Falling to the 51st overall pick in last week’s NFL draft, Tampa Bay Buccaneeers’ second round pick DE Da’quan Bowers wasn’t used to not being considered the most talented football player available.
As a high school senior he was labeled by several scouting services to be the best prospect in the country until he ultimately signed his letter of intent to play with Clemson. Going into his final season with the Tigers, he yet again found himself ranked by more than a few expert draft pundits to be at the top of many a mock draft.
However, once draft night actually rolled around, he wasn’t even the first defensive lineman picked by his new team.
It’s been a tough year for Da’quan. He lost his father, a gospel musician, during Clemson’s preseason training camp and his close mentor and former Buc’s first round pick DT Gaines Adams last January.
While many young athletes may have, and understandably so, let the passing of two members of their support system slow them down on the field; Da’quan used it as motivation and thrived in his last season for the Tigers. Amassing 15.5 sacks during his junior season Bowers was named an All-American and the winner of the Bronco Nagurski and Ted Hendrick Awards, making him the most celebrated defensive player in college football last year.
Unfortunately, his brilliant performance on the field during his last collegiate campaign was soon overshadowed by a potentially career threatening knee injury.
While Da’quan’s knee had showed signs of wear and tear in the past, most notably when he missed several games during his sophomore year at Clemson, an arthroscopic procedure that he underwent in January has reportedly revealed some potentially serious problems.
OnSideKick.com’s Bryan Morgan had this to say about Bowers’s bad knee:
“It sounds like he has a condition that could lead to degenerative arthritis, with the risk being that further surgery could risk not only his rookie season but shorten his career as well. The fact that multiple teams took a look at it and decided to pass on a guy who is obviously an elite talent means there must be something there. The NFL Draft is the ultimate capitalist market, so I don't think it's fair to say whether he should have been picked sooner or later...it is what it is.”
As his medical reports found their way to NFL GMs, Da’quan’s reputation as the potential No. 1 overall draft pick quickly became tarnished. Despite his extraordinary final college season, and the impressive amount of character that he displayed while dealing with a few tremendous personal losses; many teams and draft analysts predicted that the risk of taking a player with a possibly debilitating knee condition was too large.
His name soon started dropping further and further down mock draft boards and many felt he would be taken as one of the last few picks of the first round, by an already established team willing to gamble to get a potentially game changing player.
The concerns about Da’Quan’s knee proved even these new, less optimistic predictions of his draft spot inaccurate. He ended up being chosen with the 19th pick of the second round, 51st overall, by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
He was the second defensive lineman picked by the Bucs in the draft, and the seventh player at the position over all. It was a far cry from his former potential number one draft pick status. With the tiered structure of the rookie wage scale, this wasn’t only a hit for Da’Quan’s ego but his wallet as well.
The difference between a top draft pick and a second rounder’s contract is millions of dollars, which doesn’t even include potential endorsement money.
Luckily for Da’Quan, and the Buccaneers, his story is far from over.
While it might take some time until the true status of his knee is known; if he can get and stay on the field he will be a force to be reckoned with. His production during his last season in college, and elite level talent still make him a very intriguing football player.
Combined with the Bucs’ first round pick, DL/DE Adrian Clayton, Tampa Bay could have the makings of one the league’s best defensive fronts. A weak pass rush has definitely hurt the Bucs the past few seasons, and if the gamble on Da’Quan’s knee pays off they could become a much better defensive team almost immediately.