Players Who Slide Can Still Be Playmakers

Every year players drop in the Draft for one reason or another. They're called "Sliders" in some circles. Who are they and which ones did the Patriots have an interest in? Here's a list of the top sliders and New England's level of contact with them.

You see it happen every year – a player toils for four years in college, puts together an impressive resume, draws considerable interest from pro scouts and then, BAM, an injury happens, creating a roadblock on the path to the NFL Draft. Now, that player sees his draft stock slip, red flags begin appear on team draft boards, doctor reports and further examinations play a more important part than what that player ever accomplished on the field. Welcome to the world of damaged goods. Below is a look at some of the projected draft eligibles who have injury issues that might weigh in when a team is trying to decide where to draft them;

DEFENSIVE END

Pierre Allen, Nebraska

A right wrist injury at the Senior Bowl, followed by a right calf strain working out, Allen was a bystander during Combine activities. He was still sidelined for Nebraska's March 10th workout and rescheduled his Pro Day for April 6, but was still feeling the effects from his calf injury, leaving teams with little information in regards to his agility tests.

DA'QUAN BOWERS, Clemson
Once considered to be the favorite to become a Carolina Panther, Bowers' medical reports have generated quite a buzz leading up to the draft. Several team doctors doubt that his surgically repaired right knee will hold up through the length of his rookie contract. Some teams fear that he will need microsurgery, causing his stock to potentially fall into the second part of the first round. He did little to change teams' minds during his pro day, as he looked sluggish and out of shape throughout the drills, clocking 4.96 in the 40-yard dash and 4.46 in the 20-yard shuttle.

A. Clayborn, UI
Clayborn was another player who fit the Patriots' system but was passed over when they had the chance to take him.
Adrian Clayborn, Iowa (Private workout for Patriots)
Something was "off" with Clayborn's performance last year. Coming off a junior campaign where he recorded 11.5 sacks and 20 stops for loss with 70 tackles, he produced just 3.5 sacks, seven stops behind the line of scrimmage and 52 tackles in 2010. At the Combine, he had trouble extending his right arm for the wing span measurement, citing a shoulder sprain. Medical reports indicate he has Erb's Palsy, a paralysis of the arm caused by injury to the upper group of the arm's main nerves, specifically the upper trunk C5-C6 is severed.

The signs of Erb's Palsy include loss of sensation in the arm and paralysis and atrophy of the deltoid, biceps, and brachialis muscles. The position of the limb, under such conditions, is characteristic: the arm hangs by the side and is rotated medially; the forearm is extended and pronated. The arm cannot be raised from the side; all power of flexion of the elbow is lost, as is also supination of the forearm. The resulting biceps damage is the main cause of this classic physical position commonly called "waiter's tip."

Robert Quinn, North Carolina (Pro Day)
Quinn might be the best athlete among this year's defensive line crop, but privately some teams have "red flagged" him, as doctors can not guarantee that his high school brain tumor will not eventually impact his football and personal life down the road. He had his senior season at Ft. Dorchester High School shortened due to brain surgery to remove a benign tumor. He was originally told that the tumor and resulting surgery could end his football career, but has had no known complications following the surgery. While worthy for consideration as the draft's top choice, look for the 49ers to make a serious run at him, if he slides to the seventh pick.

Greg Romeus, Pittsburgh  (Visited Patriots)
Regarded as a first-round prospect prior to the 2010 season, but he went through a series of injury issues that has seen his stock drop into the third day of the draft. He missed more than a week of August camp with back spasms and stiffness. In the season opener vs. Utah, he re-injured the back and would undergo successful back surgery on Sept. 16 to repair a herniated disc in his lower back, missing the team's next seven contests. He returned to action vs. Connecticut (11/11), but in the third quarter, while chasing down the Huskies' quarterback, Romeus suffered a right knee anterior cruciate ligament tear. He underwent another surgical procedure and sat out the team's final four games. He did not perform at the Combine and was still sidelined during the Panthers' March 15th Pro Day.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Stephen Paea, Oregon State

Paea saw his chance for sneaking into the first round end when he suffered a right knee lateral meniscus tear during Senior Bowl practices and underwent surgery in late January. He did not work out at the Combine, except for a stellar performance in the weight room (record 49 reps at 225 pounds) and would continue his rehab until late March. On March 31, he held a workout in front of teams, but after recently running a 4.85 40-yard dash, his best time was 5.15.

Adrian Taylor, Oklahoma
Like Pittsburgh's Greg Romeus, Taylor hoped to capitalize on a banner senior season to further elevate his draft stock. But the Sooner suffered a severe left ankle fracture in the 2009 Sun Bowl and never returned to form. In mid-November, he tore the Achilles' tendon in his right leg and was carted off the field in the second quarter of the Sooners' 45-7 win against Texas Tech, missing the rest of the season.

MIDDLE LINEBACKER

Elijah Joseph, Temple (Patriots worked out his teammates)
Against Ohio University, Joseph suffered a right knee anterior cruciate ligament tear, undergoing surgery on Nov. 22. He could not compete in post-season all-star games, was sidelined for the Combine and was still unable to run drills for teams during Temple's March 18 Pro Day.


Martez Wilson, Illinois (Private Workout for Patriots)
So, your team needs a linebacker and most "draft experts" have Wilson at the top of the MLB chart. Your team decides to pass on the Illini standout and you look confused. No position is more critical than middle linebacker, where that performer has to initiate contact inside the box and also keep his head on a swivel to seek out misdirection and play action. Whether it was due to a lack of instincts or still feeling the effects from the herniated disc in his neck that he suffered in the 2009 season opener vs. Missouri that cost him the rest of that season, Wilson looks very "Robocop" moving laterally last year. There is concern that he is not instinctive enough to play the middle, but his lack of range makes him a liability on the outside.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER

M Herzlich, BC
Herzlich had a solid career at BC until he was diagnosed with cancer. Though he's on the mend, teams aren't sure of his upside (Photo: Boston College Athletics).
Bruce Carter, North Carolina (Visited the Patriots)
Before Carter underwent reconstructive left knee surgery on Dec. 14, 2010 to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament, many draft experts projected that he would be the first Tar Heels linebacker to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft since Brian Simmons was the 17th overall choice by Cincinnati in 1998. Called the university's finest athlete since Julius Peppers (1999-2001), the second overall pick by Carolina in 2002, Carter's athletic ability is a certain eye-opener. Despite pushing the scales at a little above 230 pounds, Carter has been clocked at 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash. His prep basketball skills are evident in his 40½-inch vertical leap, using that skill to deflect nine passes and intercept three others for 162 yards in returns that included two touchdown runbacks as a Tar Heel, in addition to setting the school career-record by blocking seven kicks (six punts, one field goal) as a collegian. Carter still remained on the sidelines undergoing rehabilitation this week, but some team (New England) might gamble and use a second- or third-round pick on this first-round talent.

Mark Herzlich, Boston College
Herzlich made a triumphant return to the gridiron in 2010 after sitting out the 2009 campaign to deal with cancer issues, but was slow to return to form. His performances prior to cancer will merit some team using a fourth-round pick on a player that was previously compared to Minnesota's Chad Greenway. Throughout the summer of 2009, Herzlich remained in the early stages of battling Ewing's sarcoma, but the news on the Boston College star linebacker's cancer treatment was encouraging. Prior to the Atlantic Coast Conference Kickoff Luncheon, Boston College head coach Frank Spaziani told the press gathering that the tumor in Herzlich's thigh is considered non-existent in the muscle mass and greatly reduced in the bone. The tumor had been reduced enough that Herzlich was able to forego the more invasive surgery that was originally planned in favor of more radiation. Eventually, the linebacker had surgery to place a titanium rod in the center of his left femur to give it more support after it was weakened by the radiation. The linebacker then began the next phase of his treatment, in which he received radiation in the morning at the University of Pennsylvania's hospital, then went across town for five hours of chemotherapy at Pennsylvania Hospital, before heading back for another radiation treatment at Penn. Herzlich underwent that routine five days each week, followed by two radiation treatments, and then, by the radiation-chemo-radiation routine.

His 2010 return was not without incident, however. Herzlich had treatment to break scar tissue in his surgically repaired left leg in late April and missed the opening of August camp after he suffered a stress fracture in his right foot working out during the summer before reporting to fall drills. On Aug. 19, Herzlich had a routine three-month checkup as part of his recovery from Ewing's Sarcoma cancer and the tests came back fine. His father said Herzlich had no pain right now but the foot fracture isn't completely healed. The coaches took a cautious approach to bringing him back. On Oct. 7, the Boston Globe and Boston Herald reported that Herzlich had a broken bone in his hand, but the injury did not keep him out of the North Carolina State game (10/09). He was bothered by a quadriceps injury in the first half vs. Florida State (10/16).

CORNERBACK

Chykie Brown, Texas
(Private Workout for Patriots)
Brown broke his right forearm during the team's 39-14 loss to Kansas State in early November and was sidelined for the remainder of the season. He put up impressive running drill numbers at the Combine, but was still unable to do any weight room drills.

Chimdi Chekwa, Ohio State
Chekwa is disappointed that he was not 100 percent healthy at the NFL Combine, probably the biggest job interview of his life. He had suffered a severely dislocated right wrist in the first quarter of the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4 and underwent surgery the next day. He did well in the running drills in Indianapolis, but in the weeks leading up to the draft was still unable to do the bench press, or any drills involving "touching," such as the cone drill and shuttles.

Ras-I Dowling, Virginia (Selected by Patriots  in 2nd round, 33rd overall)
Prior to his rash of 2010 injuries, Dowling appeared ready to challenge LSU's Patrick Peterson for elite cornerback honors. Dowling had a few "nicks and bruises" during his first three years in the program, but those injuries only cost him one game during his first 36 with the Cavaliers. As a senior, he was limited to five appearances and two starts. His rash of injuries began in August camp, when a slight hamstring pull continued to worsen.

He sat out the team's first two games in 2010 while recovering from his hamstring issues. He struggled upon his return, seeing action in three games before again being sidelined vs. North Carolina due to a knee sprain. When he returned to the field vs. Eastern Michigan, he lasted just three plays before again heading to the sidelines after the knee started acting up. After two more games of inactivity, Dowling attempted to play vs. Maryland, but he exited that contest in the first quarter with what doctors first thought was a left foot sprain. X-rays revealed that the right cornerback had suffered an ankle fracture.

In mid-November, head coach Mike London announced that his star defensive back had played in his final game for the Cavaliers. Dowling turned down invitations to play in college all-star games after his injury-plagued season. He concentrated on rehabilitating and preparing for the agility tests conducted in late February at the NFL Combine. He clocked 4.56 running his first 40-yard dash, but was prevented from completing the rest of the drills, as he suffered a right hamstring strain during his first run. In early April, Dowling posted times ranging from 4.37-4.42, according to an NFL scout on the scene of his workout for 15 teams. He also registered a 38-inch vertical jump and a 10-8 broad jump. Most important to Dowling's stock was demonstrating that he had the fluidity in his hips during positional drills. The scout characterized Dowling's ability to turn and run as "good enough for his size" and felt that Dowling could remain at cornerback "for a press team." Dowling did well in ball drills too, showing the ability to track the ball over his shoulder.

BRANDON HOGAN, West Virginia
Hogan was bothered all season with a biceps injury, but he later tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on Dec. 4, roughly three weeks before the Mountaineers' appearance in the Champs Sports Bowl and less than three months before Hogan was scheduled to showcase his abilities in front of scouts at the NFL Combine. While his teammates prepared to take on North Carolina State, Hogan traveled to Dallas and had surgery Dec. 28, the same day as WVU's bowl game. But, even before his injury, Hogan knew he would have to prove to scouts that he was ready to handle the NFL. A handful of off-field incidents left a stain on Hogan's otherwise steady collegiate career. Hogan was arrested and charged with DUI in September and served a one-game suspension, when the Mountaineers hosted Maryland. The DUI charge came less than six months after Hogan was cited by police for disorderly conduct and public urination.

SAFETY

DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson

The Tigers defensive back has seen his draft stock slip from the second to the fourth round on recent draft boards. He had no major injuries reported during his college career, but at the 2011 NFL Combine, McDaniel received a medical exclusion for the bench press test due to a right wrist fracture and then suffered a left groin strain performing other running drills. He ran for teams during Clemson's March 10 Pro Day, but clocked a "pedestrian" 4.67 in the 40-yard dash, as he still had obvious groin issues.

Deunta Williams, North Carolina
Williams underwent Dec. 10 right tibia surgery after he broke his leg in the first half of the Tar Heels' Music City Bowl victory over Tennessee. He was hurt with 5:32 left in the first quarter as he helped tackle tight end Luke Stocker at the end of an 8-yard reception. The safety did not compete at the Combine and also sat out UNC's two Pro Days.


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