CLEMSON -- Immediately following the bowl season, Da'Quan Bowers was thought to be a sure-fire top-5 pick in the NFL draft. He announced his decision to turn pro following a junior season in which he was named college football's top defensive player.
Bowers believed he would challenge friend and late mentor Gaines Adams to be Clemson's highest player selected in draft history. Adams was selected fourth overall in 2007.
But Bowers and his agent Joe Flanagan are attempting to reassure teams about the health of Bowers' knee and his dedication to football so he does not fall further than the middle of tonight's first round. Sports Illustrated's Peter King says the Detroit Lions have a strong interest at drafting Bowers at No. 13 overall, but also said Bowers could "sink like a stone." ESPN's Todd McShay says Bowers is no longer "top 10 material" after surgery to repair a torn meniscus and an uneven pro day performance when Bowers ran the 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds.
"The knee is fine," he said. "I am 100 percent. I want to let everyone know I am healthy, there are no issues with my knee."
Teams are also wondering if the Bamberg native is a one-year wonder after Bowers totaled just four sacks his first two seasons at Clemson.
Bowers' consistent dominance of 2010, when he led the nation with 15 1/2 sacks, has become somewhat forgotten in the fog of pre-draft analysis.
Still, the video highlights from 2010 are something to see.
"I thought I'd see some more quickness and explosion (at Bowers' workout), but again I want to give the kid the benefit of the doubt," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. "I thought at times (the tape) was phenomenal. I would like to see him more consistent. But if you put together a (highlight) tape, he and Robert Quinn have as good a tape as anybody in the country."
Bowers will be in Bamberg today to watch the draft with friends and family. "It's bigger than myself, it's bigger than my family," he said. "It's big for my whole community. We've never had a player drafted so high, we've never an NFL-type drafted in the top 10."
So Bowers and Bamberg hope.