BBD Editor: Dan Hope
It was known coming into the day that Sunday’s workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine would play a significant role in determining which edge defenders would be the first off the board in the 2015 NFL Draft.
With chart-topping performances, Clemson’s Vic Beasley and Kentucky’s Alvin “Bud” Dupree made sure that they will be well within the conversation to be the first players drafted from the edge group come April.
Overall, it was a day in which the top defensive ends and outside linebackers proved themselves to be worthy of first-round consideration, while the off-ball linebackers had disappointing performances, excepting one of Beasley’s teammates.
Freakishly athletic pass-rushers live up to the hype
Even before Sunday’s on-field work began, Vic Beasley was already a winner of this year’s combine. He measured in at 6’3” and 246 pounds—11 pounds larger than his listed weight at Clemson—and tied for the lead among all defensive front seven players with 35 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press.
As size and strength were the biggest questions about Beasley’s game coming in, he had already done enough to establish himself as a top-10 pick. He made himself a strong candidate to go top-5 on Sunday. He ran the fastest 40-yard dash of the day, with an official time of 4.53 seconds, while he also topped the defensive line group in the vertical jump (41 inches), broad jump (10’10”) and three-cone drill (6.93 seconds), and finished second in the 20-yard shuttle (4.15 seconds).
In addition to be the star of his position group on paper, Beasley also showed terrific fluidity in the on-field workouts. All in all, everything went well for Beasley at this year’s combine, and it is very possible he could be the top edge defender drafted as a result.
Not to be outdone, Bud Dupree posted even more impressive numbers than Beasley on Sunday. At 6’4” and 269 pounds, Dupree ran a 4.56-second 40-yard dash—the third-fastest time of the day—while his 11’6” broad jump and 42” vertical jump both rank within the top five among all players at the combine.
Although Dupree was grouped with the linebackers, he belongs in the same group with Beasley as an edge defender. The largest player in the linebacker group, Dupree has tremendous versatility but should primarily function as a pass-rusher and edge player in the NFL.
Dupree did not participate in the on-field drills with the linebacker group, but nonetheless did enough to likely solidify himself as a top-10 selection in this year’s draft.
As good as Beasley and Dupree were, the other top edge defenders also performed well.
Florida’s Dante Fowler, who is ranked as the No. 1 pass-rusher on my board, ran a 4.61-second 40-yard dash at 6’3” and 261 pounds. He showed some hip tightness in the on-field drills, and did not post great numbers in the other measurable drill, but nonetheless established as a top-tier athlete in this year’s draft.
Nebraska’s Randy Gregory, a 6’5” edge rusher who alarmingly weighed in at just 235 pounds, ran a 4.64-second 40-yard dash and showed great fluidity in defensive line drills. Gregory’s draft stock has fallen behind that of Fowler, Beasley and Dupree as a result of his poor weigh-in, and he is more of a project at this point than those three players, but he still offers huge upside as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
Another edge defender who proved he belongs in the first-round conversation is UCLA’s Owamagbe Odighizuwa. The 6’3”, 267-pound edge defender, who shows strength and violent hands on tape, posted a 4.62-second 40-yard dash, 39” vertical jump, 10’7” broad jump, 7.36-second three-cone drill and 4.19-second 20-yard shuttle.
Additional standouts from the edge group Saturday included Virginia’s Eli Harold, who moved with ease in on-field drills and ran a 4.60-second 40-yard dash, 7.07-second three-cone drill and 4.16-second 20-yard shuttle. LSU’s Danielle Hunter ran a 4.57-second 40-yard dash at 6’5” and 252 pounds, but did not participate in any on-field drills. Tennessee-Chattanooga’s Davis Tull did not participate in the 40-yard dash or on-field drills due to a hamstring injury, according to Rotoworld’s Josh Norris, but had the day’s best vertical jump at 42.5 inches and the second-best broad jump at 11 feet.
The only projected first-round edge defender to not run Sunday was Missouri’s Shane Ray, who told NFL.com that he was not medically cleared due to a foot injury that he suffered in Missouri’s bowl game.
Xavier Cooper stands out among defensive tackles
Among the players who project as interior defensive linemen in the NFL, Washington State’s Xavier Cooper ran the fastest 40-yard dash time Sunday, at 4.86 seconds. A 6’3”, 293-pound defensive tackle who projects as a 3-technique in a four-man front, Cooper showed outstanding movement skills in on-field drills while he also had a 7.23-second three-cone drill and 4.37-second 20-yard shuttle.
USC’s Leonard Williams, who projects as the No. 1 overall prospect in this year’s draft class, was also impressive as expected. He completed the 40 in 4.97 seconds—a good time at 6’5” and 302 pounds—while he also posted a 4.53-second 20-yard shuttle and 7.59-second three-cone drill. Most importantly, he showed natural movement skills in the on-field drills.
The only other two interior defensive linemen to run sub-5-second 40-yard dash times were Iowa’s Louis Trinca-Pasat, who ran a 4.96 at 6’1” and 290 pounds, and Tennessee-Chattanooga’s Derrick Lott, who ran a 4.99 at 6’4” and 314 pounds.
On the other end of the spectrum, projected first-round pick Danny Shelton of Washington ran the slowest 40-yard dash of the day—and the second-slowest of the entire combine—at 5.64 seconds. That might not be of great concern for Shelton, a 6’2”, 339-pound nose tackle, but was still disappointing, especially considering his 10-yard split was also the slowest of the day, at 1.88 seconds. To his credit, Shelton looked much better in the on-field drills, but his poor time will still make evaluators go back to the tape and question his explosiveness.
Stephone Anthony shines in otherwise underwhelming linebacker group
Typically, one would expect there to be faster players in the linebacker group than the defensive line group, but that was not the case in Sunday’s combine workout. Beasley’s 4.53-second 40 ended up holding up as the fastest time of the day because not one player in the linebacker group was able to run faster than 4.55 seconds.
That 4.55 was run by LSU’s Kwon Alexander, who showed impressive athleticism at 6’1” and 227 pounds.
The most impressive off-ball linebacker of the day, however, was Clemson’s Stephone Anthony. Best known for being a downhill, between-the-hashes run-stopper at 6’3” and 243 pounds, Anthony proved Sunday that he is also an outstanding athlete, as he ran a 4.56-second 40-yard dash and showed great fluidity in the on-field drills.
Anthony’s great day on the field is likely to propel him into the draft’s second round, especially because many of the linebackers projected to be picked ahead of him had disappointing showings Sunday.
Easily the most disappointing performance of the day was that of TCU’s Paul Dawson. A player whose stock soared in a breakout senior season, Dawson looked surprisingly sluggish and out of shape Sunday. He ran a 4.93-second 40-yard dash, lumbered through the on-field drills and went just 28” in the vertical jump and 9’1” in the broad jump. A 6’0”, 235-pound linebacker known for his range, Dawson likely killed his chances of being a first-round pick with his poor performance.
Miami’s Denzel Perryman also had a slow 40-yard dash, finishing the drill in 4.78 seconds at 5’11” and 236 pounds, but his time was less surprising. A player known more for his short-area quickness and physicality in the box than his physical tools, Perryman was not expected to be fast, and he had a solid showing in the on-field drills. Still, there’s a good chance that Sunday’s results could propel Stephone Anthony ahead of Perryman in the draft order.
UCLA’s Eric Kendricks, at 6’0” and 232 pounds,posted solid numbers in the 40-yard dash (4.61), vertical jump (38”) and broad jump (10’5”), but struggled with balance in the on-field positional drills. Mississippi State’s Benardrick McKinney also posted good numbers, with a 4.66-second 40-yard dash, 40.5” vertical jump and 10’1” broad jump, but looked stiff changing directions in the drills.
Washington’s Shaq Thompson, a highly versatile player who most would have bet on to be the fastest player from the linebacker group, did not meet expectations with his 40-yard dash time of 4.64 seconds, and his jumps were also underwhelming (33.5” vertical, 9’9” broad jump). That said, Thompson looked great in his transitions during change-of-direction drills. The 6’0”, 228-pound linebacker was not the combine star he was expected to be, but it’s not as though he performed badly to the point that his stock should be dropped significantly.
All of this year’s combine measurements and results can be found in this spreadsheet by NEPatriotsDraft’s Mike Loyko.