He’s one of those rare blue-chip prospects, a once in a decade-type player. The former top-rated high school prospect should have an instant impact on the field for decades to come, and a Pro Bowl isn’t out of the question his rookie year. And with the draft quickly approaching, this defensive end is the favorite to go No. 1 overall.
Jadeveon Clowney, meet Da’Quan Bowers.
The similarities between the two players are hard to ignore. The 6-foot-4, 290 pounder was a beast for Clemson – it was like watching a varsity player suit up for the JV team. The seventh grade JV team, that is.
Bowers finished his career with 150 tackles and 19 1/2 sacks, including a jaw-dropping 15 1/2 his junior year. So he bolted. After all, he was pretty much universally thought of as the No. 1 overall pick.
But there were whispers. Questions about his health. Pretty soon, Bowers’ stock plummeted leading up to the draft, with knee problems so worrisome that some teams took him off their draft board. Too much of a risk, they said.Wouldn’t last more than four seasons, others said.
Still, surely Bowers will go somewhere by the fifth pick in the draft, right?
Nope. Bowers slipped all the way to No. 51, where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted him with the 19th pick of the second round.
Now about to enter his fourth season, it seems like the scouts’ and GMs’ fears were valid. Bowers’ injury-riddled stats his first three seasons include 45 tackles and 5 1/2 sacks. His best year was in 2012, when he had 13 tackles and 3 sacks in only 10 games. If new Bucs coach Lovie Smith can’t tap into that vast potential, it’s possible Bowers will be cut.
Flash-forward to the 2014 draft, and the comparisons between Clowney and Bowers are obvious. Like Bowers, Clowney was the former top high school recruit in the nation. And, at 6-foot-5, 265 pounds, Clowney looked like a man among boys when he took the field for the Gamecocks.
However, Clowney had a "down" year his junior year, recording only three sacks after racking up 13 as a sophomore and eight as a freshman. He finished with similar stats to Bowers (130 tackles, 24 sacks), but those questions about his "off" junior year persist. Nagging injuries seem to be the culprit. But more damaging are the questions about his work ethic.
Suddenly, instead of sitting atop the draft board as the consensus No. 1 overall pick, Clowney’s stock is starting to slip in some circles. And while Houston and St. Louis could still draft him No. 1 or No. 2, the teams below them – Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland, Atlanta and Tampa, all improved their defenses via free agency.
Although the odds of Clowney slipping all the way, to, say No. 16, are pretty slim, remember that Bower’s stock was already slipping by March 2011.
So, will Clowney suffer the same fate as Bowers on draft day? Probably not. Clowney is a much more highly touted player. Plus, Bowers had a history of knee injuries, far more serious than any of the nagging injuries that slowed down Clowney.
But there are other similarities to consider. Both players at one point led a deep and talented draft. Instead, the No. 1 player in 2011 was Cam Newton, followed by Von Miller (Denver), Marcell Dareus (Buffalo), A.J. Green (Cincinnati), Patrick Peterson (Arizona), Julio Jones (Atlanta), Aldon Smith (San Francisco), Jake Locker (Tennessee), Tyron Smith (Dallas), Blaine Gabbert (Jacksonville), J.J. Watt (Houston), Christian Ponder (Florida State), Nick Fairley (Detroit), Robert Quinn (St. Louis), Mike Pouncey (Miami), Ryan Kerrigan (Washington) and Nate Solder (New England). Of that group, Newton, Miller, Green, Peterson, Jones, the two Smiths and Watt are already stars.
So, if the 2014 draft follows a similar pattern, then it’s possible – possible – Clowney will be around when Dallas selects. And should they pass on the former Gamecock, history says the Cowboys will still find an impact player.