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2023 NFL Scouting Combine Day 1 - Winners

Who helped themselves on the first day of on-field workouts?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 29 Florida vs Georgia Photo by John Adams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The first day of on-field workouts for the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine is in the books. We were treated to a fantastic day of performances as incredibly athletic humans did incredibly athletic things.

We knew that this year’s draft had a very strong class of defensive linemen, edge defenders, and linebackers. But even knowing that, this year’s performances were impressive and records were threatened.

The New York Giants could use players (starters or depth) at all three positions, and we know they were watching closely. Who were the winners from the day’s workouts?

Calijah Kancey (DT, Pittsburgh)

Not only did Kancey measure bigger than listed (something that rarely happens), he ran a 4.67 40-yard dash with a 1.64 second 10-yard split. Official.

I predicted that prior to the on-field workout that if Kancey tested as well as we thought he might, he’d start getting “Aaron Donald” comparisons. Well, let the comps roll:

Donald’s workout boosted his draft stock from outside the first round to 13th overall. How high will Kancey’s stock rise?

Brian Bresee (DT, Clemson)

Today was more about confirming what we knew with Bresee. There were questions regarding his athleticism and movement skills after much of his college career was disrupted by injury, illness, and tragedy. However, Bresee not only had great numbers, but a great workout as well. He was quick, smooth, and controlled, yet explosive in his movements.

The comment was made during the broadcast that Bresee had regained his freshman form. I’d certainly agree, and he could be the steal of the draft.

Gervon Dexter (DT, Florida)

When Daniel Jeremiah asked Ravens defensive lineman Calais Campbell who caught his eye, he called out Dexter and said the Florida defensive lineman had made a fan out of him [Campbell].

Dexter has great size at 6-foot-6, 310 pounds and had a 4.88-second 40 to go with a 31-inch vertical and a 9-foot-2 broad jump. I had concerns about his ability to consistently time the snap in college, but his athleticism can’t be question. It was on display on the field and in this workout, and he definitely helped his draft stock today.

Adetomiwa Adebawore (DL, Northwestern)

As impressive as Kancey’s workout was, it didn’t take long for him to be upstaged. The second group (the EDGE rushers) gave us a bunch of impressive workouts. Adetomiwa Adebawore out of Northwestern turned in a 4.49 second 40-yard dash with a 1.61 second 10-yard split.

His 1.61 second 10-yard split suggests his explosiveness, but his 10-foot 5-inch broad jump and 37.5-inch vertical confirmed it. Oh, and he also looked smooth, fast, and natural playing in space in the linebacker drills.

At 6-foot-2, 282 pounds.

Other players with his level of explosiveness? J.J. Watt and Mario Williams.

We’ll probably be hearing Adebawore’s name quite a bit over the next couple months, so as a PSA, it’s pronounced “Add-E-TOMMY-wah Add-E-BAR-eh”.

Nolan Smith (EDGE, Georgia)

It was a question whether Smith would even work out today after having a season-ending torn pec in 2022. His athleticism showed up on tape, and he showed out in his workout.

It says something about just how athletic Smith is that an unofficial 4.44 second 40-yard dash (with an absurd 1.51 second 10-yard split) at 238 pounds left him “fuming” on the side. Apparently, Smith had been timing in the 4.3’s in practice... Which just so happens to be where his official time landed, with a 4.39. Smith also turned in a 41.5 inch vertical leap and a 10-foot-8 broad jump. He was compared to Haason Reddick before his workout and turned in one of the most freakish workouts we’ve seen in some time.

Byron Young (EDGE, Tennessee)

Speaking of edge defenders who had themselves a day, Tennessee’s Byron Young made a whole lot of scouts forget about his age. As we noted before the Combine started, Young has had a long and winding road to today, and is one of the older players in the draft and will be 25 on draft day.

Young had a phenomenal workout with numbers (4.43 second 40, 38-inch vertical, 11-foot broad jump) that would have been the talk of Indy had Nolan Smith and Adebawore not thrown down their workouts. Young was also very impressive in the field drills and looked like an off-ball linebacker in the wave and coverage drills.

He made himself some money Thursday.

Lukas Van Ness (edge, Iowa)

Van Ness’ nickname around the Iowa program is “Hercules” and he certainly backed it up on the field today. His 4.54-second 40 at 6-foot-5, 272 pounds (what are they feeding these kids, and where can I get some?) was impressive enough.

His field workout at that size was very impressive. He showed fantastic movement skills and looked surprisingly natural doing linebacker drills.

Not bad for a hocky player.

Derick Hall (edge, Auburn)

Another edge rusher, another impressive workout showing off explosive athleticism.

Hall put up the kind of numbers we’ve come to expect from this group of edge rushers. A 4.55 second 40, 33.5-inch vertical, and 10-foot-7 broad jump are all great for Hall. It’s a mark of just how incredible these athletes are that Hall’s numbers are par for the course.

He was a bit stiff when asked to move in space, but he did well enough to give coaches confidence that he could execute zone drops if he needed to.

Jeremy Banks (LB, Tennessee)

Banks stumbled (twice) in his first 40 and still came away with an unofficial 4.79 second time. That suggested that he was going to turn a good time if he ran a clean 40 — and he did, with a 4.59 to go with a 37.5-inch vertical

As draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah and Buccaneers linebacker Devin White said during the broadcast, linebackers need to be able to run now. Banks is one of several true off-ball linebackers who had a great field workout to go with impressive measurables. He was quick, fast, and smooth

Owen Pappoe (LB, Auburn)

Clemson’s Trenton Simpson was expected to be the most athletic linebacker on the property, but Pappoe took the cake. He turned in a 4.39 second 40, and was undeniably twitchy in the field drills. It’s tough to be as explosively athletic as Pappoe is and also remain under control, but he pulled it off.

Scouts will likely be going back to Pappoe’s tape after this workout.

Dee Winters (LB, TCU)

Winters had one of the more surprising workouts on the day. He was a good linebacker at TCU who made plays as a run defender, coverage player, and pass rusher. However, I had questions whether he could run with more athletic tight ends and running backs in coverage at the NFL level.

Well, he turned around and ran a 4.49 second 40. Winters was overshadowed by the other players to turn in incredible workouts, but the NFL likely took notice.