Posted on May 8, 2014 at 10:44 AM
Thursday, May 8 at 10:51 AM
Jadeveon Clowney isn't shunning the spotlight in New York before the 2014 NFL draft.
On Wednesday night, the former South Carolina All-American defensive end appeared on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon."
On Thursday, Clowney will attend the NFL's draft ceremonies where, despite a few last-second opinions otherwise, his name is expected to be the first announced by commissioner Roger Goodell when the three-day draft commences at 8 p.m. Eastern time.
While a few analysts have predicted that the Houston Texans will select University of Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack with the No. 1 overall draft pick, Clowney appears to be Houston's choice -- and the pick of teams hoping to trade with the Texans for the top spot.
"I believe Khalil Mack has the opportunity to be a very good NFL player," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said. "But I don't think you pass on a once-in-every-20-to-25-year player like Clowney, and that's not an exaggeration."
Clowney has stated throughout the draft process that being selected No. 1 is his goal.
"Who wouldn't want to be the No. 1 pick?" Clowney said at an event in Woodruff on Saturday. "It would mean a lot to me. It was one of my goals coming out of high school and out of college. I wanted to be the No. 1 pick in the draft as I was the No. 1 (high school) player in the country."
Probably no player in this draft class has been more polarizing than Clowney, who has been lauded for his incredible athleticism and criticized for a perceived lack of work ethic.
But after several impressive postseason workouts, he has emerged as the most coveted player in the draft.
"I can pretty much do it all," Clowney said after his workout during USC's Pro Day. "Anything on defense, I can help. I can be a playmaker. I've got what it takes. I believe I go out here and set the tone for the next guys coming up and help my team win games.
"Every team I've ever played on, we've never had a losing season, never. My three years here we were 11-2, three years in a row."
The latest team displaying an interest in moving up in the draft potentially to select Clowney is the Atlanta Falcons, who currently have the No. 6 overall pick. The team hosted him two weeks ago in Atlanta and then sent representatives to Columbia a few days later to meet with him again.
"I think he is passionate about the game of football, and that's probably the most important thing when you're looking at a draft-eligible player," Atlanta coach Mike Smith told ESPN.com. "The tape is his DNA. But when you get a chance to sit down and talk with him, you know that he is passionate about playing the game."
What is unknown is whether the Falcons would be willing to meet Houston's price for the top pick. In addition to receiving a first-round pick in return, the Texans reportedly are seeking second- and fourth-round picks in 2014 and another first-round pick in 2015.
Houston owner Robert McNair recently told nfl.com that the Texans were struggling on whether to take Clowney over a quarterback, perhaps the position of greatest need for the team.
"He's obviously the best player in the draft, but he's a defensive end. He's not a quarterback," McNair said of Clowney. "If he's a quarterback and the best player, it's easy. But, that's not the case. So, can that defensive player have a greater impact on the success of your team than one of these quarterbacks? It's not a sure thing that he is."
There has also been discussion of Houston selecting Clowney and then trading him to another team that drafts a player they may prefer.
But unless the Texans' asking price comes down, it appears Clowney will be their choice.
THE NFL DRAFT
8 p.m., NFL Network
6:30 p.m., NFL Network
noon, NFL Network