BBD Assistant Editor: Joe Marino
Monday’s on-field portion of the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine featured the draft’s best defensive line and linebacker prospects as the depth of the draft continued to prove itself in workouts. While no prospect was able to officially record a sub-4.5 second 40-yard dash, there was plenty of speed and athleticism on display alongside a few disappointments.
*All measurables official except for 10-yard splits, which came from unofficial NFL Network times
Clowney Lives Up to the Hype, But Questions Remain
The hype surrounding today was centered around South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and his supposed superhuman athleticism. The 6’5″, 266-pound prospect tested well, including an official 4.53-second 40-yard dash that was best among defensive linemen, but almost as big of a story was his decision to not participate in on-field drills. With questions surrounding his work ethic, this decision was not popular among his doubters. NFL Networks Mike Mayock commented on his decision by saying “it might be a microcosm of what you have to decide about this kid.” At the end of the day, the questions continue, despite a day that also included a 37.5″ vertical jump and 10’4″ broad jump.
Aaron Donald Steals the Show
Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald gets his own segment because his day was that good. Concerns about Donald’s size at 6’1” and 285 pounds remain, but I actually give Donald credit for sticking at 285 pounds. With several other prospects adding and dropping weight to appease NFL scouts, Donald recognizes his most comfortable playing weight and wins with it.
Donald tested extremely well with a 4.68-second 40-yard dash, 35 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press and a 32″ vertical jump. Donald was equally impressive in drills, displaying excellent quickness, foot speed and agility. He might not get drafted extremely high due to his size, but his athletic ability and production are off the charts.
Underrated Edge Rushers Shine
Virginia Tech’s James Gayle is not getting the notoriety that his game film and combine performance suggests he should. At 6’4″ and 259 pounds, Gayle clocked a 4.68-second 40 yard dash and did 26 repetitions on the bench press. He also leaped 37” in the vertical jump and 10’7” in the broad jump.
Texas’ Jackson Jeffcoat had the best senior season that nobody is talking about. His senior season included 82 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and 13 sacks for the Longhorns. He followed that production up with superb testing results at the combine, including a 4.63-second 40-yard dash, 36” vertical jump and 10’3” broad jump. Inexplicably, Jackson did not receive a Senior Bowl invite, yet is making a strong push to be an early Day 2 selection.
Prototypical Size and Athleticism
North Carolina’s Kareem Martin and West Virginia’s Will Clarke both have the frame one hopes for when scouting defensive ends. Both are 6’6” with 35″ arms while Martin weighed in at 272 pounds and Clarke at 271 pounds.
Martin clocked a 4.72 40-yard dash while Clarke completed his run in 4.77 seconds. Martin had the top broad jump among defensive lineman at 10’9″, five inches further than Jadeveon Clowney. Overall, both players stood out in drills as prospects with tremendous upside heading into the draft.
Giants Who Can Move
While watching the workouts, I couldn’t help but notice how well Louisiana Tech’s Justin Ellis at 6’1″ and 334 pounds, and Delaware’s Zack Kerr at 6’1″ and 326 pounds moved around during drills and ran there 40 yard dashes. Ellis clocked at 5.29-second 40-yard dash while Kerr completed his run in 5.08 seconds. Notre Dame’s Louis Nix is a more highly regarded prospect at 6’2″ and 331 pounds than both Ellis and Kerr, but he was only able to complete his 40 in 5.42 seconds. Nix was noticeably stiffer during drills.
Quick 3-Technique Defensive Tackles
Princeton’s Caraun Reid (6’2″, 302 lbs) was one of the most impressive prospects when completing drills. He has incredibly quick feet and the agility needed to be a penetrating 3-technique defensive tackle in the NFL. Reid turned in an impressive 4.91-second 40-yard dash and is making a strong case to be a Day 2 selection.
Southern Mississippi defensive tackle Khyri Thornton (6’3″, 304 lbs) helped himself Monday in a similar way. Thornton was impressive in drills and clocked a 5.06-second 40. While he is a likely Day 3 selection, his effort Monday should move him up the board.
Mixed Results for Will Sutton
Arizona State’s Will Sutton (6′, 303 lbs) has a game is predicated on quickness, but he was everything but quick in his 40-yard dash as he turned in a 5.36-second effort with an unofficial 1.82 10-yard split. Sutton was far better, however, completing on-field drills. Sutton is a risk-reward type prospect who I would let someone else take.
Top Linebackers Validate Their Athletic Ability
The top three linebackers to fully work out on Monday validated their athleticism. BYU’s Kyle Van Noy (6’3″, 243 lbs) turned in a 4.71-second 40-yard dash with an unofficial 1.60-second 10-yard split. Buffalo’s Khalil Mack (6’3″, 251 lbs) clocked a 4.65 40 with a 1.63 10-yard split. UCLA’s Anthony Barr (6’5″, 255 lbs) produced a 4.66 40 and 1.56 10-yard split. All three players checked the boxes they needed to with their workouts and on-field drills.
Undersized Linebackers with Great Speed
The fastest linebacker in the group was Kevin Pierre-Louis (6′, 232 lbs) from Boston College, who turned in a 4.52-second 40-yard dash. Pierre-Louis stood out in drills with his fluidity, agility and change-of-direction skills, but he lacks ideal height. I did not think highly of Pierre-Louis on my first run through his tape, but his effort Monday leaves me eager to take a second look.
Right behind Pierre-Louis was Florida State’s Telvin Smith (6’3″, 218 lbs), who clocked a 4.52-second 40-yard dash. Smith was fluid in drills and displayed strong ability to react and change directions. He stood out among his peers in drills, but his size has some thinking he might need to switch to safety.
One of the best performances of the day was had by Montana linebacker Jordan Tripp (6’3″, 234 lbs). Tripp was outstanding in drills and natural in all of his movements. Tripp also tested well with a 4.67-second 40-yard dash with a 1.59 10-yard split. He had a 37.5” vertical jump and 22 bench press reps. A Day 3 prospect, Tripp is working his way up the board.
Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier (6’1″, 237 lbs) leaped 42” in the vertical jump, the best mark yet at this year’s combine, and 10’10” in the broad jump while producing 25 bench press reps. He came in with a great weight for him, but he did not run a 40-yard dash or participate in on-field drills.
Alabama’s C.J. Mosley (6’2″, 234 lbs) participated in drills and looked great. He showed how fluid an athlete he is with loose hips and quick change-of-direction skills. Mosley did not run a 40-yard dash or participate in several other workouts.
Poor Efforts from Two Linebackers
South Dakota linebacker Tyler Starr (6’4″, 250 lbs) had one of the worst performances in the combine of any player to this point. After running a poor 4.95-second 40-yard dash, Starr struggled in drills. He was incredibly stiff and nonathletic while having to be reminded repeatedly to finish drills. Starr’s effort could lead to him going unselected in May’s draft.
Illinois linebacker Jonathan Brown (6′, 238 lbs) ran a 5.03 40. He is not a natural athlete and there is a lot of wasted motion in his movements. That is not what you want to hear about a linebacker prospect.
For a full look at results from this year’s combine, check out the results tracker at NEPatriotsDraft.
Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, Aaron Donald, Alabama, Anthony Barr, Arizona State, Boston College, Buffalo, BYU, C.J. Mosley, Caraun Reid, Delaware, Florida State, Illinois, Jackson Jeffcoat, Jadeveon Clowney, James Gayle, Jonathan Brown, Jordan Tripp, Justin Ellis, Kareem Martin, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Khalil Mack, Khyri Thornton, Kyle Van Noy, Louis Nix, Louisiana Tech, Montana, NFL Scouting Combine, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Princeton, Ryan Shazier, Scouting Combine, South Carolina, South Dakota, Southern Miss, Telvin Smith, Texas, Tyler Starr, UCLA, West Virginia, Will Clarke, Will Sutton, Zack Kerr