Wait over for NFL hopefuls 

click to enlarge NFL Draft prospects gather on awning of Radio City Music Hall in New York on Wednesday. - SETH WENIG/AP
  • Seth Wenig/AP
  • NFL Draft prospects gather on awning of Radio City Music Hall in New York on Wednesday.

NEW YORK -- Jadeveon Clowney just wants it to be over already.

The NFL's first May draft gave everyone a little more time to critique the prospects and try to figure out who is going where and when.

No player has been more scrutinized than Clowney, the defensive end from South Carolina whose every move -- on and off the field -- has been analyzed since he ended his sophomore season with a helmet-removing hit against Michigan.

"I've been tired of it. I wish the draft was two or three weeks ago," Clowney said Wednesday after playing flag football with grammar school kids at the NFL's Play 60 festival at a park on the west side of Manhattan.

The Houston Texans have the first pick and Clowney could be their guy. Or maybe they'll take a quarterback, such as Johnny Manziel. Or maybe they'll trade the pick.

The NFL has given fans two extra weeks to ponder these questions. The draft is usually held in April, but some scheduling conflicts at Radio City Music Hall caused the NFL to push it back. Commissioner Roger Goodell said that it's too soon to say whether May drafts are here to stay.

This year's draft finally gets underway tonight, Day 1 of the three-day, made-for-TV marathon. Rounds 2 and 3 are Friday night. It concludes with four rounds Saturday, when there will likely be more intrigue than usual. Missouri linebacker Michael Sam, who made public that he is gay back in February, is projected to be a possible late-round selection. The NFL has never had an openly gay player. Sam is trying to be the first, though he might have to get there as an undrafted free agent.

But first, the Texans are on the clock. Will they take Clowney?

"Man, I don't know," the 266-pound pass rusher said. "Do you know?"

Clowney looked NFL-ready after a spectacular sophomore season, when he had 13 sacks and was Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year. NFL rules state otherwise. Players must be three years removed from high school to be draft eligible.

Clowney's junior season fell short of crazy expectations. He had some injuries. Opponents game-planned to neutralize him. His play was spotty and his work ethic was questioned after he suddenly went to his coach and pulled himself from a game.

"It's been crazy, everybody telling when you're going to go in the draft," he said. "What your weakness is. What your strength is. A lot of criticism against all the players. It's just something you got to take on."

Clowney took it on at the combine and his pro day workout at South Carolina. He wowed scouts with the speed and agility of a running back and placed himself firmly at the top of just about every mock draft.

Still, it's not a foregone conclusion the Texans will take him.Houston needs a quarterback and new coach Bill O'Brien has said he plans to add one during this draft. Many fans in southeast Texas would like it to be Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner and native Texan who played for Texas A&M. If there is one player who can relate to the scrutiny Clowney has faced, it's Johnny Football.

NFL Draft order

First round

1. Houston

2. St. Louis (from Washington)

3. Jacksonville

4. Cleveland

5. RAIDERS

6. Atlanta

7. Tampa Bay

8. Minnesota

9. Buffalo

10. Detroit

11. Tennessee

12. N.Y. Giants

13. St. Louis

14. Chicago

15. Pittsburgh

16. Dallas

17. Baltimore

18. N.Y. Jets

19. Miami

20. Arizona

21. Green Bay

22. Philadelphia

23. Kansas City

24. Cincinnati

25. San Diego

26. Cleveland (from Indianapolis)

27. New Orleans

28. Carolina

29. New England

30. 49ERS

31. Denver

32. Seattle

About The Author

Ralph D. Russo

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