Here's an honest assessment of Jadeveon Clowney's NFL prospects: He seems really good. This is the most general consensus because Clowney was the most outright feared player in college football and just posted combine numbers that confirm the famously strong and fast man is indeed very strong and fast. However, festering within that consensus is a critique that's become the dolt's gospel. For all Clowney has done and proven, the conversation is now focused on his "motor," or whatever metaphor you prefer for a person's willingness to play without regard for what he stands to lose.
This myopic standard of judgment turns self-defeating when applied to a player like Clowney, who entered his junior season with South Carolina as a guaranteed top pick -- assuming he could get through the season uninjured. Being just one year away from life-changing money off a job you've been doing for free is an awfully cruel tease, and it's one that athletes are expected to be dimly oblivious of.
However, because Clowney ended well short of his sophomore season numbers and put health first by sitting out a pair of games, here we are watching adults on television debate the motivation of someone while divorcing him from his circumstances. Besides knowing that one bad play could irrevocably alter his future, Clowney spent his last collegiate season as the one guy every offensive line was dead-set on stopping.
A game-tape driven analysis of Clowney by former NFL defensive end Stephen White found that he was often double-teamed in pass-rushing situations but still managed to generate quarterback pressure. If anything, the real critique of Clowney is that he has yet to develop the diversity of techniques typical of a dominant pass rusher. This is not the dominant line on Clowney because honest debate is never the point when it comes to top draft prospects. Every single time someone straight-face questions Clowney's motor, you're getting trolled.
The subjectivity of this standard makes it easily applied to virtually anyone, but that's not what happens. Clowney's possible future teammate J.J. Watt was once an early first-round prospect known for being a brick wall held together by fast-twitch muscle fibers. However, despite all that physical talent, he never posted a season on par with Clowney's sophomore campaign. I am now one open-ended question about Watt's motor away from successfully trolling you into the Stone Age. As for Watt, it turns out all he needed was time with NFL-caliber coaching to become a dominant defender and all-around scary dude. The same could be said for Clowney now, but that's just way too boring and right.
The faux-analysis industry born of the NFL draft is not about getting it right because no one ever gets any sports draft fully right. Absent the legitimacy of expertise, the game becomes about who has the hottest take. Distinguishing between the macro and micro level impact of Clowney's play and how it projects in a pro system is illuminating, but it won't set people off like dismissing his work ethic. This is why the supposed draft experts on your television so readily lean on the latter when discussing him. When the story doesn't come in sound-bite form, few can dumb it down quite like the people granted the most influential platforms.
ESPN's Ron Jaworski proved as much when he declared the draft's other prime piece of troll-bait, Johnny Manziel, a third- or fourth-round caliber pick. This is some masterful public manipulation by Jaworski, who presented vague yet loaded criticisms against Manziel while admitting he hasn't reviewed all of Manziel's game tape. True to tradition, the draft expert offered a wildly polarizing opinion based on incomplete information sprinkled with BS. The response explains how this does not end with a higher-up taking Jaworski by the shoulder and saying, "Dude, you had one job." By the occupation's own standards, Jaworski's take was pitch perfect in that it provided fuel for the manufactured debates that prop up an endless pseudo-news cycle. It's a service that Jaworski has been known to provide even when there isn't a draft to pull material from.
All of these make-believe stories amount to the same elaborate troll job. Start by having a designated expert toss out some debate chum, bring in the rest of your designated experts to discuss the debate chum and then just sort of sit back and admire the ease with which a story can be summoned at will. Meanwhile, Clowney and Manziel will now have to answer a fresh set of brain-dead questions based on your make-believe story, thus furthering your make-believe story. It's no more complex than that, a troll finding a way to feed itself.