A day after South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney raised eyebrows by disappointing in the bench press at the NFL Scouting Combine, his performance in the 40-yard dash caused jaws to hit the turf at Lucas Oil Stadium.
If the Browns choose to wait for a quarterback instead of picking one fourth overall, Clowney could be a target, provided he slips past the first three teams on the draft board.
New Browns coach Mike Pettine, who spent the past five seasons as a defensive coordinator, has said Clowney's explosive quickness is undeniable.
The 6-foot-5, 266-pound Clowney posted an official time of 4.53 seconds in the 40-yard dash Monday, establishing himself as the fastest defensive lineman at this year's combine. Only one other defensive lineman had a time better than 4.6 -- Bloomsburg defensive end Larry Webster, 6-5 and 252 pounds, placed second at his position with a 4.58.
Clowney's blazing time in the 40, though, didn't eliminate questions about his work ethic. On Sunday, Clowney bench pressed 225 pounds 21 times, below average for his position. Then he passed on participating in on-field position drills Monday after finishing second in the vertical jump (37 1/2 inches) and second in the broad jump (10 feet, 4 inches) among defensive linemen. He later told NFL Network's Willie McGinest that he was dealing with a tight hip flexor.
Does Clowney think scouts and evaluators will view his choice to sit out position drills as a negative?
"I doubt it," Clowney told NFL Network. "Some of the guys were like, 'That's all right. Just get ready for pro day. We expect you to do all the drills at pro day.' Which I don't have a problem with. I'll be ready for my pro day (April 2)."
NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock believes Clowney could still become the first overall pick if he can convince the Houston Texans he's driven and motivated.
"The NFL is a pass-first league, and any defensive lineman who can disrupt that quarterback quickly that has the ability that this kid has is a potential first pick in the draft," Mayock said. "We've said it all along. It's just a matter of buying into the rest of it."
Another owner speaks
The story about the Browns trying to trade for San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh won't die, at least not anytime soon.
ProFootballTalk.com first reported Friday a deal that would have sent multiple draft picks to the 49ers was in place between the teams, but Harbaugh ultimately decided not to leave San Francisco.
The latest wrinkle surfaced Monday when 49ers owner Jed York confirmed for the Sacramento Bee that the Browns pursued Harbaugh before they hired Pettine as their new coach days later on Jan. 23.
How far did the conversation get?
"Not far at all," York told Sacramento Bee reporter Matt Barrows. "We had no interest in entering those discussions."
The Browns were the only NFL team without a head coach when the 49ers' season ended Jan. 19 with a loss in the NFC title game against the eventual Super Bowl-champion Seattle Seahawks. York confirmed a report by the Sacramento Bee that the Browns initially called the 49ers to inquire about offensive coordinator Greg Roman and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula but then followed up by asking about Harbaugh.
After ProFootballTalk.com reported that the trade nearly went through, York wrote on Twitter on Friday night that the report wasn't true. He stood by that claim during his conversation with the Sacramento Bee on Monday, saying any trade discussion was short-lived, not nearly a done deal.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that a first-round pick was not included in the Browns' offer for Harbaugh.
The Browns have never denied any aspect of the original report from ProFootballTalk.com. On Sunday, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam confirmed for USA Today that his team attempted to deal for Harbaugh.
"There was an opportunity there, and it didn't materialize," Haslam said.
Before former Browns CEO Joe Banner was fired Feb. 11, he had an unusual arrangement in place for the team's new coaching staff, CBS Sports NFL Insider Pat Kirwan reported Monday. According to the report, Banner had new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and new defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil reporting directly to him instead of Pettine.
Although the chain of command was overhauled when Haslam ousted Banner along with former General Manager Mike Lombardi, the notion that coordinators would report directly to the CEO raises questions about why Pettine, or any head coach, would agree to such a setup. A Browns spokesman declined to comment on any previous arrangements but said the coordinators are definitely reporting to Pettine now.
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