Risk could be worthwhile with Bowers

Da'Quan Bowers amassed 74 tackles and 15.5 sacks for Clemson last season. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

We’ve all heard of the law of diminishing returns. Well, I think we just saw an example of the law of diminishing risk.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers just used their second-round pick on Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers. The pick was No. 51, which is precisely 50 spots below where most people were saying Bowers would go back when talk about this draft really started in January.

He’s the most dynamic pass-rusher in the draft and a freakish athlete. But he tumbled beyond all expectations as concerns about what could be a chronic knee problem surfaced and continued to grow.

The Bucs supposedly considered Bowers in the first round at No. 20. But that’s where the law of diminishing returns might have played a role. Instead, the Bucs went the safer route and chose Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn. He’s not as dynamic a pass-rusher as Bowers, but he is a complete defensive end and doesn’t come with a lot of questions.

However, the law of diminishing risk kicked in as the second round kept rolling and Bowers kept sliding. At No. 51, the risk isn’t nearly as great as it would have been at No. 20.

The Bucs have played this game before and played it quite well. They took their shot on receiver Mike Williams in the fourth round last year. He came with some background questions and might have been a big risk if he had been taken any sooner. The returns came quickly, as Williams instantly turned into Tampa Bay’s No. 1 receiver.

I don’t know all the details that are in the medical reports about Bowers' knee, but the Buccaneers obviously do. Like every other team, they do their homework on these matters.

They must feel like Bowers can at least be a productive player for a few years. With Clayborn and Bowers, even if his knee is a bit of an issue, the Bucs suddenly look a lot better at defensive end than they did last season. Stylez G. White and Tim Crowder were starters most of last year, and they generated almost no pass rush.

Even if the Bucs want to start off cautiously with Bowers and use him as a situational pass-rusher for 15 or 20 snaps a game, that gives them more of a threat than White and Crowder did over the course of an entire game. Clayborn is the kind of guy who should play a lot of downs because he can play the run and generate a decent pass rush.

There’s another theme emerging here. The Bucs used their first two picks on defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price in last year’s draft. This time, they did it with defensive ends. McCoy and Price showed promise last year, and they should get a lot better with some help around them on the outside.

Suddenly, there’s at least the potential for the Bucs to have a very good defensive line. That should make the entire front seven a lot better. There weren’t a lot of big plays from the front seven last season, as the Bucs ranked 30th in the league in sacks. In a 10-6 season that was highlighted by the emergence of quarterback Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay’s secondary was the only area of the defense that made plays.

Now, there’s the potential for pressure up front, which should translate into more big plays for the secondary and maybe more wins for the Bucs.

Even if his role is limited, Bowers should help the Bucs. In a best-case scenario, Bowers’ slide could end up bringing back very happy memories from the franchise’s past.

Once upon a time, 1995 to be exact, there was a defensive lineman tumbling fast. He also had initially been projected as the No. 1 overall pick. But there were reports of a different nature (failed drug tests). The Bucs watched as that player slid. When their time came, they assumed the risk.

They drafted Warren Sapp. That worked out pretty darn well. If Bowers can bring half the impact Sapp did, this pick will be well worth the risk.