As the 2013 NFL Combine concludes at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis today, what have we learned so far? The quarterbacks, running backs, offensive lineman, and tight ends were impressive over the weekend. Many displayed impressive talents and skills, while some underwhelmed. Overall, it was a successful weekend for a good amount of prospects.
On Monday, we finally got to see some of the more physically gifted prospects test, the defensive line and linebacker groups. Some prospects greatly boosted their stocks. Others hurt themselves. Some leveled off and tested as many had expected. So who were the biggest winners and losers from Monday’s testing? Let’s take a look.
The Rise of Ziggy
BYU Defensive End Ezekiel Ansah has been a hot name as of late following an impressive Senior Bowl performance. Ansah has been widely recognized as one of the more physically gifted players in this year’s draft class, but has some questions regarding his timetable for development at the next level, considering he began playing football only a few seasons ago. However, the more film you watch on Ansah, the more you realize his fundamentals and recognition skills are beyond what his experience would indicate.
Physically, Ansah is among the most impressive prospects in the entire draft pool this year. At 6’5″ 271 lbs, Ansah impressed scouts with a blazing 4.63 40 yard dash. Considering his height and weight, he is undoubtedly an athletically gifted player. The question regarding him is how he will translate to the next level. Is he a 4-3 DE or can he transition to a 3-4 OLB?
One of the most crucial factors in evaluating such a transition is the mental makeup of the player. At BYU, Ansah’s athleticism allowed him to have success by using his speed, agility, and physicality. However, does he have enough football knowledge to go from relying purely on physical prowess to having to read things with his eyes and react with the speed of the NFL? It will be important for teams to get him on the board during the interview process, allowing them to pick his brain and really grill his football IQ.
For team’s using a pure 3-4 scheme, Ansah would probably be viewed as being two seasons away from being a capable every down player. However, in the ever evolving NFL, defenses are trending toward hybrid schemes, meaning they adjust their systems based on the strengths of their personnel, rather than attempting to force scheme on a player. The old saying “you cant try to fit square pegs into circular holes” holds true more than ever in today’s league. That being said, Ansah’s physical versatility could push him into the top ten of this year’s draft. He is one of the most intriguing names moving forward.
Not Michael, but this Jordan is darn good.
Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan has been widely viewed as one of the top pass rushing prospects in this year’s class and solidified his place in the top ten with a strong performance on Monday. While he is a bit on the lighter side for the position, Jordan’s 6’7″ frame is more than capable of handling some added weight without sacrificing any of his elite athleticism.
Jordan was extremely impressive yesterday, having run a 4.60 40 yard dash and achieving an excellent 122 inch (10’2″) broad jump, highlighting elite speed and explosiveness. He has the size to be an effective defensive end in a 4-3, but also has demonstrated more than an adequate level of athleticism, both on film and in his combine tests, to indicate a likely successful transition to a 3-4 outside linebacker.
As is the case with Ansah, Jordan will be a highly touted prospect due to his versatility. With the league trending to more versatile defensive schemes, Jordan’s skill set makes him appealing to any defensive coordinator, regardless of system. Barring anything unforeseen, Jordan is a sure top ten pick, with a good chance to sneak into the top five, depending on how things play out between the start of the new league year and April’s draft.
Need Moore from Damontre
Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore is another highly ranked pass rush prospect, once viewed as the top talent among his peers. However, a very disappointing performance on Monday – one that ended with a tweaked hamstring – will likely hurt his draft stock. While game film is still the most important tool for evaluation purposes, Moore’s testing numbers were poor enough to raise some red flags.
At 6’4″ 250 lbs, Moore has been viewed as another prospect who possesses the versatility to be a useful tool in an abundance of defensive schemes. However, a poor display of strength as demonstrated by just 12 reps on the bench, coupled with a slow 40 time for the position (4.95) will surely have scouts and evaluators going back to check his game film to see where these deficiencies may limit his game.If there isn’t enough conclusive evidence that these testing numbers do not affect his game, Moore is sure to fall in round one.
Once viewed as a possible top five selection, Moore could suddenly find himself slipping into the second half of the opening round. He will have an opportunity to redeem himself on his pro-day on March 8th, so he is another important name to monitor moving forward.
Speaking of Moore
More of an under the radar defensive end/outside linebacker prospect, Connecticut’s Sio Moore has been on the rise since an impressive Senior Bowl performance and did not slow down in Indianapolis. While Moore is slightly on the shorter side in terms of stature (6’1″), he displayed a terrific skill set of speed (4.65 40 yard dash), strength (29 reps), and explosiveness (38 inch vertical leap, 127 inch broad jump).
Moore’s game film flashes an excellent motor and a highly tenacious attitude. What he lacks in terms of height, he makes up for in technique, leverage, and overall physical ability. Moore is likely a second round pick, and would certainly be more than a consolation prize for any team that opts to pass on the position in round one.
On The Hunt
Possibly the most impressive performance on Monday came from SMU defensive end Margus Hunt. An absolute mountain of a man at 6’8″ 277 lbs, Hunt is not your typical ‘big’ prospect. A combine best 38 reps on the bench press joined his striking 4.60 40 yard dash. Considering his length and weight, these numbers indicate an unheard of level of overall athleticism.
An Estonia native, Hunt’s game film shows some flashes of excellence with a good amount of inexperience and raw play mixed in. While he certainly will take some time to develop into an elite defensive lineman at the next level, he has the physical tools to be a perennial All-Pro at the position. He will be an ideal fit for a team running primarily 4 man fronts. While he needs a good amount of polishing and coaching, his potential alone could propel him into the first round.
New Sharrif in Town
With recent news surrounding the highly touted defensive tackle Star Lotulelei of Utah regarding a heart condition, there is a good chance the prospect once viewed as this year’s top player experiences a slide down many draft boards. While Lotulelei’s play is elite, the health issue is something that teams will look into and may not feel comfortable enough with to use a top ten draft pick on him. Lotulelei did not participate in any drills and hopes to be cleared to workout at his pro-day.
So how does this affect the defensive tackle pool? Enter Sharrif Floyd of Florida. Floyd has been gaining steam and shooting up draft boards recently, and a close study of his film reveals exactly why. Floyd has an insatiable motor and is surely one of the toughest players in this entire class. His hands and feet are just as good, if not better than, any of his counterparts. He is constantly active with his hands, always working to shed his blocker, constantly using second and third moves when his first is unsuccessful. Offensive lineman have nightmares about facing a player with hands like Floyd’s because it gives him an advantage when matched up with a player of similar size, strength, and athleticism.
Floyd was quite impressive on Monday having run a 4.92 40 yard dash at 6’3″ 297 lbs. While it would have been comforting to see him participate in the bench press, Floyd’s strength is apparent on film and should be more than adequate at the next level. With the recent news surrounding Lotulelei, Floyd has a great chance to be the first defensive tackle taken this year. Surely a top ten talent, where he eventually ends up will depend on how teams value their needs. The Raiders, Eagles, and Browns are all realistic possibilities within the top six.
Every year the combine highlights some players who may not have been in the initial discussion among top prospects, but performed well enough to gain some notoriety and make scouts rush back to the film room for a closer evaluation. This year, defensive end Datone Jones of UCLA and Cornelius Washington of Georgia fit that bill.
Jones and Washington are both bigger prospects – 6’4″ 283 lbs and 6’4″ 265 lbs, respectively – but displayed excellent combinations of strength, speed, and agility. Jones clocked a 4.80 in the 40 yard dash, along with 29 reps on the bench press, while Washington ran a 4.55 40 with 36 reps. Washington also showed impressive explosiveness with a 39.0 inch vertical leap and 128 inch broad jump.
Jones seems to be a better fit as a 4-3 defensive end, but Washington has some intriguing versatility. His size suggests he would be better fit to play defensive end as a 5 or 7 technique, but his blend of athleticism, strength, and explosiveness make him someone who defensive coordinators can get creative with. Washington’s skill set seems to be very similar to what many saw out of 2012 defensive end prospect, Melvin Ingram of South Carolina, but with a longer, leaner frame.
It will be interesting to see where both of these players end up being selected. From a physical standpoint, each has the talent to be a first round pick, but does the film match the numbers? That is something coaches and scouts will look closely at in such a deep class of defensive lineman. Still, neither should be anything later than a 2nd rounder.
While defensive end prospects Barkevious Mingo of LSU and Bjoern Werner of Florida State performed about as expected on Monday, don’t let them fall off your radar. To me, Mingo has tremendous upside, but is not complete enough in his play to warrant a top 10 selection. Werner is more of a complete player, but doesn’t necessarily have the ceiling that his counterparts do. Still, these are two highly touted prospects, sure first rounders, and names to keep an eye on as we move forward.
In The Middle
There seems to be no clear cut top interior linebacker prospect. Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o was once considered a can’t miss, top ten prospect, but a poor showing in the National Championship game and recent off the field issues have raised some red flags on him. Te’o has faced a lot of questions regarding his top end speed – is he fast enough to be a three down player and an effective coverage linebacker? He surely didn’t help his case with a 4.80 40 yard dash.
However, this should really come as no surprise. Te’o’s game has never been about top end speed and the ability to run down plays. He relies primarily on, what seem to be, elite instinct and recognition. He has a knack for finding the football and reads and reacts extremely quick. As our previous discussion with former Denver Broncos General Manager, Ted Sundquist, indicates, “being a successful linebacker in the NFL is about putting yourself in position to make plays, not necessarily ‘running them down’.”
Still, with everything else surrounding Te’o, he needs to run better at his pro-day to ensure a first round selection. He is very much on the fringe at this point.
Aside from Te’o, Alec Ogletree of Georgia is probably the most athletic interior linebacker of the group, having run a 4.70 40 yard dash at 6’2″ 242 lbs. Ogletree possesses some of the best sideline to sideline ability in the class and proved to have, not great, but adequate strength for the position (20 reps). A converted safety, Ogletree has the best ability to match up with athletic tight ends in coverage, but he has his troubles getting off blocks when engaged. A recent arrest on suspicion of DUI last weekend will also hurt his draft stock, culminating a trio of off the field offenses since 2010. He is a first round talent, but is the baggage worth the pick? Teams will have some time to decide.
Kevin Minter of LSU is another name to keep an eye one. Minter has very good short area quickness, and like Te’o, is a highly instinctive player. A 4.81 40 yard dash will draw questions similar to those surrounding Te’o’s three down ability. However, Minter is probably the best at shedding blocks, being aggressive, and using his hands and leverage of the top trio of linebackers. Considering the off the field questions surrounding the players aforementioned, he could end up being the first interior linebacker selected.
Florida’s Jon Bostic has stood out in recent film study due to his ability to recognize formations, make pre snap adjustments, and read and react to plays. Bostic seems to have a very high football IQ and displays an excellent command of the defense, as shown by his constant communication and ability to adjust, not only his alignment, but the alignment of his teammates, on the field. Speed has been a question mark, but a 4.61 40 yard dash put those questions to bed. He also displayed tremendous quickness in the 3-cone drill and 20 yard shuttle with times of 6.99 and 4.24, respectively. Bostic is an extremely tough, hard hitting player, who could sneak into the second round.
A lot of Good(en) in Zaviar
Missouri linebacker Zaviar Gooden put together the most complete performance of any linebacker on Monday posting a 4.47 40 yard dash, 27 reps on the bench, a 6.78 3-cone time, and a 4.18 20 yard shuttle. Gooden is strong, quick, and explosive (131 inch broad jump). What will hurt his draft stock is the fact that he is a bit undersized at just 6’1″ 234 lbs. This means he will likely be a 4-3 Will linebacker at the next level, a position that, other than some exceptions, is not necessarily worthy of a first round selection. Still, a very important name to watch moving forward.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for our day 4 recap and conclusion!