Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers became the story of the 2011 NFL Draft.
Once considered a candidate for the number one overall selection, when it was all said and done, 31 teams passed on the nation's leading sackmaster. Some did so multiple times, including the Cleveland Browns.
The defensive end suffered a right knee injury Nov. 9 against North Carolina State. He tore his MCL and required surgery at season's end. Upon further review at the Combine in Indianapolis, teams became concerned with the long term stability with the knee. Terms such as "degenerative" and "arthritic" became part of the everyday vernacular while discussing Bowers.
Despite the issue, his potential would eventually outweigh the concerns.
"Everyone that passed on him did so based purely on their own medical risk versus performance reward analysis," a source within the Bowers' camp reiterated.
Cleveland appeared to be the most likely landing spot for Bowers. The team was desperate to upgrade its defensive line while it switches from a 34 base scheme to a newly fashioned 4-man front. The scouting department had personally worked out Bowers prior to the draft, and the team's doctors supposedly cleared the knee. As the Browns traded out of the top ten overall selections, and then back up in the first round, many believed Bowers could be the guy they coveted. The Browns choose Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor with the 21st overall selection.
Day one of the draft came to a close without Bowers being selected.
Prior to day two of the draft beginning, Cleveland was again considered the favorite to secure Bowers' services. The team had yet to address its massive void regarding a pass rusher. Bowers was a 6-3 280-pound pass rusher with 15.5 quarterback sacks as a junior.
"They did have high need," the source lamented. "It was addressed with (Jabaal) Sheard."
The 6-3 264-pound end from Pittsburgh became the newest Brown with the 37th overall selection.
Bowers still sat with his family wondering where he would land. The player's camp believed Cleveland was the destination until the prior choice became official."Clearly Cleveland felt 37 was too early," the source said. "I suspect they would've been fine with him at 59."
The thought process from Bowers and his camp proved interesting. They sincerely believed he was going to be in play earlier but settled on the ability to come off the board at a certain point in round two.
When it came to hashing out exactly what teams were truly interested and which weren't, it was not as clear.
"I don't know," the source admitted. "They all lie. So it's educated guesswork. Only a few teams had him off the board completely, but many seriously downgraded him to the second or even third round.
"All teams have their own scale. Some either have them completely on or off. Others grade along a continuum and determine a round or range where they are comfortable with the risk." Eventually Bowers was selected by Tampa Bay 51st overall. Thus ended the saga of Da'Quan Bowers' tumble through the 2011 NFL Draft. A path which could have ran to conclusion earlier if Cleveland decided to take the leap of faith many expected. They didn't. Sheard is a Brown. Bowers is a Buc.
Only time will tell if the risk or the reward was the greatest factor in determining a certain player's career.