Jadeveon Clowney is not having the dominant junior campaign that everyone was expecting
Every season, there are always a few highly touted college football players who fail to live up to their preseason accolades.
Last year, players like Matt Barkley, Tyler Wilson and David Amerson all saw their draft stock take a major hit due to disappointing, subpar performances. This year, there are once again a few big-name players who have yet to perform up to expectations.
So who have been the most disappointing 2014 NFL draft prospects so far?
As we continue to inch closer to the halfway point of the 2013 season, here’s a look at a few notable prospects who have yet to live up to their hype.
“Future Super Bowl MVP”
Obviously, Clowney was no ordinary high school senior. Not only was he the consensus No. 1 overall prospect of the 2011 recruiting class, he was a player who some considered to be the best recruit of all time.
Pressure, publicity and high expectations are nothing new for Clowney, which is good, because he had to deal with all of them yet again this offseason, as the media built him up to be this year’s undisputed top NFL draft prospect.
The title of “preseason favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick” can be a big burden to carry. Just ask Matt Leinart, Jake Locker or Matt Barkley.
Clowney has found that out this fall, as he’s had to deal with a bit of a backlash for failing to play like the superhuman superstar that many were apparently expecting.
After putting together a spectacular sophomore season, in which he totaled 13 sacks, 23.5 tackles for loss and 40 solo tackles, the junior defensive end has not been able to match that type of statistical success in 2013.
There are plenty of reasons to rationalize why Clowney hasn’t been as good as advertised. Injuries and ailments have played a part. Plus, opposing offenses clearly have been focusing on neutralizing him with double-teams and chip blocks.
Inevitably, there will be skeptics and cynics who will ask whether Clowney was overhyped and overrated this offseason, and they might have a point.
Maybe people got a bit too excited about that one memorable play in the Outback Bowl, in which Clowney took advantage of a completely missed block and proceeded to destroy a helpless 5’6’’, 176-pound running back. Many seem to forget that it was basically the only big play he made during an otherwise uncharacteristically quiet performance against Michigan.
Still, even if that was the case, there’s simply no denying that Clowney is a physical freak who possesses a rare combination of size, explosion, power and natural instincts that you just don’t see very often from a collegiate edge-rusher.
Even if he isn’t able to rebound and finish off the 2013 season in strong fashion, Clowney is still destined to be a top-five draft pick, and he’s got all the tools it takes to develop into a perennial Pro Bowler at the next level.
After putting together a sensational sophomore campaign, in which he led the nation with 118 catches for over 1,700 yards and scored 14 touchdowns and took home the Biletnikoff Award, Marqise Lee entered the 2013 season as the top-rated wide receiver in all of college football.
Unfortunately, though, this year Lee has had to deal with highly inconsistent play from USC's quarterback position and the Trojan offense in general. After catching eight passes for 104 yards in the team’s season opener, the junior pass-catcher has failed to break the 100-yard receiving mark in the past four games, and he’s managed to find the end zone just once.
Lee clearly has the skills to be a dynamic No. 1 receiving threat for an NFL offense, and there’s little doubt he would have been a top-10 pick if he had been eligible for the 2013 draft. Nevertheless, it’s clear that he misses QB Matt Barkley, with whom he formed a special passing partnership during his first two seasons.
With receivers like Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews, Texas A&M’s Mike Evans, LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr., Clemson’s Sammy Watkins and Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks all putting together strong seasons so far, the gap between Lee and the rest of the top receivers in the sport is certainly dwindling.
Last year, David Fales went from being a relatively unknown JUCO transfer to being one of the most successful quarterbacks and most efficient passers in all of college football.
In his first year as San Jose State’s starting signal-caller, Fales led the nation with a 72 percent completion percentage, ranked third in the country with a 170 passer rating and threw for over 4,100 yards and 33 touchdowns.
Most importantly, he led the Spartans to an 11-win campaign—the most successful season in school history.
His rise to prominence in 2012 helped the once-unheralded quarterback garner some well-deserved offseason attention. He entered this season projected to be one the top-rated senior quarterbacks in the 2014 NFL draft class.
So far, though, Fales has failed to build off that momentum. In fact, he actually seems to have regressed. In his first five games, he’s completed just 56 percent of his passes, thrown seven interceptions, averaged just 7.8 yards per attempt and led the Spartans to just two victories, one of which came against a winless Hawaii squad.
With questions already looming about his size and arm strength, Fales will need to step his game up in the second half of the season in order to show NFL scouts that he’s more than just a Day 3 developmental prospect.
Before the start of the 2013 season, if you had told Rutgers fans that their team’s key wide receiver was going to be unproven sophomore Leonte Carroo—and not star junior Brandon Coleman–they probably would have looked at you like you were crazy.
Nevertheless, that’s exactly what’s happened at the Scarlet Knights’ wide receiver position through the first five games of 2013.
After catching 43 passes for 718 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012, it appeared as if Coleman was ready to have a statement season and become a nationally recognized name this year. But so far, that simply hasn’t happened.
The towering 6’6’’, 220-pound specimen has managed to catch just 15 passes and two touchdowns thus far, and he hasn’t been the type of red-zone weapon that he was expected to be.
Coleman clearly has the size, athleticism and playmaking ability that makes scouts salivate. However, if he wants to hear his name called on Day 1 of the NFL draft, he’s going to have to start producing at a much higher level.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ 2012 stat line—69 catches for 852 yards and seven touchdowns—was the most impressive of any tight end in the country.
Following that showcase season, Seferian-Jenkins seemingly solidified his status as the top tight end prospect of the 2014 NFL draft class.
Unfortunately, a DUI arrest back in April left open to question his maturity. Now, it’s his mediocre play on the field that has left many questioning whether or not he really is the top prospect at his position.
So far, Seferian-Jenkins has hauled in just 14 catches, and recently he had a crucial drop in Washington’s loss to Stanford.
Considering that other underclassmen tight ends such as Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro, North Carolina’s Eric Ebron and former Oregon's Colt Lyerla all possess just as much pro potential as ASJ, it would seem that his grip on the top tight end spot is starting to slip.
This was supposed to be the season that Seantrel Henderson, a former All-American blue-chip recruit, finally made good on the promise and potential he showed in high school.
Sadly, that hasn’t happened.
The latest snafu in the Seantrel saga—one that's been marked by suspensions, injuries and lackluster performances—came last week before Miami’s game against Georgia Tech when he was suspended yet again. It didn’t help that the Hurricanes didn’t seem to miss his presence in the trenches whatsoever, as they rushed for 227 yards and allowed just one sack in the 45-30 win.
As reported earlier this week by NFL.com's Mike Huguenin, Hurricanes coach Al Golden doesn’t seem to think Henderson’s matured properly, so it’s doubtful that NFL scouts will either.
6’8’’, 351 pounds—those two size measurements were enough to help Tennessee’s immense defensive tackle Daniel McCullers gain quite a bit of buzz this offseason. Unfortunately, the monstrous McCullers hasn’t been able to make the most of his massive frame and become the type of impact run-stuffer his size promises.
Since the start of the 2011 season, the Volunteers’ run defense has been one of the worst in the SEC, allowing an average of 4.7 yards per carry. This year, McCullers hasn’t done much to prove that he’s anything more than just a big body taking up space: He’s totaled just nine solo tackles and failed to register a sack or even deflect a pass.
Though he may look impressive and intimidating on a roster sheet, the giant defensive tackle has yet to prove that he deserves to be a high NFL draft pick.
Coming into the 2013 season, there was no question that Alabama’s defensive leader would once again be inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, who led the team with 107 tackles in 2012. Still, you could have easily made the case this offseason that fellow Tide linebacker Adrian Hubbard, who led the team with seven sacks last season, was just as good of a pro prospect as Mosley.
It’s a lot tougher to make that argument now, though, as Hubbard has not been the type of difference-maker on the edge that he was expected to be. Through five games, he has yet to record a sack, and he’s totaled just one quarterback hurry and 14 total tackles.
If the 6’6’’, 252-pound junior wants to prove that he’s a top pass-rushing prospect, he’s simply got to get to the quarterback more often in the second half of the season.
Last year, Will Sutton became one of the biggest breakout stars in college football.
Sutton was a dominant defensive force in 2012, totaling 12 sacks, 23.5 tackles and three forced fumbles. It was a season-long performance that helped earn him All-American honors as well as the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award.
So far during his senior season, though, Sutton isn’t on pace to come anywhere close to matching those gaudy stats, and it certainly doesn’t look like he’ll have to make space on his mantle for another Defensive Player of the Year trophy.
Through five games, the undersized 6’1’’, 305-pound defensive tackle has totaled just one sack and 2.5 tackles for loss. He’s also been the centerpiece of an Arizona State run defense that currently ranks 87th in the nation, allowing an average of 182 yards on the ground and a whopping 4.9 yards per carry.
Though you obviously can’t just measure an NFL prospect’s potential based solely on his stats, you have to figure that Sutton’s size concerns coupled with the noticeable drop-off in his production as a senior is going to diminish his draft stock.
He’s a player who will likely regret not cashing in on a big junior campaign and entering the 2013 draft when his name was hot.
Ohio State is a program known for producing plenty of NFL-caliber defensive backs. Over the last decade, the Buckeyes have had 14 defensive backs selected in the NFL draft, including three first-round picks.
Before the start of the 2013 season, it appeared as if CB Bradley Roby was destined to be the next first-round defensive back to come out of Columbus.
But after a few lackluster showings against Cal and Wisconsin, it seems his stock has taken a bit of a hit.
With Ohio State’s defense stacking the box to stop the Wisconsin Badgers’ rushing attack, Roby was asked to stay out on an island and cover Wisconsin’s top wide receiver, Jared Abbrederis. However, Roby simply was not able to contain him, and Abbrederis finished the game with 10 catches for 207 yards and a touchdown.
That poor performance certainly raises some questions about Roby’s one-on-one coverage skills.
Aaron Lynch arrived at Notre Dame back in 2011 as a heralded blue-chip recruit out of Florida, a player oozing with potential. It didn't take long for Lynch to make an impact for the Irish. As a true freshman, he led the team with 5.5 sacks and 14 quarterback hurries.
His time in South Bend turned out to be short-lived, though. Following his stellar freshman season, the former 5-star recruit chose to return back to his home state and go to school closer to home at South Florida.
After sitting out a year, there was still plenty of buzz surrounding Lynch this offseason, as many observers were excited to see if he could replicate his 2011 performance and develop into a first-round draft pick. Unfortunately, his second season has been a major letdown.
The 6’6’’, 244-pound sophomore has failed to register a sack in the Bulls’ first five games, and he’s totaled just five solo tackles.
Given his underwhelming performance so far, it looks like Lynch’s best course of action would be to bypass the draft and return to school for another year and continue to work on his game.