In what is arguably the most important day at the Combine where pass rushers are measured for explosiveness and tweener defensive ends forced to move on their feet, here's a recap of what you may have missed Monday from the defensive linemen and linebackers.
Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis - So far, no one has helped themselves as much as Dontari Poe. At 6'4, 346 pounds, he ran a 4.98 40 yard dash, lifted 225 44 times, and posted solid quick area movement skills in both the shuttle and cone drills. Though most of it is irrelevant to playing inside where tackles are asked to move a maximum of 7-10 yards through competition, what this does show scouts is his high end athletic ability and his desire to do what it takes to achieve his goals. In a more applicable test, Poe also shined in position drills, solidifying himself among the top of the class at his position.
Andre Branch, DE, Clemson - With great explosion and overall athleticism, Branch helped himself this week as much as any defensive end. His 4.70 40 time was among the best at his position, but his first few steps out of the gate looked as impressive as any today. His 10'0" broad jump shows terrific lower body explosiveness, which is one of the most important traits for a pass rusher.
Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB - In a week notorious for exaggerating inches, Melvin Ingram will come up on the short end of that one (yes, horrible pun there). At 6'1 1/2 with only 31 1/2" arms, some base 4-3 teams may begin to question whether he has the length to play defensive end. Players have succeeded at the next level with equivalent size overcoming their short arms with a great hand game and an explosive punch. Ingram has both and, to me, still remains one of the more versatile players in the class.
Shea McClellin, DE, Boise State - With a great outing in the position-specific drills translating the speed and quickness he showed in the 40 yard dash, shuttle, and cone drills, McClellin helped himself out this week. He showed good bend around the bags and good pop in his punch.
Nick Perry, DE, USC -Nick Perry's size (6'3, 271), speed (4.64 40), explosion (35" vert, 10'4' broad), and strength (35 reps) will appeal strongly to base 4-3 fronts this April. When asked to play more on his feet, his tightness was exposed, which will temper the enthusiasm shown by 34 fronts.
Mike Martin, DT, Michigan - Some teams may struggle to fit his proportions to their scheme, but the one that puts him on the field may get some great value. Martin plays with great leverage, has excellent strength, and brings explosion inside off the snap--all things he confirmed at the Combine.
Vinny Curry, DE/OLB, Marshall - On a day where pass rushers are measured primarily by their speed and explosiveness, Curry may begin to descend down some boards with his numbers in relation to his peers. He didn't display the quick get-off in the 40 or the explosiveness and power in the jumps or the drills.
Bruce Irvin, DE/OLB, West Virgina - Running with the defensive ends at 6'3, 245 pounds, of course Irvin looked super fast clocking in with a 4.50 40. While other outside linebackers such as Ingram and Upshaw had the opportunity to help themselves at the Senior Bowl, Irvin took advantage of his first offseason event to put himself back on the radar. There are some concerns with Irvin as a prospect including his ability to be a three-down backer, but his ability to attack the edge at the snap will help teams forget about that.
Mychal Kendricks, LB, California - Kendricks could be the next NFL product from a Cal front 7 that has produced quite a bit of talent over the last decade. At 5'11, 239 pounds, he's undersized (as many Cal front 7 guys are), but has the athleticism and violence to play inside at the next level. On Monday, he posted some of the best numbers at his position including a day's best 4.47 40 yard dash.
Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State - The last year has been one to forget for Vontaze Burfict who has probably cost himself several of millions of dollars over that time span. After a strong sophomore season, he struggled as a junior, raise some character concerns, and will now have his athleticism put under the microscope. The hard hitter ran the only 40 over 5 seconds (5.09) and lacked explosiveness going through the drills. How far he'll drop as a result is anyone's guess.
Demario Davis, OLB, Arkansas State - At 6'2, 235, Davis also plays with a lot of explosiveness. He has the speed to track and close on the football as evidenced by his 4.61 40 and looks comfortable changing directions.
Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama - Hightower is a true thumper inside. Some will question his athleticism as he looked tight and a little heavy-footed dropping back and changing direction, but for an inside linebacker, Hightower can be a force when he gets going and his motor is running strong. This week didn't do too much to help or hurt him, but solidified exactly what he is.
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