Tony Dungy says Jadeveon Clowney is the best player in the upcoming NFL draft.
The South Carolina pass rusher, who will showcase his eye-popping talent at his pro day Wednesday, has been blocked out of the limelight lately given the buzz created last week by Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel's pro day, which was attended by former President George H.W. Bush and Texas Governor Rick Perry.
Clowney has also been overshadowed recently by the scrutiny devoted to analyzing the March pro days of quarterbacks Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr, who, like Manziel, are all hoping to be first-round picks next month.
Still, Clowney could rocket by all of them when the Houston Texans make the No. 1 selection of the draft. Pairing him with all-pro defensive end J.J. Watt would certainly form one of the league's elite pass-rushing tandems.
"There is no one physically like Clowney in this draft," former Super Bowl-winning coach Dungy, now an analyst for NBC's Football Night in America, told USA TODAY Sports.
"If Houston wanted to make this a dynamic defense and really put pressure on people, I'd take Clowney first."
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The 6-6, 266-pound Clowney blazed a 4.53-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine in February. He will stand on that time at his pro day, though he is expected to do positional drills he skipped in Indianapolis. Teams that use 3-4 defenses might want to assess how comfortable he looks dropping into coverage, even if it's a skill he'll likely use rarely in the NFL.
But the question every general manager wants to know is whether they're looking at the player who had 13 sacks and 23½ tackles for losses in 2012, or the one who managed just three sacks and 11½ TFLs last year.
"That would be the thing that scares me," said Dungy. "You could get Bruce Smith, Lawrence Taylor. Or you could have Aundray Bruce (a bust as the top pick of the 1988 draft) in Clowney.
"You hope you get Lawrence Taylor. Because that's who I saw in Clowney two years ago."
Clowney will be out to erase the perception that he has a sputtering motor.
"I just want to be the best, I want to be one of the greatest of all time," he said at the combine. "And the NFL is the next level, a stepping stone on my way."
It seems fitting that Clowney may have to catch a quarterback or two if he is to convince the Texans to take him first overall.
"I have Johnny Manziel No. 1 atop my board," former Dallas Cowboys personnel guru Gil Brandt, now an NFL.com senior analyst, told USA TODAY Sports. "A quarterback is more important to your team. What you have to ask yourself is who is going to affect the game more?"
Houston coach Bill O'Brien said he has studied Clowney closely and is not concerned about his work ethic.
"I dare you to find me a guy that plays 90 snaps like his life's on the line every game," O'Brien said at last week's owners meetings. "But when the game's on the line, Jadeveon plays hard. He's an explosive player. He's a productive player. He's an instinctive player.
"So I think that's kind of been blown out of proportion. But at the same time, we've got to make sure we get to know him and then keep getting to know him when we get there."
Texans owner Bob McNair is a South Carolina alumnus who indicated in January that Clowney would be under consideration with the top pick. But if Houston passes, it's hard to envision Clowney dropping out of the top five.
"As a defensive head coach, I don't know if I'd be all that upset to turn the card in on Clowney with the fourth pick," new Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine said.
"Freakish athlete. He could take over a game. He could change a game."
Follow Jim Corbett on Twitter @ByJimCorbett