Have at It: Looking beyond Da'Quan Bowers

April, 23, 2011
4/23/11
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If this week's return of "Have at It" is any indication, most of you are hoping the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions pass on Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers if he slides out of the top 10 of the draft. The Vikings are scheduled to pick No. 12 and the Lions have the No. 13 pick.

Our friends at Scouts Inc. rank Bowers as the best outside pass rusher available, but a few of you are concerned about Bowers' recent right knee surgery. Just so we're all clear, here's what Scouts Inc. wrote about his knee in its 2011 scouting report Insider:
Missed two games due to a knee injury (MCL and PCL strain) in 2009. Also underwent arthroscopic knee surgery following the 2010 season and could not workout at NFL combine as a result. Appeared to still be favoring the knee during his April 1 workout for NFL scouts, which has only added to his long-term durability concerns. Some believe knee will eventually require microfracture surgery.

Bowers' agent has denied that microfracture surgery is an option, but welfarecheese wrote: "That's a risky procedure and I think [New York Knicks center] Amare Stoudemire is about the only guy I know of that has had that type of surgery and come back all the way for any length of time. As I always say, why take a risk when there are similar players without the flags?"

More of you question whether Bowers is truly a can't-miss pass rusher, the type whose promise would outweigh the concerns of future knee injury.

"Bowers is overrated," wrote KirmieBo. "Didn't play RE. Didn't get double-teamed. Sometimes didn't even get single-teamed. Poor technique. His upside/athleticism is the only thing making him valuable but [Robert] Quinn, [J.J] Watt, [Ryan] Kerrigan, Aldon Smith, and Cameron Jordan are all better 1st round prospects than him without the knee injury. With it I think he is a 2nd rounder. Though the guy did have a whopping 4 total sacks in the two years before this."

Indeed, Bowers had four sacks in his first two seasons before breaking through for 15.5 in 2010. Is that a warning sign or just the illustration of a blossoming player?

It was the former, wrote Nolomite2010: "Would rather have Aldon Smith or Cameron Jordan than Bowers even if his knee is healthy."

But it's not always wise to let medical concerns override big-picture evaluations, wrote AjP: "It's a risk. It's like signing Drew Brees with his injury concerns a few years ago. It's a decision that makes or breaks GMs. If the Lions are sitting at thirteen and the top players they want are off the board, instead of reaching for someone not worth the thirteenth pick you take the risk and take Bowers if you have the opportunity."

Indeed, Sunburn74 viewed the middle of the first round a reasonable place to take a risk: "I'd take him. Missing on a middle of the first round pick isn't the end of the world. I'd say easily half the 1st round picks in the top 15 from last year seriously underperformed ... The upside with Bowers beats the risk imo."

And for the Lions, at least, a pass-rushing defensive end should be more valuable than a cornerback. Writes TJPizza98: "Definitely take Bowers. That's what BPA is all about. Yeah [Prince] Amukamara looks like a great fit, but a guy who can get double digit sacks every year is more valuable than a good corner. Plus when you factor in how a D-line works as a team, it solidifies the reason for taking him."

My take? Ultimately, both the Vikings and Lions will establish an evaluation for Bowers that takes into account all of these factors, including his health. If that final grade is anywhere close to the grade of another player still available at No. 12 or No. 13, it makes sense to draft that other player and avoid the injury risk.

To be clear, no NFL team -- including the Vikings and Lions, who have three All-Pro defensive linemen between them -- can afford to pass on a player who grades out as an elite pass rusher. But in order to qualify under that category, Bowers would have to completely pass every medical question a team has.

If the Vikings or Lions have no question about the long-term prognosis of his knee, I wouldn't have a problem if they draft him. (I would reserve the right to change my mind, however, if the Vikings were unable to find a quarterback prospect in the second round as a result.)

But if there is any doubt about the knee, both teams should look in other directions.

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