In the last few weeks leading up to the draft I’ll be posting a series of “final thoughts” on some of the top prospects in this year’s class. Up next: Da’Quan Bowers (full archive here)
Since I’m not a doctor, I’m not going to comment on Bowers’ knee. All I can do is watch film from his three years at Clemson and evaluate him from a talent standpoint. If he fails in the NFL due to injury concerns, then so be it, but unfortunately I do not have the luxury of evaluating his health. So with that out of the way, let’s get down to business.
I’ll start with the negatives… Bowers is an elite talent and has been ever since high school. He was one of the most high recruited prospects Clemson has ever landed and ultimately he was every bit as good as advertised. However, in between his recruitment and his breakout junior year were two very mediocre seasons.
In my initial list of prospects to watch for 2011 I ranked Bowers at No. 29, but that was almost entirely based on potential. Through his sophomore season Bowers had just four sacks to his credit and was often a non-factor for the Tigers.
So what does it mean when a talented player struggles for two years and suddenly breaks out in the first year in which he is draft eligible?
Well, it means different things for different players, but it is certainly a red flag. You have to wonder if the player is lazy and simply motived by money. It’s essentially the contract-year effect at the college ranks.
In this case, I think Bowers’ junior year is the rule, rather than the exception. He came to Clemson with an inflated ego and his work ethic suffered as a result. However, he has openly admitted this and claims to have grown up in the past 12 months, a sentiment that has been echoed by those around the Clemson program.
So while I wouldn’t fault a team for having concerns that he is a one-year wonder, I am willing to look past his early struggles.
As for Bowers’ on-field production in 2010, it was nothing short of dominant. The comparisons to Julius Peppers and Mario Williams are legitimate. He is a true three-down lineman who has the potential to take over a game.
If there is a flaw in Bowers play it’s that he lacks elite speed. He isn’t an Elvis Dumervil-like pass rusher off the edge, but he does have a nice array of moves and consistently gets to the quarterback.
In short, Bowers is a prototypical 4-3 defensive end who should make an immediate impact in the NFL. While 3-4 teams may not have a use for his skill set – he isn’t athletic enough to play linebacker, and not strong enough to be an elite 3-4 end – there are enough 4-3 teams drafting in the top half of the 1st round that he won’t fall far.
Even if his injury causes some teams to pass early in the draft, I can’t see him falling past the Vikings at No. 12.
Injury aside, I believe Bowers is the best defensive end I have scouted in my eight years and I wouldn’t have any problem taking him 1st or 2nd overall if I were in Carolina or Denver.