Draft Clock Ticking On Injured Players

The 2011 NFL Draft is now but a month away and there are some fairly well-known and regarded players that have been placed on draft boards under a red cross – meaning injured.

They’ve got some 28 days to get their situations clarified. Without doing so, they could cost themselves millions of dollars as they fall in the draft order. There are a half-dozen players who are really under the microscope and could move up or down the draft board based on the update on their health.

Here’s the biggest names in doubt right now, listed in draft board order of how most teams evaluate them if healthy.

DE DA’QUAN BOWERS/CLEMSON (right) – In early January, Bowers has arthroscopic surgery on a meniscus in his right knees and he’s not worked out yet for NFL teams. He passed on participating in the physical testing of the NFL Combine and then pulled out of Clemson’s Pro Day for scouts. There were media reports on Monday that several teams failed Bowers on his physical exam at the Combine.

Right now, Bowers is scheduled to hold a workout on Friday. His agent has told NFL teams that he will do all the defensive line drills and other testing that’s normally done. He will then report a week later for a league-wide re-exam in Indianapolis for team doctors, something the NFL does each year.

If Bowers checks out, he’ll be a top five-seven choice. If he does not, he’ll fall into the middle of the first round (picks 10 through 20) and his signing bonus will be significantly smaller.

WR JULIO JONES/ALABAMA (left) – At the NFL Combine, Jones established himself as the best receiver in the Draft, nudging ahead of A.J. Green. Jones put up superb numbers in the testing and then it was learned afterwards that he did it with a hairline fracture of his foot. Jones knew about the injury before the Combine. Surgery went down within the week and screws were inserted to help the healing process.

Because he got the work done on the field at the Combine, Jones does not have a workout scheduled for all the teams and he was not recovered enough to participate in Alabama’s Pro Day back in early March. The prognosis for his recovery was six to eight weeks and that should make him ready to test the foot sometime around the middle of April. Jones should still fall into the first round somewhere between No. 5 and No. 12.

OT TYRON SMITH/SOUTHERN CAL – Many NFL types were disappointed when Smith backed off working out at the Combine because of an unspecified knee injury. The teams obviously have some clue as to what his problem might be, but that hasn’t come out publicly.

The reason they were disappointed is that Smith has a lot of people in the league excited about his potential. He’s the most physically gifted of all the offensive linemen considered to have first round potential. Left tackle could be his spot and every team is looking for athletic left tackles.

Southern Cal’s Pro Day is set for Wednesday and no word that Smith won’t be able to participate. What he shows NFL types on that day will determine whether he goes in the first half or second half of the first round.

DE CAMERON HEYWARD/OHIO STATE (right) – He underwent elbow surgery in January, in effect the Tommy John procedure to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow. That forced him to miss the workouts at the Combine and Ohio State’s Pro Day.

Heyward has a private workout set for Wednesday and what he can show coaches and scouts on that day will determine whether he’s a first or second round selection. If he’s in shape and his elbow holds up, he’ll go in the latter half of the first round.

OLB BRUCE CARTER/NORTH CAROLINA – He suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during a game against North Carolina State on November 20. Reconstructive surgery to repair the torn ACL went down on December 14. An injury of this type generally is a rehab period of nine to 12 months.

Before the knee, Carter was considered a top five prospect, on the same par with Da’Quan Bowers and Patrick Peterson as considerations for the first defensive player selected. Now, he’s likely a second-round choice, although a team late in the first round – obviously one of the better teams – could take a chance on getting a player with that potential that they ordinarily wouldn’t see without an injury.

DT STEPHEN PAEA/OREGON STATE (left) – It was the first day of practice at the Senior Bowl when Paea torn the meniscus in his right knee and was done for the week. He went right down the road from Mobile, Alabama to have surgery by noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews on January 27th in Florida that same week.

Reports are that his rehab has gone well and that Paea has done some light running and should be able to do almost everything physically in his workout on Thursday. If he shows no problems, he could sneak into the bottom third of the first, and will go no later than the second round.

RB DANIEL THOMAS/KANSAS STATE – He pulled out of the Senior Bowl, and did not do any physical work at the NFL Combine because of a hamstring injury. He was not ready for the March 15th Pro Day at Kansas State and will not run until next Tuesday, April 5th.

It will be hugely important for Thomas. There are some draft watchers that have him rated as the No. 2 running back in the league. If he can run, he’ll go no later than the first third of the second round. If he’s not, Thomas may fall into the third round.

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