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2022 NFL Scouting Combine: One final Saturday to remember

The defensive line, EDGE rushers, and linebackers did not disappoint in Indianapolis.

2022 CFP National Championship - Georgia v Alabama Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

The third day of the 2022 NFL Combine produced a lot of excitement and buzz. Defensive linemen and linebackers excelled with their testing and on-field drills while wearing shorts & tee-shirts. The New York Giants are looking for EDGE and linebacker help; they have many interesting names who will meet their qualifications.

The larger defensive linemen started the workouts before the EDGE defenders took the field. The linebackers concluded the day with plenty of athletic size/speed second-level defenders who could be options for the Giants on day two.

The one thing consistent with all three position groups was the elite nature of the Georgia Bulldogs’ defense.

Georgia’s defense

Defensive linemen Jordan Davis performed what seemed to be the impossible. He measured at 6-foot-6, 341 pounds, and he ran a 4.78-second 40-yard-dash with a 1.68-second 10-yard-split. He also jumped 10-foot-3 in the broad (led the DL) and 32 inches in the vertical (was second in the DL). These are insane testing numbers at his size.

Testing this well, at his size, is rare. More than rare!

Davis was frequently mocked in the top-10 through the 2021 collegiate season. Playing in a deep rotation led to him being often substituted, leading to concerns about being a part-time player. Draft pundit speculation prognosticated that he’d go on day two - that seems unlikely after this performance.

Testing well is great, but then watch his movement skills during the on-field drills:

Davis had one of the best weight-adjusted combines in the history of the NFL, and he overshadowed fellow Georgia DL Devonte Wyatt.

Wyatt looked great in the figure-eight drill; he’s quick, smooth, and explosive. He ran a 4.77 at 304 pounds - that is insane! Yet, Davis running a 4.78 at 341 pounds overshadows an outstanding Combine performance by Wyatt.

Wyatt was the fifth-ranked player on Bruce Feldman’s freak list heading into the 2021 season. He jumped a 9-foot-3 in the broad and 29 inches in the vertical. His 4.77 40-yard-dash led the DL. Davis’ and Wyatt’s excellence paved the way for Travon Walker in the second group.

Walker ran a 4.51 40 at 6-foot-5, 272 pounds with elite testing numbers.

He’s long, explosive, can bend, is wildly versatile, and he plays with incredible power. He is so moldable and is just scratching the surface of his potential. I don’t think he’ll fall out of the top ten.

Walker was one of the five EDGE prospects to run the 3-cone. He ran a 6.89 - a very good score. Star Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean did not participate at the Combine, but both Channing Tindell and Quay Walker represented the Bulldogs’ linebacking corps with pride. Dean did measure sub-6-foot which was one of the questions surrounding his profile.

Tindell ran a fast 4.47 40 at 6-foot-2, 230-pounds with a 42-inch vertical and 10-foot-9 broad. His 40 time ranked third among LB behind Montana State’s Troy Andersen (4.42) and Alabama’s Christian Harris (4.44).

Tindall’s vertical was the highest at the combine (so far). Walker ran a 4.52 at 6-foot-4, 241 pounds with a 32-inch vertical and a 10-foot-2 broad. The NFL Network crew stated that Walker had formal meetings with over twenty teams. It’s not a surprise. Both Walker and Tindall are options for the Giants on Day 2.

The Georgia Bulldogs’ defense was well represented at the Combine. There could realistically be eight players in the top 100.

Kayvon Thibodeaux

The Oregon pass-rusher measured at 6-foot-4, 254 pounds, with 33⅛-inch arms and 9¾inch hands. He ranked sixth with a 4.58 40. He led the defensive ends with 27 reps of 225 pounds on the bench.

As the defensive linemen transitioned away from the 40-yard-dash and into their on-field drills, Thibodeaux started collecting his belongings and didn’t follow the rest of the prospects. The NFL Network crew briefly speculated an injury before Stacey Dales reported that Thibodeaux would wait until his Pro Day to run defensive line and linebacker drills.

Thibodeaux watched as the rest of the participants tested. This may not sit well with some evaluators around the league since there were already questions - fair or unfair - about Thibodeaux’s desire, passion, and competitive toughness. Removing himself from drills further promulgates the Oregon star’s negative enigmatic narrative. It doesn’t help his cause.

Suppose evaluators hold Thibodeaux’s decision against him. In that case, I wonder if they maintain that energy with Penn State’s Arnold Ebiketie or Purdue’s George Karlaftis - both of whom didn’t run the 40.

I’m currently watching Thibodeaux’s tape. I’ve only seen one 2021 game (Fresno State, where he rolled his ankle), and three 2020 games. The leverage he established, how he uses every inch of arm length, and the sheer power on contact are excellent traits to build upon. I haven’t seen him take plays off. However, he’s raw. It doesn’t appear - in the tape I’ve seen - that he has much of a pass-rush plan. He has a bull in the china shop approach and his natural gifts allowed him to succeed in college.

The allure around Thibodeaux is based on his raw traits and his ability to win with those traits in the Pac-12. I like Thibodeaux, but Travon Walker has to be discussed if we’re betting on raw traits.

I’m sure Thibodeaux will look great at his Pro Day on April 2. He’s definitely still an option for the Giants in Round 1.

Defensive line

Only three defensive linemen performed on the bench. UCLA’s Otito Ogbonnia did 29 reps, Arizona State’s DJ Davidson did 23, and Tennessee’s Matthew Butler did 17.

The two Georgia defensive linemen stole the show, but UCONN’s Travis Jones also looked smooth in drills and ran a 4.92 40 at 325 pounds. Jones as light feet, quick heavy hands, and is difficult to move off the line of scrimmage.

It’s almost unfair that players like Jones and Davis can move like this in space.

Other winners with testing are Matthew Butler, who jumped 32 inches in the vertical and 9-foot-4 in the broad. Senior Bowl MVP Perrion Winfrey out of Oklahoma ran a 4.89 40 at 290 pounds. He came up limping at the end of his 40 attempt.

EDGE rushers

Michigan EDGE defenders Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo were impressive in the on-field drills. The latter was faster in the 40 and jumped further in the broad, but the former had a higher vertical by an inch. Both players figure to be selected in the top 20.

Not many players ran the three-cone at the Combine this year, but Hutchinson did. He ran a 6.73 second 3-cone - a very good score and an indication of great change of direction and lateral agility. Ebiketie didn’t run the 40 but jumped 38 inches in the vertical and 10-foot-8 in the broad. Ebiketie looked very fluid and smooth in drills.

That is a smooth dip of the inside shoulder against the daunting blue bag, but the movement, bend, and footwork are proficient.

Virginia Tech’s Amare Barno tested excellently. He ran the fastest 40 at 4.36 seconds. He’s 6-foot-5, 246 pounds, with a 38-inch vertical and a position leading 10-foot-11 broad jump. I’m not privy to Barno’s tape, but testing this way at an event like the Combine may send some NFL evaluators back to his tape.

Minnesota’s Boye Mafe’s offseason ascension up draft boards continued at the Combine. Mafe ran a 4.57 40, jumped 38 inches in the vert and 10-feet 5 inches in the broad. It was rumored Mafe would test well - he didn’t disappoint at 6-foot-4, 261 pounds.

During Senior Bowl week, Flordia State’s Jermaine Johnson II was arguably the best EDGE performer. He was so impactful in Tuesday and Wednesday practice that he didn’t compete on Thursday. Johnson II ran a 4.58 40 at 6-foot-5, 254 pounds and jumped a modest 32 inches in the vertical and 10-foot-5 in the broad.

Late-round EDGE defenders who moved well in positional drills were Miami (Ohio) Dominique Robinson and Western Kentucky’s DeAngelo Malone.

Malone didn’t run the 40, but he looked very quick with little wasted movements in drills. He is 6-foot-3, 243-pounds, with 33 1/8 inch arms and 9⅞-inch hands. Robinson posted a 41-inch vertical, which is in the 98th percentile. Robinson was second behind Thibodeaux in the bench with 25-reps. He ran a 4.72 40 at 6-inch-5, 253 pounds.

Linebackers

Montana State’s Troy Andersen was the first linebacker to test and he ran the fastest time at 4.42. Andersen spent some of his collegiate time at quarterback and running back; his fluidity and versatility are very apparent. Andersen also jumped 36 inch in the vert and 10-foot-8 in the broad at 6-foot, 3½ inches, 243 pounds.

Alabama’s Christian Harris proved his speed with a 4.44 40, and was explosive with an 11-foot broad jump and a 34.5 inch vertical. He’s slightly undersized at slightly over 6-foot and 226-pounds. Harris also showed off his movement skills and his quick feet.

Wisconsin’s Leo Chenal didn’t disappoint at the Combine. He jumped 40.5 inches in the vertical and 10-feet 8 inches in the broad at 6-foot-3, 250-pounds. Chenal also ran a 4.53 40. His name is important to monitor; the transition between Jim Leonhard’s defense at Wisconsin and Don “Wink” Martindale seems similar, and Chenal could thrive with the Giants next season. Here are the position group testing numbers:

Two linebackers jumped over 11-feet in the broad with Harris and Florida’s Jeremiah Moon. Saturday’s testing was a great indication of the athletic capabilities of this rookie class. Players like LSU’s Damone Clark and Utah’s Devin Lloyd both tested well - and their tape shows good athletes - but they weren’t the top of their positions.

Clark is a name to watch for on day two. He’s just under 6-foot-3, 239 pounds with 33-inch arms; he ran a 4.57 40, jumped 36.5 inches in the vert, and 10-foot-7 in the broad. Clark’s 2020 to 2021 jump was incredible; he earned the coveted No. 18 jersey and was a true leader at LSU in 2021.

Lloyd was a revered leader at Utah. I thought he would run faster than a 4.66 40. Mocks place Lloyd in the top 10 to the Giants - that’s rich for me. He’s still a good player who is very coachable at a position of need.

Wyoming’s Chad Muma jumping 40 inches in the vertical at 6-foot-3, 239 pounds, while also jumping 10-foot-9 in the broad substantiated his lower body explosiveness. He’s another day two prospect for the Giants. A 4.63 40 isn’t bad for that size.

The undersized Malcolm Rodriguez also had a good combine, running a 4.52 40 while jumping 39.5 inches in the vertical and 10 feet in the broad jump. Rodriguez was only 5-foot-11 but had good thickness at 232 pounds. He’ll be a late Day 3 option as an aggressive second-level defender with good short-area quickness.