Carolina’s Dilemma: Picking First In A Weak Draft
Due to being a highly touted 5-Star recruit, the expectations for Clemson’s Da’Quan Bowers were set ridiculously high. He was an elite pass-rushing recruit that looked to be the Tigers replacement for 2007 Top 5 pick Gaines Adams. For two years, Bowers struggled with his weight among other barriers that made it tough for him to get going at the college level. During his freshman and sophomore campaigns, many would describe him as pudgy, slow, or even invisible at times. It’s tough to argue with those statements because Bowers, despite receiving plenty of playing time, remained relatively quiet and unproductive (at least as a pass-rusher.)
Perhaps because he realized this was more or less his “contract year,” or perhaps because coaches urged him, Da’Quan lost almost twenty pounds in the offseason to get down to a much slimmer 270 or so. The result of that weight loss and extra year of coaching was a whole new player. He was a First-Team All-American and the winner of the Bronco Nagurski Award as the best defender in the country. Considering his size, Bowers has rare closing speed and athleticism. He’s developed several reliable pass-rush moves and simply lived in the backfield this past season.
A couple traits that have stood out in Da’Quan’s play throughout his college career are his ability to track the ball and his ability to finish plays as a solid, secure tackler. In three seasons, Bowers accumulated 179 Tackles from his Defensive End spot and this season he finished second on his team with 74 stops. He’s a smart defender that has really found his stride as a pass-rusher and the sky appears to be the limit in terms of NFL upside. In a breakout season, he finished with an incredible 26 Tackles for Loss and led the nation with 15.5 Sacks. While he may lack an elite first-step, he should be able to put up big sack numbers in the pros with his recognition skills, strength, and speed.
Rarely do we see such a great physical specimen put it together like Bowers wound up doing in his Junior season. As an NFL prospect he also has everything you look for intangibly. He’s smart, positive, has a clean record, and is a very well-spoken young man; he even plays guitar in his father’s gospel band on weekends. He’ll likely only draw great interest from 4-3 teams high in the draft and will be capable of playing Left End or Right End in that scheme. There’s no reason to believe that Bowers won’t come off the board in the top three selections with such a high demand on players of his caliber at the position.
+ Incredible closing speed for his size
+ Terrific recognitions skills
+ Excellent in pursuit, makes tackles behind the line of scrimmage and down the field
+ Prototypical size at roughly 6’4 275 with great physique
+ Secure, wrap-up tackler that can lay the lumber
+ Great strength and impressive power for a college end
+ Long-limbed end that can hold up to double teams
+ Tremendous natural athleticism, could play at any weigh between 265-295
+ Motor that never sleeps; plays with good energy and stamina
+ Three-down player
+ Uses his hands to disengage from blockers
+ Extremely effective and productive run-stopper
+ Has versatility in the 4-3, could play almost anywhere on the line
+ High character; well-spoken and a team leader
+ Very productive college career, First Team All-American as a Junior
+ Durable, missed only two games in college due to injury
– Only one season of great production as a pass-rusher
– Lacks an elite first-step
– Won’t really appeal to 3-4 teams
– Is neutralized sometimes by better pass-blocking tackles
– May never be a 15+ Sack player in the NFL
– Lacks elite anchor strength in his lower body
– Struggled to get anything going against Boston College, even though he went up against Anthony Castonzo for less than half the night
Why the Panthers will draft Da’Quan Bowers First Overall
The departure of Julius Peppers left Carolina without a difference-maker in the front four. Instead of using one of last year’s draft selections target a defensive lineman, the team chose to address it’s passing game. The jury is still out on whether that was the right decision, though the early indications point to no. The team finished in the bottom half of the league in Sacks and 23rd against the run. Da’Quan Bowers would instantly be a major upgrade at Defensive End opposite young Charles Johnson. With young reserves in Greg Hardy and Everette Brown, the addition would give the team depth, stability, and talent at the position. He’s a high character player that will be one of the safer picks in the draft. An equally effective run and pass defender, Bowers would be the cornerstone of the defense for years to come.