Say what you will about Marcus Mariota, but until he plays to a certain level the face above is your face of the franchise.
In a recent ESPN article, the beat writers of the AFC South chose who they thought the rising star of the division was/would be. This is how it shook out (though they go into detail in the full article which is here):
Tania Ganguli (Houston Texans): T.Y. Hilton
Mike Wells (Indianapolis Colts): Jadeveon Clowney
Mike DiRocco (Jacksonville Jaguars): T.Y. Hilton
Paul Kuharsky (Tennessee Titans): Jadeveon Clowney
Maybe I am just looking at it from a different perspective, but those don't seem like great choices to me.
First of all, how is T.Y. Hilton not already a star? Last year he went 82-1,345-7, which is a pretty darn good statline. If he is a rising star, do they think he will expand on that number this year? I mean he could, but only at the expense of Andre Johnson and Phillip Dorsett (the player rumored to be Hilton's future replacement).
With those additions, I don't really understand why he is a candidate for this list.
Next is Jadeveon Clowney. Before I even talk about how rare it is for a player at his position to recover from the surgery he had this offseason, let's look at this great stat from PFF:
Injuries limited playing time, but Jadaveon Clowney managed only three total pressures from 94 pass rushing snaps. pic.twitter.com/pmJ6zlhTCQ— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) July 17, 2015
According to PFF's signature stats that translates to a pass rush productivity average of a 2.4. That puts him at 73 out of 88 total 3-4 OLBs. That is in a stat that measures how often he pressured the passer per snap meaning players with limited playing time usually shoot up the list because they don't have to sustain production.
To put that in perspective, let me share some names that rank ahead of Clowney in this category:
-Kamerion Wimbley (retired)
-Ricky Sapp (cut)
-Shaun Phillips (cut)
-Quentin Groves (not re-signed by Titans)
-Gabe Miller (cut)
The list goes on and on like that with almost every pass rusher that cut, retired or isn't on a team this offseason.
Now, to the injury. The first quote of note, I am pulling from a post from Football Outsiders from 2007.
"It is extremely rare for a non-established starter to successfully return from a microfracture.
While many starting-caliber players have been able to return to that role after undergoing a microfracture, reserves often see their career come to an end. Charlie Batch is the most notable exception to this rule. Younger players like Gordon, Lepsis and DeShaun Foster have also been able to improve after getting on to the field, but players who are established backups have not been so fortunate."
For a player whose time on the field was not inspiring, this is not a positive thing to read.
Next is from a post from the USA Today post about the Texans rookie:
"Microfracture is sort of losing favor these days in large part. … It's more of a short-term remedy," said Hewett. "But if you look at the longer-term outcomes after microfracture, they're not very good. And this is especially apparent in the NBA. Some really high profile players in the NBA (such as Greg Oden) had microfracture and did not do well."
"If you're going to do any surgery, it's probably one of the least risky ones," said Colvin. "Probably the biggest risk is that it doesn't work and that you still have continued pain."
Could that mean another try at the surgery?
"It's always possible with any surgery that it doesn't work and you have to go in to do a second surgery," said Colvin.
So not only is the surgery one that likely puts a short lifespan on a players career, it also might not even work. According to that report, just because he had the surgery doesn't mean that he will ever reach the peaks people once thought he might. Not only that, but it doesn't even mean that his problem will be fixed.
No one wishes ill-will towards Clowney, but picking him for the future star of the AFC South is really a pipe dream at this point based off of his work on the field and the historical issues of his surgery.
So that brings me to my main point, how did someone who looked as good as any rookie in the NFL last year (Taylor Lewan) not get any votes or even real mention?
First, let's look at who he played against last year:
Bonus: he also shut down Jadeveon Clowney.
So essentially the worst possible scenario for a rookie offensive tackle. However, Taylor Lewan was astounding allowing just five hurries all year. That was best among anyone who played 199 snaps or more in the NFL last year, bar none.
That is a pretty amazing statistic considering not only the competition he was playing against, but the team he was playing for.
I'm not saying that he will be the next Jonathan Ogden, but I am saying that he had a stellar year and you can't use lack of playing time as an excuse if you are also going to say that Clowney is a potential pick. This guy is a great, young, charismatic player that analyst (who watch him) love, just ask Connor Orr of NFL.com.
Taylor Lewan is a rising star in every sense of the word, whether he is on the field shutting down talented pass rushers or if he is giving the Tennessee Titans a voice in the national media (speaking of which I urge you to go listen to him on the Move The Sticks podcast or watch videos of him on NFL Network from the past week if you don't believe that he is a charismatic player).