Over the last month in a half, the consensus top player in the draft has changed from Andrew Luck to Patrick Peterson to Da'Quan Bowers, and then to Nick Fairley. With Luck officially out of the mix this season, it's becoming increasingly likely that the Carolina Panthers will select the nation's top defensive player, Lombardi Award winning defensive tackle Nick Fairley of Auburn. Fairley would address Carolina's biggest need and would give the team a fiery personality on their front line to team up with young pass rushers like Everette Brown and Charles Johnson.
With that being said, to this point I have been a supporter of Patrick Peterson, and continue to be just that. I think Peterson has tons of upside and a swagger about him that is extremely enticing. Quite honestly, the Denver Broncos need help all over the defensive side of the ball, and no one player or position is completely set in stone (at least, that's what the coaches will tell you).
To this point, I have been convinced that the Broncos need to pass on a defensive end because of Robert Ayers and Elvis Dumervil. This is an area that I have actually changed my thinking on. You look at the New York Giants, who consistently have one of the better pass rushes in the NFL, and they have invested multiple high choices in pass rush specialists at the defensive end position. Think about guys like Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and Mathias Kiwanuka all being on the same squad.
When Strahan was gone, they replaced him by using a first round choice in South Florida defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. Pierre-Paul stepped right in for the Giants in a reserve role and had a decent rookie season.
The Broncos have not been blessed with that kind of depth, and neither Ayers nor Dumervil is exactly an "Iron Man" for the Broncos. This is a team with holes all over the place, but the key to the defense is pass rush. Obviously, Dumervil is going to help, and I think he can come back from his pectoral injury with a strong season, or at least that's what we are all hoping for.
In doing more research for potential Broncos' draft picks, I decided to take a closer look at Da'Quan Bowers of Clemson and Robert Quinn of North Carolina. Bowers is probably the more complete end, at least in terms of being a proven commodity of both stuffing the run as well as rushing the quarterback.
Quinn has been out of football for a year, but when you look at some of his games with the Tar Heels, it's clear that he is a dominant right defensive end who is not as polished against the run, but he has long arms and is a pretty sure tackler.
I still think Patrick Peterson would be a fine choice, so don't get me wrong there. I'm certainly not discounting him, but I will tell you that it's going to be tough for the Broncos to pass on one of these two defensive ends with the second overall pick, if not impossible.
In order to show you what I mean, lets look at a couple of Quinn and Bowers' game tapes (or what people post on YouTube, anyway) to get a feel for what these guys bring to the table.
First Play: Quinn doesn't get a fantastic burst off the ball, but he lets the left tackle guide him to the play, he keeps his feet chopping, and when he recognizes that the quarterback is on his rollout, he simply shoves the lineman aside and blasts the quarterback. Now, he doesn't knock him down, but one thing that has been said about Quinn is that his motor and energy on the field are elite. This is on full display here as he hits the QB once, and then FINISHES the play. I'm going to put the word "finishes" in all caps every time the player in question does just that.
Second Play: Quinn gets a good first initial step, drives his defender back, and what likely was good coverage allows him enough time to totally demolish Virginia's quarterback. This is a great example of what long arms will do for you as a DE, and you'll see that Quinn simply is able to disengage from the tackle with relative ease and FINISH the QB.
Third Play: Probably a play that pro scouts will see and drool over. Normally, a 19 year old hot-shot defensive end is pinning his ears back and trying to get a sack on every play, regardless of the situation. This play is my favorite play I've seen of Quinn because it shows that he had some good film study. He stays at home, reads the run, and when the back finally gets the ball, he makes sure he helps get the kid on the ground.
Fourth Play: Not unlike play #3, Quinn does a great job of just staying home here and letting the play come to him. He sees the runner, attacks, and FINISHES the play.
Fifth Play: Not a great jump off the ball here, and had he timed the snap perfectly he would have disrupted the throw. The QB has a pretty easy lane, so if Quinn were to even raise his arms in the air he could have still disrupted this play. He has great speed in the short range, and he's not perfect, obviously.
Sixth Play: He gets chipped here, but again, he's in on the play. He never gives up on it even though he was getting a lot of attention on this play.
Seventh Play: This is good pressure by UNC all around, but Quinn FINISHES the play. He just uses pure speed to beat the LT off the edge, and the quarterback knew all he could do was hope he didn't fumble the football. Quinn initially gets him with his arms, but likely remembering the play from earlier, he does not let the QB get away this time. He makes sure the guy eats turf here.
Eighth Play: Quinn might get a little lucky on this play, but it's nobody's fault besides the quarterback. Clearly, the left tackle is getting beaten like a mule in this game, and Quinn initially looks like he took to wide of an angle to the outside, but that's not the case. The play comes to his side, and he drops the tackle like a bad habit, and then FINISHES the quarterback. A great play here by Quinn for a huge loss.
Ninth Play: Quinn is fooled by the option-read play, and whiffs on the quarterback who gets a first down or close. What I like about this play is that Quinn does not give up. Where many DL would simply let the LB's or DB's make the play here, Quinn steps up and says, "I'm gonna make the tackle, because I shouldn't have gotten sucked in in the first place."
Tenth Play: This is a better play by Marvin Austin than anyone else.
Eleventh Play: Quinn applies good, quick pressure on the quarterback, and forces a poor throw.
This was probably one of the better games of Quinn's short career at UNC, I would imagine, but this is some impressive game tape. It's not every play from the specific game, but it gives a good indication of just how good Quinn was on this day.
Here you can see Quinn against a potential first round pick, Boston College offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo.
First Play: Nothing much of note here, but if I were using a baseball analogy, I'd say Quinn swung for the fences with a 3-0 count right here. He had the green light to go after the play, and it wasn't what he anticipated. The mess was cleaned up though, so no harm, no foul.
Second Play: Probably the best overall play you will see Quinn make. He uses a swim move to evade the grip of Castonzo, gets around the edge with great speed and quickness, and FINISHES the quarterback hard core, not to mention he strips the ball and seemingly throws it 10 yards backward.
Third Play: Quinn is initially double-teamed here, which was a great play by Boston College. That being said, when the right guard finishes his job on Quinn, Castonzo clearly holds the UNC defensive end on the back end of this play, and BC gets a huge gain.
Fourth Play: Quinn beats Castonzo off the snap pretty bad here, and he doesn't have the initial hit on the running back but he FINISHES the play, and helps his boy out.
Fifth Play: This is a quick read by the quarterback. Quinn has really no impact on this play.
Sixth Play: This is a great play by Quinn. He drives Castonzo outside on this stretch running play and forces the runner to the inside where the gap is being filled not coincidentally by Quinn's teammate. Good teamwork here.
Seventh Play: Quinn loses his balance here, and gets driven into the ground as a result, and the play goes for a big gain.
Eighth Play: Good bull rush, great swim move, and then Quinn is clearly held by Castonzo. The ball likely would have been out anyways, but Quinn was held here for sure.
Ninth Play: Quinn reads the screen like a book, but doesn't stop there. He stays home, stands right next to the back, and knocks the ball down, FINISHING the play. Great play here by Quinn.
Tenth Play: No matter the double team, Quinn pushes the pocket back into the quarterbacks face and forces a bad throw. This play is all Quinn. Pure strength.
Eleventh Play: Interestingly, not too much effort seems to be given on this play. Quinn doesn't do much of anything here.
Twelfth Play: Double teamed, chipped by the BC running back.
Thirteenth Play: Good pass protection here by Castonzo.
Fourteenth Play: Quinn gets solid pressure here and forces Castonzo back into the quarterback, and the QB subsequently makes a poor throw, and the ball is intercepted.
Fifteenth Play: Quinn is double-teamed and pancaked.
Sixteenth Play: Quinn forces the QB into a throw he probably didn't want to make, but the receiver should have caught it for a first down. Quinn whiffed on a sack here.
Seventeenth Play: An effective swim move, but Quinn is just a step too late here.
Eighteenth/Nineteenth Play: Quinn gets solid pass rush on both plays, and on the second play, he forces the QB into throwing an easy interception.
This is an impressive performance by a 19 year old kid on a future potential first round choice in Castonzo. Quinn clearly has elite quickness and speed, and his long arms are key to his success. He essentially has his way with opposing offensive linemen. It's interesting that throughout these highlights, the Tar Heels do not move Quinn to the left side even one time. Is that a testament to his abilities against the run?
This North Carolina team is underachieving, but absolutely overflowing with NFL talent. It's just as likely the Heels had a guy on the left side who could do some damage as well, and Quinn is their bread winner. The big question with him is what he will look like coming off of a year out of football. However, he's only 20 years old, and I am interested ti see what he weighs at the Combine later this month.
If Quinn can come in at about 265-275, I think he's a lock for a top ten pick, and I would take a hard look at him with the 2nd overall choice. This is a guy with huge upside, but the questions right now are, "Can he come back as effective as he was before?" and "What are his capabilities against the run?"
I think this is where Da'Quan Bowers has the clear edge over Quinn. Bowers has never really had a problem setting the edge in the running game, and he finally broke out as a pass rusher in 2010, his junior season.
First play: I can't tell if Bowers gets held right as the play comes to his side of the field, but it looks as though his body gets turned, which may or may not get called at the next level. Either way, the running back gets past him on the edge for a big gain, but he chases the play until the whistle blows. There is a "flag" at the end of the play, and I would not be shocked at all if it was a hold against the LT.
Second play: Here, Bowers is standing up on the right side. Georgia Tech's offense is no mystery--they want to run all day long, and they do it primarily with Josh Nesbitt and their stable of backs in the power option. Here, Bowers reads the play like a book, gets off the ball faster than some of the offensive players, and he FINISHES the play in the backfield before Nesbitt can even think.
Third play: Again, Bowers is standing up on the right side, almost like he's in a joker position. He doesn't get a great burst off the snap, but against Georgia Tech, this is the smart play. They are preparing for a rare passing play, and he stays at home, waits for Nesbitt to come to him, sheds the blocker, and makes the sack. This is a very nice play, one that he FINISHES strong.
Fourth play: Again on the right side, it looks like a busted play by GT, but Bowers is right there to stop the ball carrier. Nice FINISH.
Fifth play: Standing up on the right side again, Bowers gets around the defender, but the play is already moving away from him and Clemson forces a bad pass.
Sixth play: Standing on the right side, Bowers does a good job of not getting sucked into the play, but he's a step late to getting Nesbitt here. First down GT, but Bowers was the one who FINISHED the play.
Seventh play: standing on the left side now, Bowers is not fooled by the outside fake, and the pulling lineman misses him completely simply too quick. Another nice FINISH.
First play: Playing down as the LE like we all think he will in the NFL, Bowers does a great job of not falling for the zone read here, and totally blasts the back. Great FINISH, and barely any gain for the Seminoles.
Second play: Stays at home on the edge, makes a nice read, and shows great burst getting to the QB, but he goes for the ankles and doesn't wrap up adequately. Allows his teammate to get the sack though, so overall a solid play.
Third play: Here he is lined up as the RDT, and clearly the Tigers were anticipating pass (and for good reason, check down and distance). FSU gets a solid gain, but this is not a negative play for Bowers or Clemson, simply a conservative play by FSU.
Fourth play: Solid blocking by the RT here, but Bowers sheds him just in time to make the play against the run. Nice FINISH.
Fifth play: Here Bowers holds the edge well and keeps his arms extended the whole time, allowing him to control the tackle. When the QB rolls out, Bowers attacks and forces a bad throw, getting a QB hit in the process.
Sixth play: Tries the bull rush here, but FSU has a good play design with the RB all alone on the right side of the field. Not a bad play by Bowers, but he could have raised his hands to potentially block the throw.
Seventh play: Bowers does again a great job of using his arms to keep the tackle from planting him in the ground, and he keeps the edge, forcing the running back into confusion. Bowers anticipates where the back will go, and he FINISHES the play for no gain.
Eighth play: Nobody even blocks Bowers here, and he shows elite burst and quickness in getting to the reverse carrier, causing a fumble and nearly picking it up for a score. When the FSU back picks it back up, he then FINISHES the play and takes him down for a huge loss. Nice play by Bowers.
Ninth play: Now we have seen Bowers play every position on the DL. He is at LDT in this play, and gets in the backfield right away, but the play is made away from him here. Nice play by the Clemson DL overall.
Tenth play: Bowers is lined up at RDE here and FSU runs an option away from him. He manages to chase the play from behind and tackle the ball carrier. Just an excellent display of speed and awareness here.
11th play: Going up against a double team here and playing LDT, Bowers is pretty easily handled on this play, and FSU has a big gain down the field on a nice catch.
12th play: Bowers chases the play out of bounds here, but he is tangled up with the RT the whole time. The play doesn't really go anywhere though, and Bowers has something to do with it.
13th play: Bowers gets a good jump here and is playing what appears to be in a three man front, and it looks like he might get pushed by the guard here into the QB, but regardless, he wraps up and makes the sack, FINISHING the play.
14th play: Back at RDE here, Bowers forces the play to the inside allowing his teammate to make the play and stop FSU from getting the first down. Nice play here by Bowers.
15th play: Bowers kind of gets sucked in on this play, but he uses his long arms and great strength to disengage and make a play at the end, getting a hand or arm on the ball carrier to slow him down. Good effort.
16th play: Bowers is undoubtedly held on this play, but it is not called and FSU gets a first down. He did a great job of setting the edge, and probably would have made the play if he didn't get tugged last minute.
17th play: Looks like he anticipated run here, but it's a quick pass play and it's picked off by Bowers, who never gave up on the play and found the ball floating into his grasp. Great awareness here, FINISHING the play.
18th play: Looks like Bowers is pretty well handled on this play. Good play by the FSU offensive lineman.
19th play: Good blocking or holding. One of the two.
20th play: Forces the play inside, disengages, and FINISHES the play by making the tackle. Nice play here.
21st play: Not a good play here. Gets pushed around by a tight end it appears, loses leverage, got way too high on this play.
You can't obviously judge these two guys by two games, but you can certainly tell a lot about a player. Bowers seems more like Ayers while Quinn seems more like Dumervil. I wish I could have gotten a full game of Bowers against a team that ran at least a semi pro-style offense, just so I could get an idea of what he looks like against that.
Still, I think there's a lot more evaluating to be done. Right now, Quinn is the more attractive pick to me, but Bowers seems like the more complete player. Both have tons of upside, and it would be tough to choose between either guy. Bowers seems to be the popular mock pick for the Broncos right now, so I hope this analysis helped show a little bit of what he is like as a prospect, and I think Robert Quinn has vaulted himself into the top five discussion without even really doing anything, I had simply not discovered him yet.
Both players are phenomenal prospects, and I wouldn't turn away from either. Quinn's character concerns do not bother me very much, because he accepted gifts from an agent. A stupid choice? Yes. Something that would deter me from selecting him? No way. The only downside to that is that he missed a year of ball, which is a pretty big downside. See Dez Bryant.
Bowers being a one year wonder doesn't bother me as much either, because really he is a young player who made strides over the three year period at Clemson. The problem I have is that his junior season seems like such an outlier that it's almost a red flag, but at only 20 years old, I think he has a ton of potential and his best days are ahead of him.
My personal Broncos' big board has grown from five to six now, with (in no particular order) Quinn, Bowers, Nick Fairley, Patrick Peterson, Marcell Dareus, and Von Miller making the cut. All appear to be elite level prospects.