The Combine switched over to defense yesterday with linebackers and defensive lineman taking the field for drills. Featuring the most first round talent of the all the groups, scouts were watching attentively to see if anyone would separate themselves from the rest of the pack.
The defensive line featured multiple players that could be taken with a top 10, but after yesterday, that could change. Top-ranked edge rusher Joey Bosa may have had it worst of all. He ran an underwhelming 40 time of 4.86 and that is where all of his problems start. The average 40 time for elite edge rushers is normally in the low 4.7’s or high 4.6’s, which Bosa missed out on by a significant amount. He also did not show elite explosiveness in the broad or vertical jump.
Teams now believe that he cannot excel as a pure pass rusher due to his underwhelming speed and explosiveness, and his scheme fit is still a major question mark since he has never played in a 3-4. Bosa may have done some damage to his draft stock and fallen out of the top 5, but he should still warrant a top 10 pick.
The winner of the day for the D-line was another top prospect Robert Nkemdiche. Nkemdiche has been under a lot of scrutiny for his off-field issues, but after his Combine performance, teams may begin to start ignoring that. He dominated all drills for interior lineman and was easily the most explosive of them all. He ran a 4.87, faster than most defensive tackles in the NFL, and posted impressive numbers in the vertical jump (35 inches) and broad jump (9’8”). After showing off his undeniable talent, Nkemdiche may work his way back into the top 10.
Neither Myles Jack or Jaylon Smith, the top 2 linebacker prospects, participated in drills as they recover from knee injuries but there was was a big development among the two. Teams have cleared up almost all concerns about Jack and believe he will be more than ready to contribute next season, but the same cannot be said about Smith.
Medical teams are concerned Smith will not be able to play at all next season, and he may see a slide on draft day because of it.
Another top prospect, Leonard Floyd, had a rough day after getting hurt in his first 40. He did manage to still run a 4.6 in it and showed off his elite athleticism in drills before getting hurt, but teams did not get to see his technique at the combine which is his biggest question mark. If he cannot sure up questions about this in his pro day, then he could be experiencing a slide as well.
It was not a good day for the linebacker prospects and this year’s class has teams wondering how many of them actually warrant a first round pick now.