The herd thins out at the Combine, as the number of position groups operating at the same time drops tomorrow. Teams will be turning their focus to free agency in a few days, but first the defensive prospects get their time in the sun. Offensive coaches have spoken to all the players they are going to, and teams know how that side of the ball stands athletically.
Defensive Line Drills
Edge defenders trying to open themselves up to 3-4 teams are the most likely beneficiaries of tomorrow’s timed events. The more explosive they appear, the more likely it is that their deficiencies and inexperience standing up can be overcome. Timed speed is fairly irrelevant for the rest of the line group. Shuttles and three cone, their ability to move abruptly, that’s where a bog man can make himself some money. The on-field drills are all about watching the way these guys move. Do pass rushers lean in to their cuts, or run straight up and down. Upright is bad. Does a player punch bags or tap them? Defensive line drills are as much effort as they are grace. A lineman needs to treat every bag like it did something to his mom.
Linebackers run as much as anyone on the field. For these guys all of the timed events will define their profile. They also need to jump out of the building. Linebackers in the NFL are some of the most well rounded athletes on the planet, and any deficiencies are weaknesses that get exploited. They also need to move in space. The drills for linebackers are the most revealing at the combine. The variance in athletic ability has no more pronounced position group at the Combine. Jabrill Peppers will be doing the same drills as Connor Harris. That’s not going to make Harris look good. Linebackers are also the most able group to defy their athletic labels and find a role in the NFL.
Defensive Back Bench Press
Does. Not. Matter. Sure it’s an effort gauge, but there is no less useful ability for a corner than push ups. Strong Safeties that may need to transition to nickel linebacker, sure. But everyone else might as well skip this one.
A Few Names to Look for at the Combine Tomorrow
Derrick Barnett has been facing a drop in his stock for the entire off-season. He was once thought to be the second best pass rusher in this draft. As more twitchy players have come to the forefront, Barnett’s three down production in college has become less valued. A good set of workouts at the Combine would answer any lingering questions about his ability to translate.
Haason Reddick is the Combine’s most intriguing talent. He proved he could play standing up at the Senior Bowl. He is working with the DL group, but his future is at some kind of LB spot. His testing will determine how many teams consider him.
Jabrill Peppers is working out as a linebacker. He should be the most electric athlete on the field in every drill. If he is not, he may find himself waiting until some time in round two or three to be drafted.