Would Bucs pull the trigger on Da'Quan Bowers if available?
There's a rapidly growing sentiment in league circles that Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers, formerly a consensus top 10 pick in this year's NFL draft, could be in for a precipitous fall on draft night because of a lingering knee injury.
There have been reports and rumors of failed physicals and even suggestions of an arthritic condition, all of which are setting off alarm bells throughout NFL front offices. Bowers' camp acknowledges the injury but refutes the more serious claims.
But the more information is disseminated, the more it becomes a possibility that Bowers could be on the board when the Bucs select at No. 20 overall.
If and when that happens, the Bucs will be facing a difficult decision. Do they take a slight risk and grab Bowers despite the concerns? Or do they opt for a healthier but inferior pass rusher or, say, a cornerback who is NFL ready?
The answer might vary from team to team, but there is reason to believe the Bucs might pull the trigger on Bowers, provided he was available and the team believed the injury is not a long-term concern.
There's a bit of precedent for this in the team's recent history. Though the scenarios aren't identical, the Bucs were the team that opened its arms to tight end Kellen Winslow despite widespread fears about his knee's condition. Those concerns were more than legitimate, too, given the number of games Winslow has missed in his career. But the decision to trade second- and fifth-round picks to the Browns for Winslow in 2009 has paid huge dividends for Bucs general manager Mark Dominik. Winslow has averaged 71.5 receptions in his first two seasons in Tampa Bay and hasn't missed a game.
The Bucs also took some gambles in the draft by selecting receiver Mike Williams and claiming LeGarrette Blount off waivers, last year giving them two players who many teams had removed from their draft boards because of character concerns. This is not exactly the same situation, but there are parallels in terms of the Bucs taking chances in the draft.
And in the case of Bowers, the breathtaking talent might just overshadow the risk. Bowers notched 15.5 sacks and 24 tackles for losses in 2010, and he seems to be a more proven and polished player than Gaines Adams was in college -- another Clemson defensive end the Bucs drafted in the first round.
Adams didn't become a star and was traded away for a lack of production before his untimely death last year. But his time in Tampa Bay was seen as a failure in large part because he was the fourth overall pick. This year, if Bowers fell to the Bucs, Tampa Bay could justify rolling the dice with a pick in the latter half of the first round.
And, judging from history, there's reason to think the Bucs might just do it.