Early in the draft season, Clemson’s beastly pass rusher Da’Quan Bowers was among the elite prospects occupying prime real estate in mock drafts. He led the nation last year with 15.5 sacks, and with his speed and agility he’s drawn comparisons to Julius Peppers. In early February top analysts like Mel Kiper Jr. pegged Bowers to be selected second overall by the Broncos.

The problem with investing so highly in an elite player is that teams have to ensure the product they’re purchasing is not only talented, but healthy. After surgery in January to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, major questions arose about Bowers’ ability to deal with the second half of that equation, and his draft stock began to fall.

His workout at Clemson’s Pro Day today was massive for his professional future, and his wallet. With at least 19 teams reportedly represented, the workout was the focus of NFL front offices, with teams selecting later in the first round now wary of a potential tumble. The early reports are mixed, but a discouraging 40-yard dash time stands out like a thumb that was just nailed by a sledge hammer.

Exactly how fast Bowers ran the 40 depends on which stop watch you read, with some timing his run at nearly five seconds. But Sports Illustrated’s Troy Pauline confirmed with two sources that Bowers ran a 4.85 and a 4.92. Compared to the draft’s other top defensive ends, that puts Bowers’ best time well behind Robert Quinn (4.62) and Ryan Kerrigan (4.67). However, Bowers is still in the territory of Cameron Jordan (4.74), Adrian Clayborn (4.78), and J.J. Watt (4.81).

How much the underwhelming 40 time affects Bowers’ draft stock is difficult to predict. It’s easy to assume that he’ll plunge based on a lack of mobility, but he still showed that his speed is within range of other prospects hovering around the top 10 to 15 range. Bowers was also asked to hop on his injured right knee, which he did without any problem, and his 34.5 inch vertical also shows strength in the leg. His other results were a 6.95 in the three-cone drill, and a 4.34 in the shuttle (all reported by Pauline). Those compare favourably to results posted by the likes of Quinn and Kerrigan at the Combine.

If the draft were held tomorrow, Bowers would likely be in for a bit of a tumble. But it’s not, and Bowers still has 28 days to establish his health, a stretch that includes at least 10 team visits, and a Combine re-evaluation in Indianapolis in two weeks.

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