The offensive players have headed out of town, except for the “throwing quarterbacks” that is. It is time to watch some real athleticism shine on the field as the defensive players take the main stage to finish out the Combine week. On Monday the defensive line and linebackers took to the field to run 40’s and see who could do well in cone and positional drills. There was not a lack of story lines as perhaps one of the biggest was with Manti Te’o and how he would run and perform under all the scrutiny he has faced.

What this group lacks in proven talent on the field overall, it makes up for with raw potential and a bunch of physical specimens that showed so many of us why they have scouts drooling in anticipation. So many of these players are going to be drafted off of pure speculation that they will turn out to be stars in the near future.

Below I have highlighted some of the top performances, and worst, during the Monday festivities.

Defensive Line

 

– Disclaimer… this is by far the deepest group in the draft. There are way too many good performances and prospects to mention all in one recap, so I will hit a few of the main stories that came out of Indy…

SMU's Margus Hunt

SMU’s Margus Hunt

– This is the year of the RAW defensive ends it seems as two players, BYU’s Ziggy Ansah and SMU’s Margus Hunt, really took the Combine by storm. Ansah is 6’5 271 lbs. and runs a 4.63 40 yard dash. Not only does he have great edge rusher speed but he looked really solid in the pass coverage drills that so many NFL teams are looking for now in hybrid OLB/DE. There is no doubt a long way to go for Ansah before he becomes a Pro Bowl caliber player, but if the right team drafts him and brings him along the way the 49ers brought Aldon Smith along, he will develop into a sack machine. Hunt on the other hand seems to project as a J.J. Watt type of 3-4 defensive end. Almost a player that has good enough pass rush speed and length to play a defensive end in a 4-3 but fits best as a 5 technique. Hunt is a great story and hasn’t been playing football, like Ansah, for that that long. Hunt had a tough Senior Bowl but the 6’8 277 lb. former track and field star is a freak of nature and his speed, 4.6 40 yard dash, and his 38 reps at bench press really show a player that could have an enormous ceiling. In no way do I think that Hunt is where he needs to be yet, but if he falls to the second round, it is worth a pick and with his numbers he might even be in the late first round conversation.

-Of the top draft picks in this group not many solidified their first round grades as did Dion Jordan of Oregon and Barkevious Mingo of LSU. Both players are hybrid rush ends and will more than likely play from a two point stance, a la Clay Matthews III does for Green Bay. Jordan is 6’6 248 lbs. while Mingo is a little bit on the slight side at 6’4 241 lbs. I thought Jordan had the best day of all the rush linebackers as he ran a 4.60 and had explosive cone and agility drills. Not only that but he had great field work and shows a natural habit in coverage. Jordan might have put himself in the top five and a solid top 10 pick for sure. Mingo has a wide range of grades from many different analysts and I am not a fan of how little strength he plays with, but there is no debating his athletic ability. Mingo ran a 4.58 40 yard dash and had some of the best jump numbers. Like Jordan, Mingo did great in the open field coverage drills that all hybrid players went through. I don’t think Mingo will go as high as Jordan does but he is not getting out of the first round.

– Two of my biggest disappointing players on the day were Damontre Moore of Texas A&M and Bjoern Werner of Florida State. First I have to say that I just thought Werner would have better numbers than a 4.83 40 time and better jump numbers. His field work is good, but he just doesn’t wow me with athleticism  I know he was highly productive, but I expect more out of a top ten defensive lineman. That being said, he plays with such a high motor and plays much faster with pads on, to bring up an old cliché. I like his potential, just not as high as he is slotted to go. On the other hand, I have been critical of Moore throughout. I see a player on film that is weak in the upper body and sometimes doesn’t translate his natural ability to his game tape. Moore ran a 4.95 40 and did 12 reps, absolutely terrible numbers no matter how you look at it. So what it means for Moore now is that he has to light it up at his pro day or he will see himself tumble out of the first round like DaQuan Bowers did two years ago.

– Quick notes… Brandon Williams of Missouri Western State continues his great post season with another solid showing here at the Combine. Williams had 38 reps on the bench and showed better than average athleticism in drills and running tests. After a great Senior Bowl, Williams has put himself firmly in second round talks as a possible nose guard in the NFL… Another Division II player who has had a great post season is Harding’s Ty Powell. Powell is an undersized defensive end at 6’2 248 lbs. that right now looks to project as a 3-4 middle backer in the NFL. He certainly helped himself by running a 4.64 40 and benign 28 reps, while doing great in all the linebacker field drills. I think this kid can be a steal in the later rounds and could make a team on special teams and add quality depth… another smaller defensive end that tested well was Auburn’s Corey Lemonier. He ran well with a 4.6 40 and showed great footwork in drills. Lemonier had an off year last year but watch out for him to make an impact in the pass rush for a team next year. He is just too athletic not to get a chance, like Powell, in the middle rounds.

Superlatives

Fastest 40- 3 tied- 4.53 seconds

Slowest 40- Kwame Gaethers, Georgia- 5.40 seconds

Most Bench Reps- 2 tied- 38 reps

Least Bench Reps- Damontre Moore, Texas A&M- 12 reps

Highest Vert- Trevardo Williams, UCONN- 38.0 inches

Lowest Vert- T.J. Barnes, Georgia Tech- 22.0 inches

Linebackers 

US PRESSWIRE Sports

Jaime Collins of Southern Miss

– Probably the most physically gifted player in this group was Jaime Collins of Southern Miss, 6’3.5 and 250 lbs. A lot of scouts had his rated high on their list, not 1st round or anything, but listed in a lot of top five or ten lists. However, Collins sent scouts and NFL personnel people back to their film rooms to study where his athleticism translates to their scheme. Collins ran a 4.64 40 yard dash, vertical jumped 41.5 inches, and broad jumped almost out of the building with a measurement of 11.5 feet. His field work showed the athlete that he tests as, explosive and fast with great closing speed. Collins made some people perk up to his stock that is for certain. Collins had a highly productive career and racked up a ton of tackles for loss and sacks, but played for a bad team. He will see his stock rise in the coming month leading to the draft.

-Georgia’s Cornelius Washington, 6’4 265 lbs., opened eyes when he ran a 4.55 40 yard dash, had 36 reps on the bench, and vertical jumped 39 inches. Also add a 10’8 broad jump to it as well. Washington showed that fast twitch athleticism that you look for in a rush outside backer, but he never lived up to the hype at Georgia. All aspects are there expect for why he did not produce at the level he tests out as. So his interviews and the scouts analysis of film in the next month are going to be huge to his draft status.

– One of the best performances was put up by Florida’s Jon Bostic, 6’1 245 lbs. The lack of elite athleticism at the inside linebacker position might help Bostic move himself up some draft boards, especially after the performance he put up in Indy. Bostic ran a 4.61, with 22 bench reps, and solid field work in drills. The biggest boost to Bostic might be the poor performances of Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o and LSU’s Kevin Minter. Both players ran 4.82 and 4.81 40 times, respectively  Not to mention that neither player looked very fluid in drill work. Bostic didn’t have the most productive season, but he did play at a very high level in a very talented conference. Either way, Bostic used a solid Combine coupled with the lack of top inside linebacker talent and made scouts notice his worth going forward to the draft.

– Virginia Tech’s Bruce Taylor was probably the most disappointing linebacker in this group. Virginia Tech usually has very fast athletes on defense and most of them test very well. However, Taylor was the only linebacker to run above a 5.0 40 when he clocked a 5.01 time. He then went on to have really below average results in the jumps and cone drills. A lot more was expected out of Taylor and he definitely hurt himself with this Combine performance.

– Few Quick Notes…Sio Moore and Trevardo Williams (who worked with the DL) of UCONN lit up the Combine. Both players had great Senior Bowls and have really raised their draft status as the weeks have gone by this off season… A.J. Klein of Iowa State had an injury during field drills, but that was after he posted a 4.66 40 yard dash time and 20 reps on the bench. Klein is a tackling machine and has strong on and off the field character…Zaviar Gooden of Missouri is a physical freak that runs and jumps like a defensive back. His 40 times and jump numbers will help raise awareness to his film. Knocks on him include durability concerns and size issues as he is only 6’1 234 lbs.

Superlatives

Fastest 40- Zavier Gooden, Missouri – 4.47 seconds

Slowest 40- Bruce Taylor, Virginia Tech- 5.01 seconds

Most Bench Reps- Cornelius Washington, Georgia 36 reps

Least Bench Reps- DeVonte Holloman, South Carolina- 15 reps

Highest Vert-Jaime Collins, Southern Miss.- 41.5 inches

Lowest Vert- Khaseem Greene, Rutgers- 30.0 inches

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