Da'Quan Bowers went from suspect to No. 1 NFL draft prospect while winning the Bronko Nagurski Trophy awarded to college football's top defensive player. But Clemson's unanimous All-America defensive end has slipped out of the top 10 picks of most mock drafts and completely out of the first round of others.
Postseason surgery on a torn meniscus in Bowers' right knee and a ho-hum Pro Day have NFL general managers worried.
"The knee is fine; I'm 100 percent," Bowers said. "I still have a lot of work to do. Still strengthening and getting it back to where it needs to be. But it's not hurting. It's not giving me any problems."
Bowers was ESPN.com's No. 1 high school football prospect in the nation coming out of Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School. Plays guitar and was part of his late father's gospel band, "Legendary Singing Stars."
What's to like
Beat double teams throughout the 2010 season. Relentless and seemingly unstoppable at times. Strong enough to bull rush tackles, but quick enough to speed rush and chase down quarterbacks and other ballcarriers.
The knee issues. Didn't always play up to his capability until last season: Only four sacks total over his freshman and sophomore seasons.
Key Clemson stats
16 sacks in 2010
3 sacks vs. Maryland
9 tackles at Auburn
Pro Day report
Bowers ran a mediocre 4.9 40-yard-dash before 40 NFL scouts at Clemson. Clearly, he was slowed by the knee surgery.
"(Bowers' knee) is going to force to teams to go back and examine him," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. "I thought I'd see some more quickness and explosion, but again I want to give the kid the benefit of the doubt. I thought at times his play last season was phenomenal. I would like to see him more consistent."
Bowers' father Dennis died in August. Bowers credits much of his 2010 success to a deathbed conversation during which his dad told him to "challenge yourself" and "be one of the best players ever to play at Clemson."
Dabo Swinney, Clemson head coach
"He can move, accelerate and change direction at that size. Most people can't do that. He showed great work ethic (in 2010) and was consistent. He was a leader for us."
2010 No. 6 overall pick Russell Okung, a tackle from Oklahoma State, got a $29.8 guarantee from the Seahawks. But some mock drafts have Bowers falling near the No. 20 spot, where Alabama cornerback Kareem Jackson got $10.35 million from the Texans in 2010.
Joe Flanagan, BTI Sports Advisors, Chicago
GENE SAPAKOFF AND TRAVIS SAWCHIK