Most people are most excited about the offensive skill position player groups at the NFL combine, but this year I was excited about the defensive linemen and linebacker groups and they didn't disappoint. I'll have a quick review of what happened Monday and a preview for Tuesday's action (cornerbacks and safeties).
Boosted Their Stock
Guys we have discussed ad nausea like Ezekiel Ansah, Shariff Floyd, Sheldon Richardson, Barkevious Mingo, Margus Hunt and Datone Jones will not be discussed because everyone knew heading into the combine that they would look impressive. I'll focus on guys who stood out that weren't well known, or did more than expected.
The most impressive feat of the day belonged to Southern Mississippi linebacker Jamie Collins, who had a whopping broad jump of 139 inches (or 11 feet,7 inches). That is an indication of ridiculous explosion. He also ran a 4.64 40-yard dash, had a 41.5-inch vertical jump and had one of the fastest three-cone drills. He also measured in at 6 foot-3, 250 pounds with 33.75-inch long arms. Collins had 20 tackles for loss in 2012, and when a player from a less-known school has huge numbers you want to see how he looks in person where his athleticism can be measured against other players from higher level programs. This guy is an athletic freak and I'm going to see what I can find out about him and whether or not I can get some film on him.
Alec Ogletree. I'm singling out Ogletree here because he's my draft man crush. Ogletree has some off the field issues that will have to be heavily looked into, and while his 40-yard dash (4.70) wasn't as fast as I expected he showed off his natural athleticism in the position drills. Ogletree is a terrific athlete, he's very smooth and is at his best changing directions.
Sio Moore. Moore flashed when I watched UCConn play, but he has gone above and beyond during the pre-draft process. He was called in as relief in the Senior Bowl and without preparing for it specifically or expecting to attend had a great showing. He continued that at the combine. Moore is 6-1, 245 pounds with a 33 5/8-inch arms and larger than 10-inch hands. He ran a 4.65 40-yard dash, had 29 bench press reps, a 38-inch vertical jump, and a 127-inch broad jump. He's really been impressive and looks like a lock for day two and probably a mid-second round pick.
Cornelius Washington, Georgia. Ogletree's teammate put on an athletic freak show. Washington is 6-4, 265 pounds with 34-inch arms. He ran a 4.55 40-yard dash and put up 36 reps on the bench press. Oh, also throw in a 39-inch vertical. Washington had very little production at Georgia, but teams will now wonder if that's because of talent or opportunity. Georgia had a very good defense and he didn't get the playing time others did and was more of a situational pass rusher. Washington might have made himself some big money on Monday.
Corey Lemoiner, Auburn. I have him as a Round 2 type player and his athleticism was showcased today. I think he solidified a top 64 selection in the draft.
Ty Powell, Harding. Powell was in with the defensive line group but he checked in at only 6-2, 249 pounds. He ran a 4.64 40-yard dash and had a 38-inch vertical. I know nothing about him, but he's an intriguing late-round pick for someone, though I'm not sure what position he'll play. Maybe 3-4 inside linebacker?
Jon Bostic Florida. He looked smooth in the drills. He's also 6-1, 245 pounds and was productive at Florida. He's a second- or third-round option.
Players who Vontaze Burficted (Didn't show well)
Manti Te'o. Te'o looked smooth in the drills and his 4.82 40-yard dash wasn't completely unsurprising (though that slow was a little surprising). He was also a little shorter and smaller than advertised. But what bothers me more than anything about Te'o is the media circus he has become. He is right now the Tim Tebow of defense. Media is all over his every move and I have no interest in that personally if I'm a general manager. The upside does not out-weigh this downside.
Star Lotulelei, Utah. Lotulelei is a top five prospect on many boards, but he may have a heart condition that will cause him to never play football again ... or miss no time at all. Time will tell, but it's a major concern.
Damontre Moore, Texas A & M. Moore was considered by many a top 10 pick, but he only put up 12 reps on the bench press (which is terrible for a potential first-round pick at defensive line or linebacker) and then pulled up short because of injury during his second 40-yard dash after a disappointing 4.95 first 40.
Still, Moore is 6-4 with a 34.75-inch arm length and had 21 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks this year in the SEC and 17.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks last year in the Big 12 (A and M switched conferences this past year). This guy is a football player. I'm hoping 18 teams pass on him to give the Giants the option of selecting him at 19th overall.
Brandon Jenkins, FSU. At one point before back-to-back disappointing seasons (one season production was down a lot, and in 2012 he has a Lisfranc injury end his season prematurely). He just didn't look great at the combine and may now be an early day three pick as opposed to late round one.
Tuesday's two biggest names to watch for the Giants are Johnthan Banks and Xavier Rhodes. Both guys are big, talented cornerbacks. Banks measured in at 6-2, 185 pounds and 33 7/8-inch arms. Rhodes measured in at 6-1, 210 pounds with 33 3/4-inch arms. Both of these guys have questions about their straight line speed. Good 40-yard dashes could cement both players as top 20 picks (both are top 25 players on my board), slow 40s and the speed questions will persist.
Southeastern Louisiana cornerback Robert Alford is considered by many the best small school prospect to enter the draft and a potential top 40 pick. The combine isn't important for all players, but it can be very important for small school players. Alford has to show that the superior talented he displayed consistently against inferior competition is legitimate and not just showing up the inferior competition.
Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant has a shot at being the fourth cornerback off the board and a selection at the back end of round one.
North Carolina State's David Amerson has a big day ahead of him too. If he can show fluid hips and change of direction skills he could remain a cornerback. He has terrific ball skills, but he was listed at 6-3 and a 194 pounds at North Carolina State. He measured in at 6-1 and 205 pounds. That's quite a difference. He needs a big day.
Tyrann Mathieu of LSU put up a miserable four bench press reps. For a guy who has a lot of off the field concerns--putting up only four reps on the bench press won't make any team think he has been using his time wisely (in the weight room). He needs a huge day because right now he is an undersized character-problem who has terrible strength (Nickell Robey, USC who is only 5-7 and a 169 pounds, had 10 bench press reps).
Leon McFadden of San Diego State is another small school guy who has a shot at going in the second round if he can showcase true athleticism.
There are plenty of safeties to watch.
Florida's Matt Elam needs a big day because he is considered undersized, but a good player. A good showing could ease concerns and secure him a late first or early second round selection,.
John Cyprien from Florida International has had a great pre-draft process already. A good showing at the combine could make him the second safety off the board.
Losing one parent too early is a devastating event; losing both, then taking the lead in the household as the oldest of six children forces one to grow up in a hurry. Thomas lived through this unfortunate circumstance before the 2010 season, losing his mother to a heart condition and his father to a motorcycle accident within nine months. He considered leaving school for the NFL after his junior year to help provide for his family, but his patience -– along with his speed, athleticism, and bone-jarring tackles –- might pay off in a higher draft slot in the 2013 draft.