Vikings Draft Speculation: Da'Quan Bowers?

Believe it or not, the Vikings have needs at positions other than quarterback. You’d never know it by the preponderance of QB speculation, but defensive end is also a big area of concern going into the draft.

If the Vikings do decide to go DE, this is a good year to do it. Draft wonks agree that the first round is rich in talented players who could step in and become difference-makers right away. Don’t you just love the term “difference-makers?” I feel like Mel Kiper but with less-annoying hair.

And who exactly are these potential difference-makers? Line them up and check them off: Robert Quinn, Aldon Smith, J.J. Watt, Cameron Jordan, Ryan Kerrigan. Oh, and then there’s Da’Quan Bowers.

Mr. Bowers, you might have read, is something of a tricky proposition. Most wonks rate him in the top 10 talent-wise, not just at defensive end, but at any position period. Unfortunately, Mr. Bowers is one of those top-rated guys – every draft has several – who has enough red flags following him around to make even the bravest of mock drafters shake in their sweaty Crocs.

Bowers’ red flags are all about health. Since the start of the draft speculation season, Bowers’ stock has been steadily dropping over concerns about the state of his right knee. The player underwent surgery on his meniscus, and after a slow 40 time at his Pro Day, there was talk that he could require microfracture surgery. Not good.

Last week it was reported that Bowers could miss the entire 2011 season because of the knee – really not good – but a visit to the doctor on Friday cleared up those worries. Now, after bottoming out at the late first round level, Bowers is inching back up draft boards. It’s even possible that he could go in the top 10, maybe to the Cleveland Browns.

The Vikings are one team keeping a watchful eye on all this defensive end draft position jockeying (which may all just be a figment of draft wonks’ imaginations, but at least it gives us something to write about until the labor crap gets sorted). Many think the #12 spot in the first round is a little too high for one of those quarterbacks everyone keeps talking about, meaning the Vikings could very well be targeting DE with that pick.

And if Da’Quan Bowers, bad knee and all, is still there when the Vikings’ turn comes up?

Now Rick Spielman and Leslie Frazier will have an interesting call to make. Clearly Bowers is a big-time talent. Clearly, with Ray Edwards leaving and Brian Robison looking like a career back-up despite the decent contract he recently signed, the Vikings have a large need for a pass rushing end to line up opposite Jared Allen. This would seem to be a match made in quarterback-splattering heaven – if it weren’t for that pesky knee.

Spielman and Frazier don’t need my advice but I’ll give it anyway: If Da’Quan Bowers is there at 12, draft him and worry about the knee later.

Yes it would be a gamble, but personnel gambles are how great teams get built. Remember when the Vikings gambled on Adrian Peterson despite health worries? When they rolled the dice on Jared Allen even though he was one violation away from a suspension? When they took a chance on Percy Harvin despite alleged character concerns (that mostly turned out to be hooey)?

Two of those were bigger gambles than drafting Da’Quan Bowers 12th overall would be, bad knee or no bad knee (the Percy pick was less of a gamble as it was later in the first round and didn’t involve giant money like the Allen trade). The upside here is, by adding Bowers’ fearsome skills, the Vikings would take a giant step back toward having the kind of pass-rushing front-four that made their defense so great in 2009.

As I’ve said all throughout this pre-draft season, I think the best way for the Vikings to upgrade their D is through rebuilding the front-four. Get the pass rush back to where it was two years ago and the secondary issues will not be as daunting.

I would go so far as to say that, given their particular situation, a great pass-rusher would do more to help the Vikings in the short term than a great new talent at any other position, including quarterback. Drafting a Cam Newton or a Blaine Gabbert would be good for PR but probably wouldn’t do much for the team’s fortunes right away. Bowers, on the other hand, could step right in and have a huge impact on the defense.

It becomes almost a no-brainer if you look at it in terms of pick value. Is Jake Locker really worthy of a 12? Is Ryan Mallett? I would say no. Bowers, on the other hand, is certainly worthy of the 12. He would be an ironclad top-tenner if it weren’t for the knee.

At this point I would actually be disappointed if Bowers fell to 12 and the Vikings didn’t take him. If such turned out to be the case, I would have to assume they arrived at a very negative conclusion about his knee. Bowers reportedly visited the Vikings on Monday, and I’m going to guess the knee issue came up.

Whether Bowers ends up being the guy or not, I expect the Vikings to address defensive end, very likely in the first round. I know a lot of people like Locker – hell, even I’m almost ready to jump on his bandwagon – but if they take him at 12, that would be a reach. And Rick Spielman said we won’t reach for a quarterback.

I take Rick Spielman at his word. No reaches. Taking Da’Quan Bowers at 12 would not be a reach, even with a gimpy knee in the equation. Of course I love watching great pass-rushers more than almost anything, so maybe I’m biased.

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Tags: Cam Newton Da'quan Bowers Draft Jared Allen Leslie Frazier Minnesota Vikings Ray Edwards Rick Spielman

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