NFL Combine Day 3: Defensive Linemen and Linebackers

Jul 15, 2016; Hollywood, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal defensive end Solomon Thomas poses during Pac-12 media day at Hollywood & Highland. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 15, 2016; Hollywood, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal defensive end Solomon Thomas poses during Pac-12 media day at Hollywood & Highland. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

It was “front-seven” day at the 2017 NFL Combine in Indianapolis as the defensive linemen (interior & Edge rushers) and linebackers tested in front of NFL personnel departments. Who helped their cause and who’s stock tumbled? 

Sunday in Lucas Oil Stadium saw the big boys on defense take the field. With the Philadelphia Eagles likely to lose Bennie Logan to free agency, the interior defensive line is an area of need that not enough people are talking about. Similarly, the team could benefit from adding a legitimate pass-rushing threat off the edge. Vinny Curry had a lackluster 2016 after signing a big-money deal last offseason. Conner Barwin & Mychal Kendricks are probably trade chips once the league year opens in a couple days. Nigel Bradham, who played well in 2016, has legal questions marks that may affect his 2017 season. While most people will have an eye on the cornerback workouts tomorrow, Eagles fans should have been taking note of the impact players that could improve their defense today.

I am going to forego talking about Myles Garrett. He is, quite simply, a monster of a human being and it would be asinine for the Cleveland Browns not to turn in their draft card this evening. We’re going to move onto some other noteworthy performances because Garrett has left little conversation necessary…which is a good thing.

Hasaan Reddick: Local kid makin’ good.

By all accounts, the Temple standout made the day work for him. Testing as a DL, Reddick led all participants in the 40-yard dash (4.62s) and the broad jump (133″). On the field, he looked explosive and fluid. He is an intriguing price for NFL personnel executives to consider as his versatility could see him play with his hand in the dirt or upright. Given his performance at the Senior Bowl, where he turned heads all week, Reddick has put himself squarely in the first-round conversation coming out of Indy.

Jabril Peppers: What is he? A baller…

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It is no secret Peppers considers himself a safety. Some prospects who put in the work today will pack it in and head home to prep for their Pro Days. Not Peppers, his combine is only half over. He will be working out tomorrow at his self-described “natural” position: safety. Despite being unfamiliar with some of the position drills, he was fluid and dynamic in comparison to his peers today. He showed explosion out of cuts and the fluid hips necessary to cover in open space: a necessity among NFL linebackers & safeties, alike. His 40-yard dash was a full tenth of a second faster than the second-best linebacker (4.46s). When asked about his time, Peppers claimed it was “still too slow.” He also led the linebackers in the broad jump (128″). and finished fourth in the vertical (35.5″). Despite claiming he added 13 pounds of mass pre-combine, Peppers says it’s “no skin off [his] teeth” to complete every test & drill tomorrow. This kid is a tenacious competitor and some defense will be lucky to have him. Importantly, according to the former Michigan Wolverine, he was required by the league to test as a linebacker if he wanted to also test as a defensive back.

Reuben Foster: Do you know who he is?

Foster was, in no uncertain terms, the top linebacker in the NFL draft and was set to be a hands down, top-10 pick come April. It seems like he might have heard that buzz…maybe read those press clippings. Foster was sent him from the Combine on Friday after an alleged “heated altercation” with an Indianapolis hospital staff member. Foster, having undergone right shoulder surgery (rotator cuff) last month, was not going to be participating in any testing at the event. Regardless, the combine was an opportunity for Foster to interview and have his medicals evaluated by all 32 NFL franchises. He will be attending Alabama’s Pro Day this upcoming Wednesday, March 8th and will have more questions to answer than prior to Friday’s dismissal, to be sure.

Alabama Back-to-Back(!): Jonathan Allen edition

Speaking of Crimson Tide starters who had a bad combine. First Reuben Foster…now Allen. Not only did Allen not test well at the combine (see spider chart here), but it seems there are many teams who have concerns with his arthritic shoulders. There are many that argue the most important analysis that comes from combine week is revealed in interviews and medical checks. Allen is very good on tape so many will be willing to overlook the measurable in underwear today. The shoulders? That’s another story.

Alabama Three-peat(!!): Tim Williams Edition

Seriously…this isn’t great. Just ask (off the top of my head) Laremy Tunsil, Robert Nkemdiche, Randy Gregory, Shane Ray, Jalen Collins, PJ Williams, etc.

Guys…this is very simple:

Raekin it in

Raekwon McMillan was a standout with great game tape last season playing for national semifinalist Ohio State University. Despite this, there were questions about McMillan’s ability to play in space in the NFL. With supposed tight hips and a weakness in shedding blocks, he could get lost in NFL zone schemes or beaten on man-routes out of the backfield. While his testing was solid, where he made some money was in the on-field drills. He seemed easy in his breaks and with more natural shift in his hips than what showed on tape. True, this was in shorts & shirts. True, this was competing alone in space. But showing the NFL you have the ability will go a long way to improving one’s draft stock.

King Solomon

Stanford’s Solomon Thomas is, perhaps, the underclassmen that rose fastest up draft boards once declaring for the draft. His performance today did little to change that. He is projected to be havoc reeking, three-down, pass rusher. He will likely play outside and shift inside on passing downs. His testing performance and drill technique today drew several notable NFL comparisons. Noted NFL defensive lineman enthusiast & (in my opinion) expert Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) likened him to Chris Long:

Daniel Jeremiah, on the other hand, coyly compared Thomas to NFL All-Pro Justin Houston:

Next: Brandin Cooks isn’t worth a first round pick

This draft has, for some time, been lauded for its quality and depth on the defensive side of the ball. Don’t be surprised if 60% of the first round picks are defensive athletes. The Philadelphia Eagles can, and absolutely should, be able to improve their defense just based on some of the football players that were showcased on Sunday. What’s even more remarkable is this fact. We haven’t seen the deepest class of athletes in this draft yet: because the cornerbacks compete, with the safety prospects, tomorrow.