The reasons are never the same, but every year, as Buffalo Bills fans discuss their team's NFL Draft prospects, one highly-touted player seems to constantly elude the conversations. Last year, it was Oklahoma OT Trent Williams, who seemed like he'd be available when the Bills picked, but eventually went No. 4 overall to Washington.
An early contender for the most overlooked prospect by Bills fans is Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers.
It's not hard to get why Bowers doesn't make the conversation very frequently. There's a great chance he won't be available to the Bills, despite the fact that they pick third. He's also a much better fit for the 4-3 defense as an end than he is as either a lineman or a rush linebacker in the 3-4. But as other positions (quarterback, defensive tackle) and players (Patrick Peterson, A.J. Green) enter the discussions, Bowers' name belongs right alongside them - and perhaps even ahead of them.
Insofar as pure pass rushers go, Bowers is arguably the most talented prospect available this year, despite there being a strong group of options. A top recruit out of high school, Bowers finally lived up to his immense potential as a junior in 2010, recording 15.5 sacks and 25 tackles for loss after having just four and 18, respectively, in his first two years combined.
Some scouts question whether Bowers is a bit of a one-year wonder - it's hard to argue otherwise statistically - but most are willing to overlook that question after the 6'4", 275-pound end ripped through the ACC. It's a concern, but for now, it's a small one.
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of discussing Bowers through the lens of the Bills is projecting him into Buffalo's defense. GM Buddy Nix said that the team is still scouting with the idea of eventually running a 3-4 full-time, and Bowers just doesn't fit that scheme. He's stout enough at the point of attack to play five technique, but that position would waste his pass-rushing talent. Bowers also lacks the explosive burst and athleticism to be anything more than a one-dimensional outside linebacker. At best, he could stand up on run downs and line up at end for pass downs, but that defense doesn't maximize his talents.
If Chan Gailey is to be believed, however, in that the team will continue to run a hybrid defense, then it's a bit easier to project Bowers. In 2010, the Bills used four down linemen on run downs, with Marcus Stroud (or Dwan Edwards) and Chris Kelsay at end; Bowers could simply replace Stroud, whose spot on the roster is tenuous at best. Or he could replace Kelsay, with 2010 third-round pick Alex Carrington replacing Stroud. The point is, Bowers would offer a pass rushing presence from that alignment that the team simply didn't have last season. In looks with three linemen, which the Bills frequently used on passing downs, Bowers could remain at end, and would complement the likes of Shawne Merriman and Arthur Moats, among others, quite nicely.
Bowers feels more like a short-term player than a long-term player for the Bills. Short term, the team would find ways to use him as they continue to find their schematic defensive identity. If the goal really is to run the 3-4, however, I have to believe that Bowers doesn't rate as highly on their board as he would for, say, Denver.
But that doesn't mean Bowers doesn't belong in the conversation.