First of all, it was surprising to see a large list of defensive linemen that did not participate in the bench press. That group included: Oklahoma's Frank Alexander, Arkansas' Jake Bequette, Clemson's Andre Branch, Alabama's Josh Chapman, Penn State's Jack Crawford, Nebraska's Jared Crick, Marshall's Vinny Curry, USC's Dajohn Harris, Virginia's Cam Johnson, and Michigan State's Jerel Worthy. Some are dealing with injuries, while others declined for unknown reasons.
For the second day in a row, LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers deserved a lot of attention. This time the news wasn't positive as Brockers managed only 19 reps in the bench press. That tied him for last with two other defensive linemen, and it was only three reps more than 180-pound running back Chris Rainey. Brockers (6-5, 322) has long arms, which hurt him on the bench press, but 19 is a strikingly low total. That could be a real concern that teams will want to investigate.
For months, the favorite to be the first defensive linemen drafted has been North Carolina's Quinton Coples. He wasn't terrible on the bench press, but he fell short of expectations with 25 reps. Coples (6-6, 284) is large man, and has the frame to have more power than that.
Mammmoth defensive tackle Dontari Poe had the largest bench press total with 44 reps. Poe (6-4, 346) is a power nose tackle who is making a push for the first round.
USC defensive end Nick Perry (6-3, 271) has added bulk, and apparently it was good weight as he logged an impressive total of 35 reps on the bench press. Perry needs to perform well in the field agility drills to be considered for 3-4 defenses.
Slimmed-down South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram (6-1, 264) logged a decent total of 28 reps. He may have been able to do more at the Senior Bowl when he was weighing over 270. Ingram has short arms and that helped him in the bench press.
Boise State outside linebacker/defensive end Shea McClellin (6-3, 260) tied with Brockers for the worst total among defensive linemen with 19. McClellin is more of an outside linebacker.
A favorite to go in the first round had a disappointing total. Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still (6-5, 303) notched a total of 26 reps. Still plays with power, so it was surprising that he didn't reach or surpass 30 reps.
Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin (6-1, 306) showed off a massive upper body, which caused murmurs at the Senior Bowl weigh-in. At the Combine, Martin put the muscle to use with a total of 36 reps on the bench press. Martin has done a lot to help his stock since the season ended.
Martin was matched at 36 by Connecticut defensive tackle Kendall Reyes. He had a strong Senior Bowl and illustrated the power to bull rush offensive linemen. Reyes produced a nice total in the bench press to help confirm his stock as a second-day pick.
A player that has added weight recently was Cincinnati defensive tackle/end Derek Wolfe. At the Senior Bowl, Wolfe (6-4) was weighing 286 pounds. Since then, he has added nine pounds to reach 295. Wolfe used that weight to help produce a respectable total of 33 reps in the bench press. As a senior, Wolfe showed some nice power and physicality. He could use that to take on guards or offensive tackles in the NFL.
Troy outside linebacker/defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi (6-2, 264) was heavier than expected. He was listed at 250 pounds by Troy. The added weight didn't help Massaquoi in the bench press as he had a low total of 20 reps. Massaquoi may not have the strength to line up with his hand in the ground in a 4-3 and hold up against offensive linemen.
Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus (6-4, 261) had 27 reps. That mark doesn't help Mercilus, but it shouldn't hurt him either.
An inconsistent performer in the 2011 season and the Senior Bowl was Washington defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu (6-4, 348), who powered out 35 reps on the bench press. His total was a solid number for a heavy nose tackle prospect.
Miami early-entry Marcus Forston was injured for most of the 2011 season, but he evidently didn't get lazy in the weight room. Forston (6-1, 301) produced 35 reps on the bench press. It was a nice total for a speedy, gap-shooting defensive tackle. Forston clearly has been putting in the time in the weight room.
A potential nose tackle in a 4-3 defense, Clemson's Brandon Thompson, had an impressive total of 35 reps. That number should help Thompson (6-2, 314), as he is a solid second-rounder.
2012 NFL Combine: Bench Press Recap - Linebackers
A few of the big-name linebacker prospects did not participate in the bench press. Alabama's Dont'a Hightower, North Carolina's Zach Brown and Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict all didn't lift on Sunday, and it is disappointing not to have their results to compare with the other linebackers.
Alabama outside linebacker/defensive end Courtney Upshaw (6-2, 272) had 22 reps on the bench press. That was about average for the linebackers, but when you consider that he weighs 30-40 pounds more than the other linebackers, his total was definitely a disappointment. Upshaw showed strength on the field with a powerful bull rush, so it is peculiar that he didn't produce more in the bench press. This could cause some teams to do some re-evaluation.
The consensus top inside linebacker, Boston College's Luke Kuechly, pumped out 27 reps on the bench press. Kuechly (6-3, 242) showed more power than one might think he would have. That score tied for fifth among linebackers. The Combine is probably not the best environment for Kuechly, but his solid bench press total shows he may have more strength and athleticism than many think.
Miami linebacker Sean Spence (5-11, 231) is too small to play in a non 4-3 defense, and he showed a serious lack of strength with only 12 reps on the bench press. Every running back who participated in the Combine bench press produced more reps than him. Those are some of the players that Spence will be charged with tackling on Sundays, so his lack of size and strength is a serious red flag for an NFL linebacker.
West Virginia outside linebacker Bruce Irvin (6-3, 245) had 23 reps on the bench press, which was slightly above average. Irvin needs to continue to fill out his frame so he can function as a situational pass-rusher.
Three linebacker prospects produced 19 reps on the bench press. TCU's Tank Carder, North Carolina State's Audie Cole and Nebraska's Lavonte David all matched each other. The 40 time and linebacker drills will be critical for all three of them to show off their speed.
The linebacker who took the prize for the most reps was Arkansas State's Demario Davis. The 6-foot-2, 235-pounder produced a superb total of 32 reps. Davis is a sleeper prospect who showed some speed and physicality at the Senior Bowl. If he runs well on Monday, that should definitely help give his stock a boost after having a dominant showing on the bench press.
Falling just short of tying Davis for the lead was San Diego State linebacker Miles Burris with 31 reps. Burris (6-2, 246) looks like his best fit would be as a 3-4 edge rusher, and it would help him if he could add some more weight for that role. Burris is a day-three prospect who could be worth a gamble.
LSU linebacker Ryan Baker (5-11, 232) recorded 30 reps on the bench press, which was good for the third highest total of all the linebackers. Baker needs to have a good Combine to help standout from the crowd.
I also think free safety is the big need, not necessarily strong safety. We can live another year with Devon Kindred and Ibraheim Campbell at strong safety. Maybe if we didn't have so many other more pressing needs I wouldn't mind addressing SS, but there are other priorities on this team.