When Malik McDowell was still a high school student at Detroit’s Southfield High, McDowell’s mother Joya Crowe publicly opposed his commitment to Michigan State University in part because she doubted Mark Dantonio’s then-Rose Bowl caliber program would adequately prepare her son for the NFL.
“Crowe questioned the ability of Spartans' defensive line coach Ron Burton to develop NFL-ready linemen,” wrote Mike Griffith at the time of the controversy.
McDowell eventually finalized his intent to play for Dantonio and Burton, and three years later it didn’t inhibit his entry into the professional ranks when the Seattle Seahawks drafted McDowell 35th overall after trading down three times into the second round Friday.
Some observers accused Crowe, who was McDowell’s legal guardian but who appeared to lose the argument with McDowell’s father Greg McDowell, of accepting benefits from other schools vying to sign her son, who was considered the 60th best prospect in 2014. Before the NFL draft began Thursday, many expected McDowell to be a first round pick projected somewhere in the late teens, and he was one of the athletes invited to attend the draft in Philadelphia.
Malik McDowell - 9/10. Outside the box, but still clean and fitted pic.twitter.com/I611SuguDF— Natalie Weiner (@natalieweiner) April 27, 2017
But the recruiting controversy perhaps contributed to McDowell’s fall into the early second round, when Seattle couldn’t resist drafting him despite the maturity concerns.
“People don't understand that Malik is not mature enough to make this decision,” Crowe said when she contended his college choice. Although Crowe eventually relented (“I'm proud of Malik and the maturity he showed during the recruiting process,” Crowe said in 2015) and McDowell obviously went to MSU, as SB Nation’s Connor Howe points out, several NFL teams came away unimpressed by their meetings with McDowell, including at least one who called it the “worst” meeting they had.
Is McDowell a project perfect for the guidance and leadership of his Seahawks coaches and peers? Or is he the petulant youngster who reportedly brooded when the Spartans struggled in 2016? My brother, a Michigan State fan, described him as “One of a handful of guys I actively didn’t want to see on the Seahawks. Lazy, front runner and a bad teammate—phoned it in last year after the wheels came off—with a bad motor.”
McDowell was my No.3 overall player on film. I don't grade character because I don't have all the info. Loved his tape.— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) April 28, 2017
Even Charles McDonald, who was a big McDowell supporter during the predraft process (listing him among seven defensive line talents better than San Francisco 49ers third-overall pick Solomon Thomas), doubted the likelihood the Atlanta Falcons would take McDowell at their original 31st slot, claiming “McDowell doesn't really fit their off field requirements for 1st rounders”.
After trading with the Falcons, Seattle got him in the second round, with extra value after trading 31 and later 34, but still only four picks later.