When it comes to the draft process in the NFL, and there are multiple prospects jockeying for any one position or status, it may not be about who has the last word necessarily, but from a Pro Day standpoint, it's definitely about who has the latest word.
The Texans, in theory (and probably in actuality), have four prospects that are viable candidates to be taken with the number one overall pick.
All four have performed (to varying degrees) at the NFL combine, and now, as of yesterday, all four have performed in Pro Days of some form on their college campuses. They are all officially in the books.
Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater went first, and was average, at best. He missed on a few throws, and the perception now is that he has played himself to the back of the four man pack for the Texans to take him with the number one pick.
Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles went next a couple weeks ago, and (perhaps "smelling blood in the water" as some analysts have surmised) put on a solid, if not spectacular at times, show for the NFL folks gathered in attendance, which mainly consisted of some NFL media and reps from most of the NFL teams.
I only bring up who was at Bortles Pro Day because next came Johnny Manziel.
Manziel's Pro Day was a week ago today, and in addition to 75 NFL personnel/coach types, and dozens of media members, Manziel also had a former president and first lady and their dogs there. He also blared rap music from the sound system in the building and wore shoulder pads and a helmet. Oh, he was also spectacular. Vintage Johnny Football.
Finally, yesterday, the quartet was rounded out with South Carolina defensive end/super freak Jadeveon Clowney, as he participated in South Carolina's Pro Day.
Events like this are tailor made for uber monsters like Clowney, and he did not disappoint. Running through a variety of drills, the 6-5, nearly 270 pound specimen left all the teams in attendance highly impressed. The Texans, in particular, took a keen interest, as outlined by Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle, who was in attendance:
Clowney's actions were limited during the Gamecocks' pro day Wednesday at Williams-Brice Stadium. But when the 6-5, 266-pound junior competed, the simple sight of his once-in-a-decade frame smoothly motioning through complex drills left everyone from Texans coach Bill O'Brien and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to national analysts with a finer appreciation of just how unique Clowney is.
"On May 8, he's going to get called one, two or three," said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, referring to the top three picks in the draft.
The Texans met Clowney for dinner Tuesday in Columbia and plan to bring him to Houston for a private meeting.
While Texans general manager Rick Smith often maintained his standard evaluation position Wednesday - standing alone but as close as possible to the action - O'Brien's closeness to Clowney increased as the workout wound down.
An obvious physical beast and a noted non-partier (his defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward, on my radio show on 610 on Wednesday, made sure to note that Clowney doesn't drink), the only real baggage Clowney brings to the table (other than not being a quarterback) is the perception that he took plays, and maybe even games, off during his final year in Columbia.
His head coach Steve Spurrier, whose demeanor during the season when asked about Clowney didn't help quell that narrative, clarified his stance on that issue:
"I said [Lattimore] was exceptional. I maybe should not have compared [Clowney]," Spurrier said, via Brian Smith of the Houston Chronicle. "I should have said, 'Jadeveon, with the rest of the team, he was right there doing what they did.' Maybe that would've helped out. I compared him to a guy who went above and beyond what was asked."
Spurrier was then asked what he'd tell an NFL coach who asked if Clowney was a hard worker.
"I'd say, 'He's fine, he's fine,' " Spurrier replied. "Yeah, he's fine."
Ok then. See, everyone! He's fine!
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(My suggestion to Team Clowney -- pay to have Spurrier sequestered somewhere far, far away until May 8.)
Spurrier jabs aside, there is little doubt that Clowney fortified his position on Wednesday, and the Texans are at least giving the impression that they are seriously considering taking him with the number one overall pick. When you think about it, considering that both Clowney and J.J. Watt are not traditional fits in Romeo Crennel's style of 3-4 defense, and considering that eventually (4-5 years from now) you would be paying Clowney and Watt (two defensive ends) franchise type money, and considering the acute need the team has for a quarterback, Clowney would have to be a once-in-a-generation type player to take in the face of all those empirical reasons not to take him.
And he may just be.