Combine re-check raises flags for Bowers, Smith

Nolan Nawrocki Senior editor

Posted April 12, 2011 @ 5:24 p.m. ET
By Nolan Nawrocki

The way we hear it, two potential top-15 picks could be significantly affected by results from the Combine re-check. According to multiple sources, Clemson DE Da'Quan Bowers and USC OLT Tyron Smith both have received very concerning, low grades after having what was said to be meniscus surgery on their right knees following the season. Bowers has been very slow to recover from January surgery because he already had what three team doctors deemed to be microfracture surgery, and his knee condition is considered to be degenerative.

"He should get better with added strength," one NFL executive said. "But he will have future problems because the damage is too bad."

"He's talented," said another top executive, "but that's a lot of risk to take. You might not get much in Year One and how long is he going to last? Our doctors said he would be lucky to play out his rookie contract. He's a very humble kid. You hope he could overcome it. But we couldn't take him where we are picking (in the middle third of the first round). Someone else might. We would discuss it in the second round."

Smith had surgery on December 17 and had nearly an extra month to recover. He didn't work out at the Combine and, despite showing surprisingly well at his pro day, could also be affected by unfavorable medical grades, which every team medical staff evaluates differently.

"We've had (Smith) at the bottom of the first all along," said an NFL executive. "The media has pushed him up. No one questions the traits. But there is a miss factor. Remember everyone was surprised when Winston Justice slid. We had him (graded) in the fourth round. The medical could push (Smith) out of the first, no question. I would love for him to go in the top 10, but I'd be shocked if he came close."

Dr. Thomas Carter, who performed the surgery on Smith, told PFW that the knee is sound: "(Smith) has no chondral defects. He doesn't need to have a more aggressive procedure done now, not at this time. … It would seem that in his efforts to further expedite his recovery, it looks like (Smith) pushed himself a little too hard."

Carter conceded that different team doctors could interpret the same knee different ways.

PFW's Eric Edholm contributed to this report.