COLUMBIA, S.C. — Jadeveon Clowney believes he’s the NFL’s No. 1 draft pick and says he took a big step toward that goal during South Carolina’s pro day workouts Wednesday.
The 6-foot-5, 266-pound defensive end did position drills in front of dozens of NFL personnel, including Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien and Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley. Clowney thinks he elevated his already elite status during the 40 minutes or so of running through cones, jumping over hurdles and catching tennis balls in workouts he passed on at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.
“Yes, I do feel like I should be the first pick,” Clowney said after the session.
Clowney did not lift weights or run the 40-yard dash, standing on his showing from the combine, when he did 21 reps at 225 pounds and clocked a 4.53-second time.
Thirty of 32 NFL teams were present at South Carolina’s pro day with the Tennessee Titans and Cleveland Browns opting not to attend.
Clowney spent Tuesday night at dinner with the Texans, including O’Brien, defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and general manager Rick Smith. Clowney thought the visit went well, and he answered their questions about what he’d bring to the Texans if they took him with the top selection in May’s draft.
Houston’s leaders liked what they saw of Clowney on the field.
“I thought he had a good day. He worked hard and did a bunch of different drills, which was good to see,” said O’Brien, the Texans’ first-year head coach.
Smith was happy to see Clowney move easily in space should the Texans draft him and use him at outside linebacker spot. Clowney’s got a quick first step that lets him fly past offensive lineman, but he’s also got sustained speed that allows him to chase down opponents other defensive lineman can’t.
“He could absolutely play outside linebacker for us,” Smith said.
Several hundred fans that turned out cheered Clowney’s every move and gave him a loud farewell when the defensive linemen wrapped up their portion of drills.
“I just wish I had pads on and could hit somebody,” Clowney said with a smile.
Clowney has individual workouts scheduled with the St. Louis Rams and Atlanta Falcons. Houston’s Smith says Clowney will also visit the Texans’ complex before next month’s draft.
While O’Brien said his team’s draft plans were still wide open — the Texans traded starting quarterback Matt Schaub this offseason — Clowney hopes he’s made himself a bit harder to pass up.
Clowney said a defensive line that included himself and All-Pro end J.J. Watt would be unstoppable.
“I’d be great, a great fit for them,” Clowney said.
Clowney acknowledged it was a point of pride for him that he arrived at South Carolina as the No. 1 high school prospect and leaves as the NFL’s top choice.
“I’m just going to keep on pushing,” he said, “all the way to the draft.”