Monday brought with it my personal favorite day of the combine: conversions. Nothing intrigues me more than evaluating the hybrid types who have drawn the distinction of being a potential 3-4 rushers. We also got the opportunity to take a look at the rest of the linebackers and defensive linemen (both tackle & end) in attendance. Here are a few notes on Monday’s combine workouts:
*Monday starts and ends with Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald. The undersized (6’0 3/4″ 285 lbs.) 3-tech ran a 4.68 – the best among defensive tackles by a wide margin – threw up 35 reps on the bench press, and displayed his short-area burst with an impress 7.11 seconds in the 3-cone drill. His movement in drills was top notch. Donald, a potential late 1st round selection, had a really strong combine and only helped himself with his performance in Indy.
*The big man Ra’Shede Hageman of Minnesota once again caught eyes with his stellar physical makeup. He carries his frame very well and got East-West pretty comfortably. An athletic body-type with room to grow. Struggled to regularly stay low when participating in drills, which is consistent with his game film.
*The squatty Florida State product Timmy Jernigan showed off good, quick feet and a pretty strong looking frame to match. Able to sink hips well when changing direction, using hands well on bags. Bent his hips very well, maintaining balance nicely when moving laterally. Overall, had a nice day.
*Another individual who carried a big frame well was LSU’s Anthony Johnson. Combined good footwork with decent lateral ability. Another balanced, wide-based individual in drills.
*Penn State nose tackle-type DaQuan Jones was moving well for a 6’4″ 322-pounder. A little stiff when changing direction, but that’s okay for someone of his stature. Managed to keep low and look the part of a leverage-savvy inside lineman.
*Mr. Irish Chocolate himself, Notre Dame’s Louis Nix did himself no harm, in my opinion. Ran about as slow (5.42) as you’d expect a natural 6’2 3/4″ 331-pound nose tackle to, but was moving better than I expected laterally and had a deceptively decent short-area burst.
*Louisiana Tech nose tackle Justin Ellis exhibited pretty decent movement for a bulky interior lineman. His lateral movement and ability to sink his hips, keeping a wide base, was something that particularly caught my eye. Late add at the Senior Bowl, where he was encouraging, Ellis has done a good enough job to keep the momentum going.
*Princeton’s Caraun Reid had a good day and is maintaining a solid pre-draft run up. He looked really quick in drills and ran a solid 4.91 as well. Movement skills were above-average, to me. He’s setting a good example for future Ivy Leaguers with pro aspirations. Do everything and make the most of opportunities.
*The big man on the draft circuit, South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney blazed the best 40-time amongst the DL groups, posting a 4.53 at a filled out 6’5″ 266-pounds. He did not participate in drills, but tallied nice numbers in both the vertical (37 1/2″) and broad (124.0″) jumps. I, like most, would have liked to see him compete, as he’s by no means a lock for No. 1 overall, but he did the job in physical testing. With that said, nobody ever doubted that aspect of his evaluation.
*Oregon State’s Scott Crichton was a bit of an eye-opener on Monday, displaying his high motor in drills and good short-area quickness. He has big hands and used them well in bag drills. Also carried his 6’3″ 273-pound frame well.
*Missouri’s Kony Ealy has a heavier frame and was moving well with it. Good short-area explosion is what caught my eye when watching him. Looked a little stiff at times, but nothing overly concerning.
*Despite being a bit of a tweener, I’m a fan of Texas’ Jackson Jeffcoat. Had somewhat of an up and down workout overall, but I couldn’t help noticing his quickness when getting lateral. On the other end of the spectrum, his ability to turn and run with fluidity left a little to be desired. Still unsure as to whether he is a fit in space as a 3-4 player – might be better off adding to his frame and putting his hand in the dirt, full time.
*Shepherd’s Howard Jones is a lean athlete who looked more like a linebacker – which is where he will play at the next level – rather than a lineman. Physical testing was solid and he moved about the field really well in drills. A little stiff when flipping his hips, but the athleticism was on full display. 40.5″ vertical, 124.0″ broad, 7.16 3-cone. All top shelf figures.
*Another player who will likely be playing in space as a 3-4 rusher moving forward is Boise State’s DeMarcus Lawrence. I was very impressed with his workout, as he had fluidity on display throughout every movement drill. I didn’t see much stiffness either. One of the players who won from his group, in my mind.
*One of my 2014 NFL Draft favorites, North Carolina’s Kareem Martin did well. At 6’6″ 272-pounds, ran a 4.72 time, moved without much stiffness, and had pretty active hands. Didn’t shock or awe the way I thought he was capable of, but still put together a good performance.
*USF’s Tevin Mims caught my attention at times. Pretty fluid in free-flow movement, change of direction was nice in conversion drills, and carried a 6’4″ 260-pound frame well. I see the foundation for a decent stand up 3-4 linebacker in his skill set.
*Ball State’s Jonathan Newsome looked like a linebacker running through drills with defensive linemen. Well-built athlete who was noticeably loose in movement. Change of direction and hip-flip skills were pretty solid, as well. Definite stand up conversion in most base fronts.
*The polarizing Michael Sam of Missouri was so-so throughout the day. Competed well and showed off a solid physical makeup, but was very rigid in change of direction throughout drills. Looked too stiff to play in space, lacked the sort of lower-body explosion I was expecting, and didn’t time well (4.91). Without sounding as though I’m piling on, as I do think there is a fit for him in a base 4-3, he’s got some work to do before May.
*Arkansas’ Chris Smith had a better day than I expected. Better in space than I saw compared to his in-game footage and showed off a good initial burst in many instances. Ran a 4.71, which was better than the 4.8-range I had him pegged for. Still needs to get a little strong, in my opinion.
*Lastly, Boston College’s Kasim Edebali was a high energy mover throughout the day. Noticeable quickness and burst in drills, ran alright at 4.79. I liked his change of direction skills and I think his best fit will come as a 3-4 player at the next level.
*Buffalo’s Khalil Mack entered the day with the distinction of being the best player available amongst the LB group. He didn’t disappoint, as he stayed fluid, looked loose, moved freely, and made a couple good catches. As a space player, he should be just fine. No hindering limitations in that regard. Ran well too, posting a 4.65 – good enough to tie him for the fourth best time. Impressive 40.0″ vertical and 4.18 shuttle numbers.
*Interesting UCLA product Anthony Barr put his raw talent on display. Bends very well and stayed really flexible in movement. Ran a solid 4.66 time and coupled it with a nice 6.82 in the 3-cone. Effortlessly carries his 6’5″ 255-pound frame and showed great initial burst. Definite 3-4 player to me if you’re looking to maximize Barr’s capabilities.
*I am very intrigued by Florida’s Ronald Powell. Very talented player packed with upside – a former top HS recruit at DE, I see a nice fit as a rush linebacker. Pretty fluid in space and has a little better hip bend than I saw on film. The physically gifted Gator also ran a nice 4.65.
*The Florida State linebackers had a solid day. In particular, Telvin Smith, who posted the second best time at 4.52, was flying through drills at high speed, and changed direction with ease. Versatile Christian Jones wasn’t as fluid as his teammate, but did exhibit quality footwork and used his hands well in bag drills.
*Boston College’s Kevin Pierre-Louis posted the fastest time, at 4.51, and put his footwork, good bend, and lateral quickness on display. Unfortunately he’s undersized and rounds a little when he’s changing direction.
*Notre Dame’s Prince Shembo was a pleasant surprise at the combine. Physical player who’s athleticism wasn’t believed to be the equal of some other peers in the LB group, but he proved capable. Much-better-than-expected 4.71 time, strong hand usage in bag drills, and was improved in East-West movement.
*Another athlete with versatility, USC’s Devon Kennard has played inside, outside, and at defensive end while with the Trojans. Great physical makeup, ran a clean 4.70, and looked pretty loose hipped for a player who exited HS as a defensive end. He has a lot of untapped pass rushing potential.
*Small-schooler Jordan Tripp from Montana had a very solid workout. Consistent and quick were the two positives I took from his combine. In a day where more than half the linebackers couldn’t catch a cold, let alone a football, Tripp made comfortable off-body grabs with regularity. He was active with good footwork. Even ran an impressive 4.67 time. FCS kids standing out.
*BYU’S Kyle Van Noy is an energy player who flowed well in drills. Good hips, changed direction pretty well, and did every drill at a high pace. He’s an all around player who needs to establish a fit for himself, but I see him succeeding in a number of schemes. Actually hit is head on a camera tripod while laying out for a ball near the sideline at one point.