With the 2010 NFL season in the books, it's time to turn our eyes to the NFL draft, and the pre-draft evaluation process. Before the 2011 scouting combine begins on February 24, we'll be taking a closer look at the 40 draft-eligible players who may be the biggest difference-makers when all is said and done.
We continue our series with Clemson defensive end DaQuan Bowers. It's hard to remember a time when Bowers wasn't a dominant football player - he was listed as ESPN's number-one prospect coming out of high school in 2007, and was named the MVP of the Under Armour All-American Bowl. Choosing Clemson over nearly every major school you could imagine, he led the defensive line as a freshman with 47 tackles. As a pass disruptor, Bowers really stepped it up in 2010 after the death of his mentor and Clemson alum Gaines Adams(notes), as well as the passing of his father.
Bowers led the nation with 15.5 sacks and added 10 hurries as well as 26 tackles for loss. In his three seasons with the Tigers, Bowers amassed 144 tackles (89 solo), 19.5 sacks (19 solo), 47.5 tackles for loss (39 solo), 26 quarterback hurries, four passes defensed, and a forced fumble. Bowers won the Nagurski and Hendricks Awards, and was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
Pros: Bowers diagnoses the action at the line and sifts through blockers with upper-body strength and excellent hand moves. Peels off blockers and can just push them aside as well. Can shift inside to three-tech and five-tech roles because of his size (6-foot-4, 275 pounds), and moves double-teams very well when inside.
He's a violent and precise tackler who absolutely smothers ballcarriers when he catches up to them. Stands up the blockers he faces almost every time; it's extremely difficult to bull him back. Very sudden in the backfield and to the quarterback; he can cover a lot of ground in a big hurry. Rides blockers out to the sideline and crashes in on running plays.
Cons: In pass-rush situations, he occasionally engages blockers too long instead of getting low and around the tackle - this could be a byproduct of his ability to overwhelm blockers most of the time. Tends to get so involved in the scrum to such a degree at times, the play will go right by him. He also needs a wider array of moves to get around blockers - brute strength isn't going to cut it in the NFL as it has for Bowers at the college level.
Conclusion: In a draft class full of hybrid ends, Bowers has the most raw ability - of that, there is no question. The concerns surround his one year of elite production, and his relatively small box of advanced pass-rush moves, should go away once he gets with the right kind of pro coaching. If that doens't happen, Bowers isn't immune to the recent trend that points to ends around his size washing out in the NFL because they don't develop specific pass-rush moves and get beyond simple leverage.
Right now, Bowers has the kind of rare strength that can't easily be replicated, and that's a very intriguing start. Bowers will do nothing but lift at the scouting combine as he recovers from a torn meniscus, but he's expected to do everything at Clemson's Pro Day in March.
More Shutdown 40
40 -- Rodney Hudson, OG, Florida State | #39 - Luke Stocker, TE, Tennessee
| #38 - Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor | #37 - Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas | #36 -- Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami | #35 -- Danny Watkins, OL, Baylor | #34 - Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State | #33 -- Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State | #32 - Mike Pouncey, OL, Florida | #31 - Nate Solder, OT, Colorado | #30 - Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame | #29 - Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois | #28 - Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State | #27 - Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA | #26 - Brandon Harris, CB, Miami | #25 - Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin | #24 -- Jake Locker, QB, Washington| #23 -- Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado| #22 - J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin | #21 - Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois| #20 - Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State | #19 - Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland | #18 - Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue | #17 - Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama | #16 - Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa | #15 - Tyron Smith, OT, USC | #14 - Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri | #13 - Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College | #12 - Cam Newton, QB, Auburn| #11 -- Cameron Jordan, DL, Cal| #10 - Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri | #9 - Julio Jones, WR, Alabama | #8 - Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska | #7 - Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama | #6 -- Robert Quinn, DE. North Carolina | #5 - Von Miller, OLB, Texas A & M | #4 -- A.J. Green, WR, Georgia