ESPN analyst likes Jadeveon Clowney as No. 1

Kiper also a fan of wide receiver Bruce Ellington

jkendall@thestate.comApril 23, 2014 

Jadeveon Clowney

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com

Jadeveon Clowney is back at the top of Mel Kiper’s most recent mock draft, and the ESPN draft analyst doesn’t think he’ll be moving from that perch.

“I don’t think anyone is going No. 1 but Clowney,” Kiper said Tuesday. “He’s a once-in-20-years guy. I don’t know how you take anyone over Clowney.”

Clowney, a two-time All-America defensive end at South Carolina, will be one of 30 players in New York on May 8 for the first round of the NFL Draft. If he is taken No. 1 overall, he would join running back George Rogers as the only Gamecocks to attain that status.

Kiper has no concerns about Clowney’s work ethic, he said.

“I didn’t see lack of hustle. I didn’t see lack of effort,” he said. “I saw a guy who played hard 90 percent of the time. Stats don’t make a difference. It’s, ‘Are you impactful?’ And he was impactful in every game I saw.”

The Houston Texans, a team owned by South Carolina graduate Bob McNair, have the No. 1 pick, but Kiper suggested Tuesday the Texans could trade that pick. Teams looking to trade up to get Clowney will have to pay a high price, Kiper said.

“It costs a lot because you are going up to get the best defensive end in 20 years,” he said.

Kiper also is a fan of former South Carolina wide receiver Bruce Ellington, who Kiper said could be selected early in the second round.

“I like him athletically,” Kiper said. “He’s a threat, and he’s a fear factor player. He has climbed.”

Kiper is not as high as some on former Gamecocks Kelcy Quarles and Victor Hampton. He called both “probably Day 3” picks, which would mean between the fourth and seventh rounds. He has Quarles, an All-American in 2013, rated as a fifth-round pick, he said.

Former South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw likely will be picked between the fifth and seventh rounds, Kiper said.

“He probably looks more like a career backup,” Kiper said.

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