There are grand expectations for those taken with the No. 1 overall pick in any iteration of the NFL draft, and 2014 has crowned Jadeveon Clowney with the tough task of meeting them—and it's one he will ultimately fail.
The expectations can crush even the greatest—or rarest—of prospects. Just ask Mario Williams, a former No. 1 pick who ESPN's Adam Schefter notes will be forever intertwined with Clowney:
Jadeveon Clowney is the 1st defensive player drafted No. 1 overall since Mario Williams in 2006, last time Texans had No. 1 pick.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 9, 2014
Williams was hyped to the moon and back before waltzing to the podium so many years ago. He fully delivered—as the numbers show—and Spotrac indicates that he even cashed in on a six-year deal worth $96 million with Buffalo.
Not bad numbers by any means, right?
Wrong. Not for the No. 1 overall pick, who has an inordinate amount of pressure placed on him to produce in the statistical department.
In fact, Williams has never led the NFL in sacks since entering the league.
Now, sacks are but one facet of Williams' game, and it's one of the best overall in the NFL at his spot. However, the general population loves its statistics, and to that end, Williams has been a bit of a disappointment. Not a bust by any means, but one would think the No. 1 overall pick would lead the league in sacks at some point, no?
None of this is meant to suggest Clowney will bust. Not even close. But as Williams was taken first overall to chase around Peyton Manning, Clowney is tasked with doing the same in pursuit of Andrew Luck.
Of course, there are those, such as NFL Network's Charley Casserly (h/t NFL.com's Judy Battista), who believe Clowney is a better prospect than Williams:
And Clowney, meanwhile, is better than Williams, Casserly said. Although defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, who runs a 3-4, might have to scheme to get Clowney and J.J. Watt on the field at the same time and create a terrifying pass rush.
Casserly should know—he was the general manager who brought Williams into the league at No. 1. That last tidbit about schematics should ring some alarms, though.
Clowney is accustomed to having his hand in the dirt in a 4-3 scheme. He'll get to do that plenty in Houston, but he will also be asked to stand up in an unfamiliar role in a 3-4 alignment.
While that doesn't seem like a major issue for a rare prospect at face value, NFL Network's Mike Mayock (h/t CollegeFootball 24/7) listed motivation and effort as possible red flags surrounding Clowney:
Mayock: Will Jadeveon Clowney be motivated when he's a millionaire? http://t.co/jbxPRq3jS8— CollegeFootball 24/7 (@NFL_CFB) February 18, 2014
For his part, Clowney made it an immediate point after hitting the podium to address these questions and the schematic details:
I'm just ready to get down there and help the organization out and get to work. I know myself, and I'm not going to let anybody down. I'm going to show the world what I got. (Crennel's) gonna start me off slow. Pass rush, that's my strong point. Then he's going to show me and get me involved in dropping, schemes and all, which I know I can do.
While great, those are simply words. The development has to go smoothly. If it does—odds are that it will—Clowney may still take a backseat to other talented players on the roster such as J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, Brian Cushing and Brooks Reed.
Like Williams, Clowney's overall body of work will surely be sound a few years down the line.
He'll tally a few sacks here and there while freeing up others for big sack totals, but his best contributions may very well come against the run and when he drops back into coverage—the stuff not weighed heavily by the general public.
After being classified as a rare, once-in-a-generation prospect with more potential than Williams, nothing Clowney does will match expectations.
It's best to temper those now rather than later—especially for fans who have been down this path before with Williams.