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Talent-hungry NFL teams could find hidden gems in Gamecock players

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

In a little over 24 hours, Gamecocks fans will finally know where their favorite players will land in the 2014 NFL Draft.

If you're an NFL fan, then it's definitely The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. If you're a casual fan, then you're probably wondering why there's so much hoopla surrounding the draft.

The addition of Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney being a potential top five pick has made the draft infinitely more interesting for South Carolina fans.

But we can't forget about the other notable South Carolina players who have declared for the draft.

The last month has been filled with takes from NFL analysts about these former Gamecocks and where they'll end up. Here's a roundup of what we've heard so far:

Jadeveon Clowney

PROS: Freakish athlete, "generational" talent, "The Hit" is still being replayed despite being over a year old.

CONS: Concerns about work ethic, taking plays off

We'd be remiss if we didn't mention the 249-pound elephant from Rock Hill in the room first. Mock drafts have Clowney going absolutely anywhere in the top five, with many actually saying he'll go first overall to either Atlanta or Houston.

Atlanta, according to experts, is in dire need of a pass rusher like Clowney to terrorize the backfield. Reports indicate they're willing to trade up to number one or stay put at number four just to pick up Clowney.

Houston, meanwhile, could be an ideal spot for Clowney to learn how to play in the NFL. He'd be immediately teamed up with fellow defensive end J.J. Watt, who is widely considered to be one of the best defensive players in the league.

Verdict: Definite top five pick.

Connor Shaw

PROS: Efficient passer, Just Wins Games.

CONS: Scouts worried about him being in a "dink and dunk" offense, too willing to take hard hits.

Quarterback Connor Shaw may be absolutely beloved by Gamecocks fans, but he doesn't receive much love from NFL scouts. In fact, a report from CBSSports says he's the 13th best QB in this year's draft.

ESPN's Todd McShay raved about Shaw's consistency and toughness but raised questions about his ability with the deep ball.

"He has a solid arm, but it isn't great by NFL standards. He has to improve his accuracy on the deep ball, but what he won't have to worry about is proving his toughness," said the report.

In the beginning, scouts predicted Shaw would most likely become an undrafted free agent. However, with a solid pro day and equally impressionable practices and private workouts, Shaw seems more and more likely to hear his name called toward the end of the draft.

Verdict: Late round pick.

Bruce Ellington

PROS: Speedster, makes circus catches.

CONS: Size and build are not prototypical for a wide receiver.

Bruce Ellington became a pleasant surprise for Gamecocks football fans over the past few seasons. He initially entered South Carolina as only a basketball player, but the allure of the green field at Williams-Brice Stadium proved too powerful for the two-sport athlete and he joined the squad.

In his few seasons with South Carolina, his name could be heard roaring from the crowd with each catch he made. At the Capital One Bowl alone, he made six snags for 140 yards and two touchdowns against Wisconsin.

But with the 2014 draft being quite receiver heavy with guys like Clemson's Sammy Watkins and Southern Cal's Marquise Lee declaring, Ellington finds himself a bit lower on the priority list for plenty of teams.

However, one team will find themselves drawn to Ellington and may be picking up quite the steal.

Verdict: High second round or low third round.

Kelcy Quarles

PROS: Statistically speaking, he had a better year than Clowney in 2013.

CONS: Scouts worried about stamina

Kelcy Quarles was a big help to South Carolina's defense when opposing teams devoted two and three guys to trying to stymie Clowney.

When Clowney couldn't get to the quarterback due to the extra manpower holding him back, Quarles was the guy who could. By the end of the season, he registered 9.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss.

But questions about his athleticism continue to hurt his chances in the draft.

Verdict: Late round pick.

Victor Hampton

PROS: Aggressive corner who made himself known.

CONS: Scouts worried about continued off-the-field issues.

Victor Hampton was one of the leaders of the backfield during the 2013 season despite his tough past in high school and his first months in Columbia. 

This past season, he managed to make three picks and break up nine more passes.

Hampton's pro day also went well in showing scouts and analysts that his rough days were truly behind him.

But then, Hampton was arrested by Columbia Police following an altercation with his sister. He was also accused but cleared in a nightclub attack in New York City.

Verdict: Mid-to-late round pick, could go undrafted.

The 2014 NFL Draft begins Thursday at 8 p.m. We'll keep you updated.

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