The curious case of Da'Quan Bowers
There was a time, not so long ago in fact, that Clemson DE Da'Quan Bowers was being considered as the top overall pick in this year's NFL Draft. And though No. 1 overall may have been a stretch given his lack of overall consistency, a specimen like Bowers with his explosion off the edge seemed an almost sure thing to be a top six pick.
But medical checks -- and in this case, multiple rechecks -- showed a problem with Bowers' knee. According to reports, at least one of the team doctors who recommended taking Bowers off his team's draft board suggested he might need microfracture surgery.
In the most unpredictable draft in a long, long time, Bowers is another wild card. You shouldn't believe much of what you read at this time of year, but depending on what you do read it seems Bowers is now in play anywhere between picks 5-30 and that any number of teams in that range won't be considering him at all. Microfracture is one of the scariest words in football.
Now teams must not only trust their medical staffs, but weigh the risk and reward. Flashes on the film show Bowers would be a perfect fit for the Browns at 6, but is his knee sound? And teams picking in the next tier (the Lions and Bucs, specifically) must then guess if the gamble on a top prospect is worth it. It even seems possible he could slip all the way into the range of the Ravens, who have more pressing needs but have been searching for a rusher to pair opposite Terrell Suggs. It seems less of a gamble for a team like the Ravens in a win-now mode.
What's a pass-rushing monster worth to NFL teams? Check the bank statements of Suggs and DeMarcus Ware, to name a couple. They're doing quite well. Even Kamerion Wimbley got the $11 million franchise tag from the Raiders early last month.
On the flip side, what can microfracture surgery make a pass-rusher? Courtney Brown is a good (or bad) place to start.
Here's what Bowers said about his knee at the NFL Combine in February: "I am 100 percent. It was a small meniscus tear. It hampered me from my first three weeks of training, which is why I am not doing anything at the combine because I feel that I want the same amount of time that everybody else had to train and fully prepare for the combine. I am going to do all my workouts on pro day."
As it turns out, he wasn't ready. He held his own workout April 1, but by then word that the knee was worse than advertised had spread. The Bowers Camp, of course, has refuted those reports. And the guessing game continues. His agent, Joe Flanagan, said this in an email to ESPN.com: "As to his progress and the feedback from the medical recheck, every team we've spoken to, including multiple GMs, has said that, overall, Da'Quan's knee has shown good healing."
It's common for teams to take prospects off their boards based on the recommendations and findings of their medical staffs. That it's (apparently) happening with a prospect rated so highly and in such a public manner is rare.
Bowers visited the Browns last week and will continue to visit other teams in position to take him high. Where he actually goes depends not only the health of the knee, but whom and what teams actually believe.