History says Clowney isn't a sure thing

Former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is projected as the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft on Thursday./(AP Photo/John Raoux/File)

Leave it to a former South Carolina Gamecocks first-round draft pick to ask the best question leading up to the 2014 NFL draft.

"Can I trust you with 30 million dollars of my money?" Sterling Sharpe asked Jadeveon Clowney during an NFL Network interview.

"Oh, yes sir," said Clowney, Thursday night's projected No. 1 draft pick.

Clowney is likely to work hard for his millions.

But will the larger than life defensive end who made South Carolina foes alter strategy wind up in multiple Pro Bowls?

Who knows?

It's not just Clowney. The draft history toolbox indicates the Houston Texans, or any team trading up for that first overall pick, might as well throw darts blindfolded.

First overall picks over the last 15 years have included these three meticulously researched quarterbacks:

Tim Couch (Kentucky), Browns, 1999

David Carr (Fresno State), Texans, 2002

Jamarcus Russell (LSU), Raiders, 2007

Picking a defensive lineman No. 1 overall?

One of the riskiest notions in recent NFL history, more of a gamble than taking a quarterback.

The Buffalo Bills hit the jackpot in 1985 with Virginia Tech's Bruce Smith, an eventual Hall of Fame selection.

But here are the five defensive linemen drafted first overall since 1985:

Russell Maryland (Miami), Cowboys, 1991. One Pro Bowl in 10 seasons.

Steve Emtman (Washington), Colts, 1992. Zero Pro Bowls in eight seasons.

Dan Wilkinson (Ohio State), Bengals, 1994. Zero Pro Bowls in 13 seasons.

Courtney Brown (Penn State/Macedonia High School), Browns, 2000. Zero Pro Bowls in eight seasons.

Mario Williams (N.C. State), Texans, 2006. Three Pro Bowls in eight seasons.

That's a combined four Pro Bowls in 46 seasons, which has to be fewer than most NFL executives had in mind.

Emtman and Brown had injuries.

But Jimmy Johnson knew Maryland from his days as the Miami head coach.

"Big Daddy" Wilkinson made the cover of Sports Illustrated as "Everyone's No. 1 pick."

Even the guy who is presently almost everyone's No. 1 pick has critics.

"I think that there's too many times I see he gets blocked like a normal human being," former NFL general manager Charley Casserly said. "My question there is, is this instinct or is it technique? That's something that if I was doing this with a team, I would have certainly wanted to see him practice during the course of the year. When we worked him out, that would've been a big point of emphasis, is his ability to learn things. Because at times, he just shouldn't be blocked as often as he is."

First-round defensive linemen from state colleges have fared better than average.

S.C. State's Robert Porcher (S.C. State, Cainhoy High School) was the Lions' first-round pick in 1992. He made three Pro Bowls in 13 seasons.

Clemson has had six defensive linemen selected in the first round of the NFL draft since 1980:

The late Chester McGlockton (Raiders, 1992) played in four Pro Bowls.

Trevor Pryce (Broncos, 1997) made three Pro Bowls.

Jim Stuckey (49ers, 1980) and William "The Refrigerator" Perry (Bears, 1985) have Super Bowl rings.

Jeff Bryant (Seahawks, 1982) played 12 seasons for Seattle.

Gaines Adams (Buccaneers, 2007) played three NFL seasons before he died of a heart condition in 2010.

It's too soon to tell about the only South Carolina Gamecocks defensive lineman picked in the first round. Melvin Ingram (Chargers, 2012) has two sacks in two NFL seasons.

By the way, the Palmetto State's two Pro Football Hall of Famers, Art Shell and Harry Carson, were drafted in the third and fourth rounds, respectively.

Clowney enters the draft with a lot more hype than either of those guys ever had.

But, as first-round history shows, that doesn't mean the soon-to-be $30 million Gamecock will play up to a "can't miss" label applied by some "draft experts," the ultimate sports oxymoron.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.