February 28, 2016

The honor of the 2016 Combine was at stake today, as the more highly regarded Defense took the field intending to demonstrate that the 2016 Draft has plenty of talent for NFL teams to choose from come April. To some extent they showed well, but I still perceive almost as many questions as answers came to the surface with today’s workouts.

Is JOEY BOSA the elite player he looked to be for the first two years of his college career, or has he already peaked? I’m not sure where you play this guy who now stands 6’5 and weights only 269 lbs. For me that’s too heavy for a standup OLB, as evidenced by a 4.86/40, and too light to set the edge against the run. I thought his overall performance today was mediocre, not that of a Top 5 Draft pick.

A similar scenario looks to be developing with SHAQ LAWSON/DE/CLEMSON. His 4.70/40 was considerably better than BOSA’s, but he too looks small (6’025″/269) for a DE slot in any alignment. Right now I’d say he may have to begin his NFL career as an edge-rush specialist.

EMMANUEL OGBAH, who seemed to be slipping in the ranking lists re-asserted himself as a potential top-notch, full-time DE prospect, with some serious pass-rush ability. At 6’4 & 273 lbs, with 35 1/2″ arms he ran a nifty 4.63/40-time. He looked smooth enough in drills to participate in the LB portion of workouts, and held his own.

There were some pleasant surprises of course, who will have personnel people running to the film room for more viewing, and booking flights to some Pro Day campus workouts they might not have been planning on attending a week ago.
JAVON HARGRAVE/DT/SC State, who showed really well at both the SHRINE & SENIOR BOWL venues continued to impress with his big bubble butt and surprising athleticism. At just over 6’1 and weighing 309 lbs. HARGRAVE ran a 4.93/40. Then he looked solid in on-field drills. Somebody has to take this guy in the Top 100 picks of he Draft.

I have always been a fan of record breaking efforts at the Combine. Top DL prospect DeFOREST BUCKNER of Oregon set a record just by being measured. His hand measured 11 3/4″, which is the biggest number ever recorded in that category.

Out of 64 DL prospects who participated today there were 18 who weighed at least 300 lbs. Just like in the OL group this seems to me to be a relatively low number. The heaviest DL in the group was CHRIS MAYES/DT/Georgia. Not exactly a household name.
Speaking of weight, I thought one of the more interesting body changes in the past month was by DE/SHAWN OAKMAN/Baylor. OAKMAN weighed in at 268 lbs. at the Senior Bowl a month ago. This week he checked into Indy weighing 287 lbs, looking a lot more like a football player, and less like a basket-baller. He ran a fairly slow 4.96/40, but some of that may be due to trying to adjust to a 19 lb. weight gain in one month.

Based on weights and frames that I saw today I think as many as 8-10 players working out in the DL group may have to seriously consider their potential NFL careers standing up at a LB position. And there may be another 3-5 who will be nothing more than Speed-Rushers and Special Teamers.

Perhaps the two most intriguing guys on the day for me were CHARLES TAPPER & MATT JUDON.
TAPPER was in Mobile and had a solid week playing in the DE group there. Based on numbers from this week TAPPER may be a multi-use surprise for some lucky NFL Defensive Coordinator. TAPPER stood 6’025″ tall with 34 3/8″ arms and 11 1/2″ hands. He also posted a 40-time of 4.59, at 271 lbs. He looked totally comfortable in drills calling for him to play in reverse.
JUDON is my small school sleeper from Grand Valley State. He was scheduled to play in the Shrine Game, but bowed out because of pre-existing injury conditions. However, his numbers at the Combine and his athletic looking workouts today have gotten my attention. He measured 6’3 and weighed 275 lbs. He has 9 1/2″ hands and 33 7/8″ arms. He also blazed a 4.73/40, in addition to hitting the 30-rep mark in the Bench Press. This guy is a big time athlete, and should be rising up the prospect lists over the next two months.

Perhaps the most uninspiring performance today was that of NOAH SPENCE, who had been gaining a lot of momentum since performing at the Senior Bowl. His 4.80/40 was not what many felt he needed to run as an under sized (6’024/251 lbs) DE and his on field work did not inspire me to see him converting to OLB easily. That would make him a speed-rusher and certainly not a First Round Pick.

After watching the workouts and perusing the numbers of this DL group, I think they confirmed expectations that it is probably the best and deepest position group of this year’s Draft. In a quick count today I estimate that between 10-12 DL could go in Round 1 alone. Expect as many as two dozen to be in the Top 100 Draft PIcks overall.

I felt the LB group of 39 prospects had some very interesting prospects, but not very many elite true stand-up LB types.

The clear star of the afternoon was DARREN LEE/Ohio State, who just blew things up on his measurables sheet. At 6’006″/232 lbs, his 4.47/40-time would have put him in the top 10 list of fastest WR yesterday. He also has 9 3/4″ hands and 33 1/4″ long arms. He is clearly a superior athlete and was incredibly productive on a very talented Buckeyes Defense, including 66 tackles in 2015. Having played INside a lot at Ohio State transitioning to the outside would seem to be no big deal for this young man.

One of the most pleasant surprises when the numbers were tallied was LEONARD FLOYD/Georgia who looked like the ‘Thin Man’ for most of his career in Athens. He checked in bigger than advertised at 6’055″/244 lbs. The added weight didn’t seem to slow him down much as he ran a 4/60/40. 10″+ hands and 33″+ arm length also bode well for him. He looks like a full sized athlete now and has maintained his speed and quickness. He now seems poised to make a real push for a First Round draft slot.

I heard much speculation in NFL Network coverage today that ERIC STRIKER/Oklahoma may eventually spend at least some of his time in the NFL at a Safety position. THat is due in part to the reality that at 5’11” & 227 lbs. it may be hard for him to hold up as a full-time LB. His 4.80/40 does not scream out or a move to S, but perhaps if he lost 10 lbs he could cut that number down a bit. Expect him to be drafted in Round 4 and earn a living initially on coverage units on Special Teams.

My sleeper of the day at LB is STEPHEN WEATHERLY/Vanderbilt. At 6’043″ & 267 lbs. he ran himself a 4.61/40. His 34 1/2″ arms and 10+” hands are also exciting. He looked athletic enough to have some long range potential as an OLB in a 3-4 scheme. Keep your eyes on him the next two months. I expect the Vandy Pro Day will have a larger than originally expected scouting turnout in attendance.

One more group on Monday with the DB group wrapping things up. Be prepared to put up with constant babbling and language butchering from DEION SANDERS down on the field all day long. Keep the aspirin handy.