Jadeveon Clowney Isn’t a Bust, but He’s Rapidly Approaching a Disappointing Territory

The 2020 season would always be a make-or-break season for Tennessee Titans pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney.

Things haven’t gone how Clowney, the former No. 1 overall pick, planned when he signed with the Titans in September. Injuries and ineffectiveness have kept Clowney, now on injured reserve, without a sack all season.

Whether or not head coach Mike Vrabel and the Tennessee Titans will get Clowney back this year is unknown. As we await Clowney’s potential return, it seems fitting to ask if he’s joined Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz in the “disappointing career” territory.

Jadeveon Clowney is in his seventh NFL season

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At this point in his career, Jadeveon Clowney should be among the league’s top defenders.

Still only 27, Clowney entered the league as the No. 1 overall pick in 2014 and has had a solid career. Clowney had 32 sacks, 71 tackles for loss, eight forced fumbles, and four defensive touchdowns in his first six seasons.

The three-time Pro Bowler has another 1.5 sacks, an interception, and four tackles for loss in five career playoff games. Clowney also earned second-team All-Pro honors in 2016.

Clowney didn’t stuff the stat sheet in his first eight games, totaling 19 tackles, four for a loss, four pass breakups, and a forced fumble. He also had six quarterback hits in his eight starts.

Clowney shouldn’t be called a bust

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Let’s get one thing out of the way now: Jadeveon Clowney is not a bust.

Any player who makes the Pro Bowl three times in his first five seasons has already likely avoided bust territory. Although the Pro Bowl’s meaning has been lessened over the years, they usually don’t elect mediocre skill players, especially on defense.

Clowney had 32 sacks and eight forced fumbles in his first six seasons. Those aren’t stellar numbers for a No. 1 overall pick, but Clowney often graded well analytically and found himself double-teamed in Houston.

A simple way to figure out if a player is a bust or not is seeing if they earned a second contract with their team. Houston traded Clowney as he approached free agency, and Seattle let him walk, which puts him in a rare category.

In Clowney’s defense, he also entered free agency during the coronavirus pandemic, which limited his opportunities to meet with teams.

Should Jadeveon Clowney be called a disappointment, though?

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We have established that Jadeveon Clowney is not a bust, whether one uses traditional numbers or advanced statistics.

Should fans consider Clowney a disappointment, though? Clowney has battled only played a full 16-game season once (2017) and his sack numbers are fairly low for a No. 1 overall pick.

Pro-Football-Reference uses a statistic known as approximate value to weigh how valuable players are. Clowney totaled 46 AV in his first five seasons; unlike WAR in baseball, PFR does not post a player’s AV until the season ends.

Clowney ranks 16th in his draft class, with Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and Packers receiver Davante Adams narrowly behind him at 41 AV.

Time might be running out for Jadeveon Clowney to change his legacy and prove his value to the Tennessee Titans. Clowney has been a fine player with several impressive seasons at this stage in his career, but one who hasn’t lived up to the expectations that a No. 1 overall pick brings with him.

All stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference