedly ran a 4.5 second 40 yard dash. Clowney is capable of taking over games at times, and has drawn comparisons to Mario Williams coming out of North Carolina State and Jason Pierre-Paul among others.
His burst off the snap is second to none, and he uses a wide variety of moves to make plays in the backfield. Very strong kid who has NFL ready size already at his young age. Finished his sophomore season with 54 tackles, 13 sacks, 23 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, and two passes broken up. This is a guy who has elite athletic ability and is likely going to be one of the first two or three players selected in the draft when he comes out. When Clowney wants to, he can use a bull rush move that is absolutely devastating to opposing offensive linemen. He can knock them on their feet with his hands and he has great arm length to be able to push and collapse the pocket.
Bottom line for me: If Clowney had come out as a sophomore, he would have probably gone first overall to the Kansas City Chiefs. When he comes out in 2014 (if that’s still the case) I still believe he will be the number one pick. Sure, a team picking first may have a need for a quarterback, but Clowney is a rare prospect and is much better overall as a prospect in my mind than any of the QBs in this year’s draft. To me, he is the defensive equivalent of Andrew Luck coming out in 2012. I think Clowney would be one of the best defensive players in the NFL in 2013 if he were eligible. This is one of the most rare prospects to come along in a while. He was the #1 ranked recruit nationally coming out of high school, he is the #1 ranked defensive player in college football probably unanimously, and he will likely be the #1 overall pick.
15 CB Jimmy Legree (6’0″ 189 pounds, SENIOR)
Legree is a versatile defender that has played some safety in his career, but his future in college and the NFL is at the cornerback position. Legree possesses good size overall for the position, as well as good length. He led the Gamecocks defense in 2012 with three interceptions, one that was returned for a touchdown. He also had 44 tackles and six passes broken up in what turned out to be sort of a breakout season for the 2013 senior. Legree has a lot of room for growth, as he’s only started 10 games in his collegiate career, but he’s finally nailed down a spot on the USC defense, and should be an impact player. He is one of only four senior football players on scholarship for the Gamecocks, believe it or not. Right now, he has the look of a mid-round selection, but that could change with a big senior year.
99 DT Kelcy Quarles (6’3″ 293 pounds, JUNIOR)
Quarles has already started 17 games in his young Gamecocks career, and he’s got NFL draft scouts and analysts pretty excited about his potential. He racked up 38 tackles, eight tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks as a sophomore, and has the quickness and high motor NFL teams really love in a defensive tackle prospect. The ceiling for this kid is really high, especially playing on such a talented defensive unit. Quarles has the look of a top tier defensive tackle prospect, but he’s going to need to show some improvements over the next year, maybe two. If he can prove consistent in 2013, he could enter the draft early and be a pretty high pick.
90 DE Chaz Sutton (6’5″ 248 pounds, SENIOR)
Sutton is a fifth year senior with the Gamecocks who has steadily improved over the course of his career. He is going to be a full time starter for the 2013 season after having to wait his turn behind NFL pass rushers Melvin Ingram and Devin Taylor. As a reserve in 2012, Sutton had 25 tackles with seven tackles for loss and five sacks as well as two forced fumbles. Sutton plays all over the field for South Carolina, getting some action at DE, DT, and rush LB. Sutton is quick to close on the quarterback and as you can see from his measurables, he obviously has great length for the DE position. I really like his upside playing with Clowney, and he could see his most successful season yet after setting career highs in TFL and sacks as a junior.
12 S Brison Williams (5’11” 205 pounds, JUNIOR)
Williams has already started a lot of games for the South Carolina defense, and now with D.J. Swearinger off to the NFL, he takes over that prominent role for the Gamecocks. Williams is pretty well built for a safety prospect, and he had a productive sophomore season with 52 tackles, two interceptions, four passes broken up, a forced fumble, and 1.5 tackles for loss. He was suspended by the team in 2012, so there are red flags there, but if he can stay out of trouble off the field, the talent is there to potentially be an NFL safety someday. At this point, he may yet be a couple of years away still.