With the offensive prospects getting their work in over the weekend, the defensive line and linebacker took to the field yesterday to show their wares at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. Much like the Johnny Manziel and Sammy Watkins-filled storylines that drove the talking points for the majority the opening couple of days, there were a handful of defensive players that were “must-watch” headliners. With Jadeveon Clowney, Michael Sam, and a handful of other notables, there was plenty to keep Rich Eisen, Mike Mayock, and the rest of the armchair GMs amused.
Yesterday, we touched on a handful of winner and losers from the opening weekend of the Combine. Today, we’ll do the same with the defensive line and linebacker groups.
Winner: Khalil Mack, OLB (Buffalo)
Recently, draft expert, Mike Mayock, put the University of Buffalo prospect in the conversation for the No.1 overall pick. Mack had leaped up big boards over the last couple of months, usurping both C.J. Mosley (Alabama) and Anthony Barr (UCLA) to stake claim as the top linebacker prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft class. The 6’3 tall, 251 lbs. backfield-disrupting specialist did nothing to dissuade those claims on Monday, notching Top 10 performances in four of the six workout events. His 4.18 20-yard shuttle was second-best in the positional grouping, matching his rank in both the vertical (40.0 in.) and broad jump (128.0 in). Mack was one of the few players whose explosiveness on tape matched his explosiveness at the Combine.
Loser: Anthony Barr, OLB (UCLA)
While most at the Combine would not call a 4.66 40-time a disappointment, many had speculated that the fullback-turned-linebacker would post somewhere in the high 4.4 to low 4.5 range during his workout. Barr was still a “top performer” in both the 3 cone drill and 20-yard shuttle, but, unlike Mack, did not show the same explosiveness that most had seen on film. Barr also was “meh” in his on-field performance, occasionally showing signs of his “greenness” as a linebacker.
Winner: Louis Nix, DT (Notre Dame)
As expected, Nix was not overly impressive in any of the measurable events, clocking the second-slowest 40-time of the defensive line grouping, and putting up medial numbers in the rest of the workouts. However, the fact that Nix participated in all of the drills and cleared (at last from what we’ve heard) all of the team physicals is a huge plus for the top ranked nose tackle, especially considering the persistent knee injury that plagued him for most of the 2013 season. Nix also weighed in at a mere 332 lbs., which was surprisingly light; an ideal size for a player who struggled with maintaining that slim frame in college. Nix has no real competition as the top nose tackle prospect, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t push himself up the board a little with his showing on Monday.
Loser: Jadeveon Clowney, DE (South Carolina)
Once you have broken into the echelon of the “potential” top overall player, there is very little that can genuinely effect your stock. Clowney did run an impressive 4.53 40-time, and managed Top 10 figured in both the vertical and broad jump. However, Clowney did little to dissuade the notion of having a poor “work ethic” and lacking the competitive drive necessary to compete at the next level. Despite participation in all of the “measurable” event, Clowney chose to sit out all of the defensive line drills, instead opting to watch from the sideline, or snag some airtime with the NFL Network hosts. Juxtaposing Blake Bortes “improved” his image through his participation in the throwing drills over the weekend, Clowney did nothing to change his image through his Combine performance… aside from showing that he can run in a straight line very fast.