Jadeveon Clowney is the most-hyped name going into the upcoming college football season (for football reasons. Sorry Johnny Manziel) with some NFL executives saying he is the best defensive prospect in the last decade. Clowney would have been taken first overall in this year’s NFL Draft, and is the favorite to be taken No. 1 in the next.
Time to have fun with hypotheticals.
LeBron James will be able to opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat next season. Let’s say he pulls a Michael Jordan and switches sports and lets just say he is magically eligable for the NFL Draft. Now who would go No. 1?
They have similar body types, with Yahoo! Sports scout Barry Every saying “His body is very long and lean, yet muscular, giving him the look of a power forward in basketball” in a 2010 scouting report when Clowney was coming out of high school when he was one of the most hyped high school prospects ever — just like James.
Clowney is listed at 6-6, 274 pounds and James is listed at 6-8 and is somewhere between 250 and 270 pounds. Because James played receiver in high school, it is often assumed he would play the same position in the NFL.
However, he is too tall for a pass catcher and even for a tight end (could he get low enough to block?). He might be better suited for defensive end, the same position that Clowney plays.
James, at 6-8 with a 44-inch vertical and great ball skills, would likely be able to knock down any pass that passes near him on the line of scrimmage.
The 40-yard-dash can make or break some prospects, and can set them apart. Especially at the top of the draft. Clowney reportedly plays at a 4.5 speed while recently LeBron was apparently clocked at a 4.6 speed. A tenth of a second difference, but these are not exact numbers. Being inexact and unofficial, they are comparable.
Now, as strong as LeBron is, he probably would not put up as many reps as Clowney at a combine. LeBron can get to the rim and dunk even with defenders hanging on him. In the NFL, that’s called a hold. Clowney is used to going up against [SEC] offensive lineman every week and using his strength and speed to get by them. LeBron only plays Glen Davis a handful of times a year.
A defensive end’s first step is among his most important attributes. Beating the offensive lineman off the line is, in many ways, the job description. We already compared speed, but this is different and arguably more valuable. This is how fast they get to near-top speed — how quickly they accelerate. We will take a look now at each player’s first step.
I know, I showed you “the hit.” But what causes the hit is the first step. It is Clowney’s biggest strength and it is something opposing teams will game plan for all season.
That LeBron clip shows a series in the NBA Finals. The Spurs did a lot of sitting back instead of pressing against James. Gregg Popovich knew that James could get by any of his defenders with one step so, like a corner not wanting to lose a fast receiver, the defenders sat back and let James come to them. LeBron still gets by Splitter in this highlight, and did it to other defenders during the series too.
But still, Clowney has the proven explosion from the down stance.
Advantage: Clowney (narrowly)
Although we are scouting them as defensive ends, athleticism is what has separated the two prospects their entire career. For Clowney to be able to do this and LeBron being able to do this, it is no question these are one of the two most athletic athletes in sports today. However, LeBron is the undisputed most freakishly athletic athlete to athletisize in the universe.
This category is simply here to point out the obvious. Clowney has more defensive end skills than LeBron does because he plays defensive end. LeBron would be considered a very, VERY raw athlete in the NFL Draft. Clowney is more “NFL ready.”
This is our last category. It measures the overall LeBron-ness of LeBron and Clowney. Though Clowney is similar to LeBron in his high school recruitment and overall prodigy-ness, LeBron is more similar to LeBron because LeBron is LeBron, and many other reasons.
It took a little while to get here, but the answer of who would be taken first is obvious: Clowney. In this hypothetical draft in which James hypothetically leaves basketball and somehow enters the NFL Draft (rather than sign as a free agent), it seems ridiculous that someone would pass on Clowney, a sure thing, for James, who would go back to basketball after a year.
In fact, this whole piece was ridiculous. Why did I even write this? Why did you even read it? Oh, yeah. It’s the offseason.