It seems every year, there is somebody who personifies "The Slide." Who will it be this year?
The leading candidate may well be defensive end Da'Quan Bowers. Viewed by many as the No. 1 draft pick – if you watch film on him, you understand why – a couple of months ago, his stock is dropping like a stone. Reports have surfaced that the "minor" surgery he had earlier this year to repair a torn meniscus hasn't been healing as planned. It has come to the point that draft wonks as well-known as ESPN bickering couple Mel Kiper and Todd McShay have dropped Bowers like a crazy ex-girlfriend.
According to their most recent mock drafts, Rockin' Mel has dropped Bowers to the Vikings at No. 12 – the third defensive end to come off the board, immediately behind J.J. Watt of Wisconsin and Robert Quinn of North Carolina.
If you're in the Bowers camp, McShay is even more insulting. One could explain a defensive end slide if you believe there won't be an early run on DEs because there is such depth at the position this year. As such, the desperate teams atop the draft charts with multiple other needs could rationally explain passing on defensive end with their first pick with the hope that like-minded teams at the top of the draft would help create a bubble in the picks and still have quality DEs available the second time around. McShay not only predicts a run at DE, he predicts a run with Bowers emerging at the tail end.
McShay has Quinn being the first defensive end off the board to Cleveland at No. 6. Then the DE train leaves the tracks. He has Temple's Muhammad Wilkerson going to Houston at No. 11, the Vikings going second generation and taking Cal's Cameron Jordan, the son of Vikings great Steve Jordan.
After a brief lull, McShay then has Jacksonville checking in with Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue (a wise choice given the Jags' recent success rate with drafting Des?) with the 16th pick. The Patriots are next at No. 17, sparing fans across the globe from the annual embarrassment of Al Davis making a first-round decision, and they take Watt. San Diego continues the run with Aldon Smith – a defensive end by trade, but one who would actually have to transition to outside linebacker to maximize his talent in the Chargers' 3-4 defense.
Finally, at No. 20, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers say, "Oh, well. If we have to" and take Bowers. In this scenario, he would be the seventh defensive end to come off the board.
If that happens, it would be the reincarnation of the Warren Sapp dream scenario that dropped the Hall of Famer to the Bucs. In 1995, word came out the morning of the draft that Sapp was linked to drug use. A couple weeks before that, Tony Dungy (then the Vikings defensive coordinator) told Viking Update that he would select Sapp with the first overall pick. The Vikings were sitting at No. 12. At the time, Dungy said he would trade all the Vikings picks to get Sapp. In the ironic karma that is the NFL, Dungy ended up coaching Sapp, but he wasn't in Tampa Bay when he won his championship – Jon Gruden got that Gatorade bath. But, there are striking similarities if Bowers should drop per McShay's prediction.
In 1995, Sapp was viewed as the first pick of the draft. He wasn't. That went to trivia answer Ki-Jana Carter, who reinforced a longstanding tradition of disappointing Penn State running backs in the NFL. The picks kept coming. Two teams had taken defensive linemen – the Rams took Kevin Carter at No. 6 and the Eagles took trivia answer Mike Mamula at No. 7. The irony of ironies, the Bucs had the seventh pick and traded down to No. 12 and got Sapp with the pick initially assigned to the Eagles – who absolutely had to have a can't-miss prospect like Mamula.
Only one team stood between the Bucs and Sapp at No. 11. That team was the Vikings. Dungy, Sapp's biggest proponent, was their defensive coordinator. It's hard to imagine that he wasn't recommending taking Sapp, despite the positive marijuana test at the Combine, which Sapp attempted to pass off as second-hand smoke. However, at the time Denny Green was monopolizing power and had become the smartest guy in the room. He chose Derrick Alexander. The rest is history.
Sapp's drop was the result of a legitimate blindside – a report sent to all teams that he had tested positive for marijuana at the Combine. There was no time for Sapp to explain/deny/refute the charge. It was there. Bowers' slide potential is based on surgery to repair a meniscus. The same injury kept rookie cornerback Chris Cook sidelined for a month and he returned to action. Granted, he tore a meniscus again, but it was the other one. This isn't a "we may have to take the foot" type of surgery. A lot of good players have torn a meniscus and returned.
It harkens to the 2007 draft when Adrian Peterson's stock started dropping for the same reason. Remember the discussion of a thin metal plate being put in his chest, Iron Man style? Four years ago at this time, those same talking heads were going Chicken Little on A.P.'s risk-reward factor. We all saw what happened.
If both Kiper and McShay are right and Bowers is available when the Vikings are scheduled to pick at No. 12, the Vikings will have the medical information they need to determine if microfracture surgery is necessary on Bowers' knee. If they determine it's not and got a positive feeling from his reported visit this week, the clock could stop at 14:50 with the announcement that the Minnesota Vikings select Da'Quan Bowers, defensive end, Clemson.
Who needs a quarterback when you have a defense with Bowers and Jared Allen making sandwiches out of quarterbacks?
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.