The most impressive defensive lineman at the Combine was mammoth Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe, and he may have helped himself more than any other prospect in the 2012 NFL Draft class. He blew up the Combine and made huge waves with his foot speed. Poe (6-4, 346) ran the 40-yard dash at 4.87 and 4.94 unofficially. The official time was 4.98. His 10-yard splits were 1.7 and 1.68. Those are stunning times for a defensive tackle who is close to 350. He also was strong in the bag drills on the field. Plus, he recorded the largest bench press total with 44 reps on Sunday. Poe is a power nose tackle who is making a push into the top 25 picks of the first round.
West Virginia outside linebacker Bruce Irvin (6-3, 245) had a good day in the field drills, as expected. Irvin is much lighter than the defensive linemen, so he was predicted to stand out from a speed and athletic standpoint. In the 40-yard dash, Irvin blazed an unofficial time of 4.43 with a 10-yard split of 1.54 seconds. Irvin's official run was at 4.5, so no matter which number you take, it was a fast time. Not surprisingly, Irvin looked good in outside linebacker drills. That is his natural and really his only position in the NFL. Irvin did what he needed to do in Indianapolis.
It wasn't surprising that North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples ran well at the Combine. He is an excellent athlete who looked more like a skill-position player rather than a defensive lineman. Coples (6-6, 284) had unofficial 40 times of 4.75 and 4.72. His 10-yard split of 1.63 was truly exceptional. His official 40 was 4.78. Coples performed well in the bag drills. He bends well and has good change-of-direction quickness. Coples' broad jump and vertical jump were a little below average. There is no doubt that he is a special athlete, and at the Combine he proved he had the physical make up to be a high first-rounder.
Another defensive tackle who starred in the linemen workouts was Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox. The big defensive tackle displayed quick feet and athleticism in the bag drills. Cox (6-4, 298) had an unofficial and official 40 time of 4.79 with a 10-yard split of 1.63. Those are fast times for a tackle pushing 300 pounds. Cox is a fast and versatile athlete who looked very good in every drill. He did his part to confirm a first=round grade.
South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram (6-1, 264) was one of the stars on Monday. He ran an unofficial 40-yard dash of 4.66 seconds and an official time of 4.79. Ingram had some minor issues, but was very athletic going through bag drills. Ingram's His movement and flexibility was phenomenal in the outside linebacker drills. Teams that run a 3-4 defense will like how natural Ingram moved in his pass drops and slid across the field. Ingram helped himself at the Senior Bowl and continued that with an impressive Combine.
It would be impossible to keep USC defensive end Nick Perry (6-3, 271) off a most impressive list. Perry ran a 40-yard dash at 4.5 flat unofficially. His 10-yard split was 1.57. The official time was 4.64. Those are amazing times for a 270-pound defensive end. He popped up 35 reps on the bench press a day earlier, and led all defensive linemen with a 38.5-inch vertical jump. Perry had some stiffness in the field drills, but for his game as a rushing defensive end, he looked the part and showed the skills. Perry has confirmed his grade as a late first-round candidate.
Oklahoma linebacker Ronnell Lewis worked out with the defensive ends, and he had a very good day on Monday. He ran an official 4.68 40-yard dash. What was really impressive about Lewis was how athletic he was in the bag drills. His foot speed was phenomenal with how he chopped and slid through the bags. Lewis also was good at sinking his hips to turn and change direction. He had a vertical jump of 31 inches, with 36 reps on the bench press. Lewis should definitely be helped by his Combine performance.
Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus (6-4, 261) had a strong workout. He ran well and showed off his special athleticism in the field drills. Mercilus had unofficial 40-yard dash times of 4.63 and 4.65 with a 10-yard split of 1.56 and 1.57. His official time was 4.68. Along with those fast 40 times, Mericlus looked good shuffling through the bags and showing the quick feet to work through trash. In the weight room, Mercilus did well enough with 27 reps. He is a quick-twitch athlete who gave evidence to 3-4 defenses that he would fit their systems as an outside linebacker.
While not many people are speaking about it, LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers had a somewhat disappointing Combine. He ran a 5.36 official 40-yard dash with a quality 1.77 split in the first 10 yards. Brockers' vertical jump of 26.5 was sub par for a defensive tackle, while his broad jump of 8-9 was just beyond the average number. The track and field work wasn't the best fit for Brockers, but the fact that he was tied for last on the bench press with 19 reps is a bigger concern.
An impressive player on Monday was Boise State outside linebacker/defensive end Shea McClellin. He ran well with unofficial times at 4.65 and 4.62 in the 40-yard dash. His official time of 4.63 was the second-fastest of any players in the defensive line group (Bruce Irvin came in first even though he is an outside linebacker.) McClellin (6-3, 260) was a natural in the linebacker agility drills. The drawback was McClellin tied with Brockers for the worst total among defensive linemen with 19 reps in the bench press. McClellin would be best as an outside linebacker in the NFL, and a mid-round pick who could surprise.
Marshall defensive end Vinny Curry had some disappointing 40 times with unofficial marks of 4.97 and 4.85. It was surprising because Curry was a speed rusher in college that was consistently racking up sacks. He had a strong Senior Bowl performance and was on the edge as a first-rounder, but his 40 time could cause some teams to re-evaluate.
Another defensive tackle who did well with quick times was Connecticut's Kendall Reyes. He logged unofficial 40 times of 4.79 and 4.88. That is very quick for a player at his position. To keep up the positive impression, Reyes (6-4, 299) did well in the bag drills. He showed off some quick feet to work with through the bags. Reyes produced 36 reps on the bench press. At the Combine, Reyes confirmed a second-day grade.
In watching Clemson defensive end Andre Branch during the 2011 season, his speed and athleticism were undeniable. Thus, it wasn't a surprise that he performed well at the combine. In the 40-yard dash, Branch produced 40 times of 4.62, unofficially, with a 10-yard split of 1.56. His official 40 time was 4.70. Branch had quick feet in the bag drills with agility. He had some minor hiccups on the bags, but was strong overall. Branch validated that he is a late first-round or early second-round pick.
A sleeper prospect who did well on Monday was Oklahoma State defensive end Jamie Blatnik. He performed extremely well in the bag drills with the quickness that could appeal to 3-4 defenses looking for an outside linebacker. Blatnik did not have a strong 40 time at 4.84, but his field drills were executed extremely well. Blatnick is a third-day pick who could provide a nice reward.
Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy had an unassuming day that didn't help or hurt him. He ran an unofficial 40 with 5.03 and a 10-yard split of 1.64. Those are good times with the 10-yard split in particular a strong number. Worthy didn't participate in the bench press, so the the whole story isn't known about his dedication in the weight room. However, he looks like he has some legit strength.
A projected first-round pick for months has been Penn State's standout defensive tackle Devon Still. The 6-foot-5, 303-pounder had some nice runs in the 40-yard dash for a prospect at his position. His unofficial marks of 5.03 and 5.00 were very solid, with a respectable official time of 5.08. Still did well during the field drills. His bench press of 26 was moderately disappointing. He had good production as a senior with some good tape to fall back on. Even in a strong class of defensive tackles, Still is a player to keep an eye on.
Cincinnati defensive tackle/end Derek Wolfe performed well on Monday. He ran unofficial times of 4.94 and 5.00 in the 40 yard dash with 10-yard splits of 1.70. Wolfe (6-5, 295) did well on the field with underrated athleticism. On Sunday, Wolfe had 33 reps on the bench press to complete a strong overall Combine. He is going to reward whichever team drafts him, and could be a great fit as a 3-4 defensive end.
A potential nose tackle in a 4-3 defense, Clemson's Brandon Thompson did not run the 40 for some inexplicable reason. Thompson didn't look very good in the bag drills either. He is not a superb athlete. Power, burst and physicality are his bread and butter to cause disruption at the line of scrimmage. Thompson (6-2, 314) had 35 reps on the bench press. The Combine confirms that he is not a first-round athlete, but he is a solid second-rounder.
Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones (6-5, 266) did not have a strong Combine. His 40-yard dash time was a slower mark of 4.85 unofficially. To make matters worse, Jones was not fluid in the bag drills and did not move well. He had a lesser total of 22 reps on the bench press a day earlier. Of all the defensive linemen who are projected to be selected in the first three rounds, Jones had one of the more disappointing Combine performances.
2012 NFL Combine: Workout Recap - Linebackers
The consensus top inside linebacker, Boston College's Luke Kuechly,
raised some eyebrows with his first 40-yard dash time of 4.50 unofficially. On his second run, Kuechly got out of his stance poorly and his time dropped to 4.78. He ran a third sprint upon request with an unofficial time of 4.59. His official time was 4.58, so no matter any way you cut it, Kuechly exceeded expectations with his foot speed. He had a nice broad jump of 10-3 and was second in the vertical jump at 38 inches. He was strong in the field drills. He was fifth among linebackers with 27 reps on the bench press.
Kuechly (6-3, 242) showed more power, speed and athletic ability than many credited him with having. The superb Combine from Kuechly, along with excellent impressions in interviews, has solidified him as a mid first-round pick.
Everybody thought that North Carolina outside linebacker Zach Brown would burn the track with a fast 40-yard dash, and he didn't disappoint. Brown had unofficial times of 4.45 while stumbling during the run, and a time of 4.44 in his second sprint. Brown held his own in the field drills. He obviously has quick feet with the ability to redirect instantly. He hit his targets in the Combine, so he should confirm his status as a second-round pick.
Alabama inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower had a very impressive 40 time at 4.62 twice unofficially. The 6-foot-2, 265-pounder is a fast, straight-line player at that size. In the field drills though, his hip flexibility was not as strong as some of the other linebackers. He is not a space player who will match up well with quick receiver tight ends. Hightower looks best for a 3-4 defense, or a 4-3 set that calls for him to attack the line of scrimmage rather than move laterally.
Alabama outside linebacker/defensive end Courtney Upshaw (6-2, 272) did not run the 40-yard dash. His 22 reps on the bench press were disappointing, and his work in the field drills made him look more like a 4-3 defensive end than a linebacker. He moved well for such a heavy edge player, but in the passing NFL, it would not be best for him to be in pass coverage. Upshaw is a pure football player, and the Combine track atmosphere is not the best fit for his skills.
One of the most disappointing linebackers at the Combine was Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict. Coming off an underwhelming junior season Burfict needed a strong performance to help provide a boost to his stock. Instead, Burfict's Combine was a disaster. He ran two 40-yard dashes at horrible times of 4.93 and 5.10, unofficially. He passed on doing the bench press, and there have been reports that he has interviewed terribly with teams. It is not out of the question that Burfict could be sliding down into the middle rounds.
Miami linebacker Sean Spence (5-11, 231) showed off his speed with an unofficial 40-yard dash of 4.56. Spence was a speedy linebacker in college, so his sprint confirmed how fast he is. He moved well in the field drills, but was one of the rare players to drop a pass. Yesterday, he showed a serious lack of strength with only 12 reps on the bench press. Spence is too small to play in a non 4-3 defense, and he didn't answer the question marks surrounding his pro prospects.
A prospect who opened up some eyes was TCU inside/outside linebacker Tank Carder. He showed his raw speed with an unofficial 40 time of 4.56. Carder was solid in the field work with good movement skills. He shuffled quickly with nice change-of-directions skills. Speed and instincts are Carder's strengths, so he confirmed that he has NFL speed with his fast 40 time.
Nebraska outside linebacker Lavonte David had an unofficial 40 time of 4.56. David breezed through the field drills. His movement skills to flip his hips were impressive. David has quick feet that let him operate smoothly in space. He should be a strong pass defender at the next level. His Combine should confirm his second day status.
One of the fastest linebackers was Arkansas State's Demario Davis. His unofficial 40 time was 4.53. He didn't hurt himself with his showing in the field work either. The 6-foot-2, 235-pounder produced a superb total of 32 reps, which was second to Ronnell Lewis among the linebackers. At the Senior Bowl, Davis showed some speed and physicality. He is a rising prospect who should get a boost after an excellent Combine.
A disappointing performance came from North Carolina State inside linebacker Audie Cole. He had a poor 40 time of 4.72 unofficially. He looked slow changing directions in the field drills. At 6-foot-4, 246-pounds, Cole should put on some muscle to be an in-the-box thumper. He would be better off in that role than being forced to play in space.
The fastest official 40 time came from Cal inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks at 4.46. It was the fastest time for a linebacker at the Combine since 2000. He also led all linebackers in the broad jump at 10-7 and the vertical jump at 39.5. He looked good moving around in space during the field drills. Kendricks definitely helped himself, and the Combine could be a catalyst for him to rise up some draft boards.
Oklahoma linebacker Ronnell Lewis worked out with the defensive ends, and he had a very good day on Monday. Lews ran an official 4.68 40-yard dash. What was really impressive about Lewis was how athletic he was in the bag drills. His foot speed was phenomenal with how he chopped and slid through the bags. Lewis also was good at sinking his hips to turn and change direction. He had a vertical jump of 31 inches, with 36 reps on the bench press. He should definitely be helped by his Combine performance. Lewis (6-2, 253) could be best in a 3-4 system as an inside and outside linebacker.