Jadeveon Clowney Officially Announces He Will Enter 2014 NFL Draft

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIJanuary 1, 2014

USA Today

To the surprise of no one, South Carolina Gamecocks junior defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has declared himself eligible for the 2014 NFL draft.  

CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler broke the news:

The State's Josh Kendall supplies thoughts from Clowney regarding his decision:

Jadeveon Clowney: "I miss every bit of it already."

— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) January 1, 2014

Clowney: "I just want to come in there and hit the Combine and do stuff nobody has ever done, run a fast 40. Just show out."

— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) January 1, 2014

Clowney has no plans for foot surgery: "It’s not bothering me. The foot’s fine.Right now I am just going to go with the flow."

— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) January 1, 2014

On Friday, Jan. 3, South Carolina officially announced Clowney's departure:

Four University of South Carolina juniors have declared for the NFL Draft, it was announced today. Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles, cornerback Victor Hampton and wide receiver Bruce Ellington will forego their final year of college eligibility and take their talents to the next level.

Clowney is considered one of the premium pro prospects in the upcoming draft. If there were any lingering doubts that he would jump to the next level—even after walking out with the Gamecocks' senior class for the team's final home game—Clowney put them to rest with his announcement on New Year's Day.

At 6'6" and 274 pounds with incredible speed, athleticism and burst, there haven't been too many defensive end prospects like Clowney to come along.

Thanks to Clowney's size, strength and nimbleness, he can even play on the inside in some packages, as well as drop back in coverage if need be. Oh, and of course, he's a nightmare to handle as a pass-rusher.

However, production was an issue for Clowney in his final season in Columbia, where he registered 35 total tackles (10.5 for loss) and three sacks in 10 games, per CFBStats.com.

That is way down from his previous campaign of 54 total tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks, but Clowney had one more chance to showcase his talents in South Carolina's 34-24 Capital One Bowl win over Wisconsin on Jan. 1.

Whether the decline from his sophomore to junior season—or questions about his injuries and work ethic—will hurt him remains to be seen. Chances are, though, that Clowney's draft stock won't be hampered due to his seemingly limitless upside.

In a Dec. 8 mock draft, B/R expert Matt Miller had the Houston Texans selecting Clowney with the No. 1 overall pick to place him opposite reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt.

That would be terrifying for any opposing offense to handle, and it certainly made B/R's Aaron Nagler shudder:

Wherever Clowney lands, he should be an immediate-impact player as long as his health permits him to be. A very lucky franchise will likely be getting a cornerstone who will enjoy a sensational NFL career.