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INDIANAPOLIS — By the time the NFL draft rolls around on April 28, the number of prospects who could be taken No. 1 overall is likely to be whittled down to a few. Da'Quan Bowers certainly will be one of them.
"It's definitely a goal," Bowers said of being the first player chosen this year. "I don't think anybody here doesn't have the goal to be the No. 1 pick."
The Clemson defensive end was speaking of his fellow players at the NFL Scouting Combine, where he addressed the media Saturday. In particular, he discussed the two guys most likely to be competing with him for the top spot.
"You couldn't go wrong with Cam Newton or Nick Fairley," said Bowers of Auburn's quarterback and defensive tackle, respectively. "Both of those guys are tremendous players."
But unlike the duo from the 2010 BCS champions, the 6-3, 280-pound Bowers will not bring a lofty ego to an NFL franchise looking to find a major building block for the future. That's just one of the reasons he believes he deserves to be the first player off the board.
"I think I can bring a lot of good things to the team," he said. "You can get a pass-rushing defensive end, a humble guy, a guy with great character, a guy who is going to work hard, a guy that is going to go about things the right way and a guy who is willing to compete with anyone anywhere."
Although an offseason knee scope to repair a meniscus tear will force Bowers, PFW's No. 1-ranked prospect overall and the winner of the 2010 Nagurski Award as the nation's best defensive player, to skip all events at the Combine, he says will be at full strength to work out at Clemson's pro day on March 10. It will be then that he will try to prove to teams that he can be the second coming of Julius Peppers, the player with whom he compared his skills Saturday.
Just as Peppers excels coming off the edge, Bowers does the same, as is evidenced by his nation-leading 15½ sacks this past season. He explained why that's one of his strengths.
"Because I watch a lot of film and am very fast and very powerful," he said. "I study offensive tackles a lot, I try to study tendencies. I try to look at their feet to notice things — if they are going to pass or they are going to run — just being a student of the game."
After he stood out in only one of his three seasons at Clemson, there are still doubts about whether Bowers has what it takes to be a superstar in the pros. But if he can shine at his pro day the way he did during 2010, he very well could rise above the other Tigers to become a Panther in two months.