The defensive front seven were on display on day five. While it didn’t garner nearly as much excitement as day four, it was just as important in evaluating prospects for teams looking to get stronger at the point of attack. There weren’t many wowing numbers, but a couple of interesting stories developed nonetheless.
Athletic freak Vernon Gholston was the story of the day. Gholston opened the day with an official 4.67 40 at 266 pounds and a 35.5 inch vertical to go along with his 37 reps. By living up to his expectations, Gholston has secured his spot high in the draft and will likely be the selection to the Jets at six overall, who are desperate for that 3-4 rush linebacker to transform their defense.
On the defensive line, there were several pass rushers I came away very impressed with. First was Purdue’s Cliff Avril. After the departure of Anthony Spencer to the NFL draft, the pressure was on Avril to produce as the team’s pass rushing end. He played fairly well showing good burst of the line of scrimmage. At the combine, he repeated just that with a 4.51 40 including a solid start. He finished high in the cone drill, an agility test, and looks like a mid-late round tweener. Another end I was impressed with was Wake Forest’s Jeremy Thompson. Thompson looked very fast off the edge at the Senior Bowl and continued an impressive offseason at the Combine. On Monday he ran a 4.75 40 yard dash along with 25 strength reps, a 32 inch vertical jump, and impressive numbers in the agility drills. He looks like someone who can be brought in and collect sacks with quickness late in the game. The third end was Auburn’s Quentin Groves. Groves was banged up for much of the year but has great athleticism that showed today. After benching 225 pound 30 times and running an official 4.57, Groves has propelled himself back into the first round of the draft.
Moving to the inside, what more can Trevor Laws do to help his stock? While his Fighting Irish were a laughing stock the entire season, Laws compiled a great season as defensive tackle by recording over 100 tackles. Travelling to Mobile, Alabama, Laws was impressive yet again with quick burst and good penetration on a daily basis. Now Laws will leave Indy as a 6’1, 304 pound under tackle who ran an unofficial 5.08 40, had 35 reps with a 30.5 inch vertical leap. After a spectacular Combine, it leaves me to wonder how high he can go. Is the tail end of the first round a possibility?
The same can be asked of Calais Campbell, the defensive end from Miami (FL). It was the hype surrounding his athleticism that kept Calais Campbell in the first round. At 6’8, 290 pounds, Calais Campbell ran a 5.03. While that’s not bad for a man his size, it didn’t live up to what we were hearing. Overall he did nothing to impress scouts. Following a pedestrian Combine and a less than stellar junior season where does that leave Campbell? My best guess would say somewhere in the middle of the second round.
The same disappointment can be echoed for LSU linebacker Ali Highsmith. Highsmith has the reputation of the undersized kid who hits hard and runs well. Not anymore. At a little under 6’0 and 230 pounds, Highsmith came out and ran an unofficial 4.96 40 yard dash. This combination of size and speed is very alarming to scouts who will likely not touch the kid until after the second round. His game speed certainly appears much quicker, but his timed speed will surely devastate his stock.
On the other hand, 6’4, 245 pound monster Shawn Crable came out with an official 4.64 40 yard dash and 29 strength reps. Can he now hit the first round? Had the Patriots had the 31st overall selection, he would have been a hot ticket to New England in many mock drafts. A team will love Crable’s ability to rush the passer and fluidity to stand up at the next level. With the Giants affinity for rushing the pass and their experiment trying Mathias Kiwanuka out at linebacker, Crable could be the pick to close out the first round.
Inside, I love Jonathan Goff, Vanderbilt’s linebacker, and the potential he brings to the table. He had a very productive season and can play well from the inside. At 6’2, 245, Goff came out with an official 40 time of 4.63. If he can be taught to make better use of his hands in shedding blocks, he could be one of the few linebackers in the class who can play the coveted inside linebacker position in the 3-4. He’s a guy who has been overlooked, but has the potential to be selected in the second round.
Finally, there were a few more athletic linebackers who performed well today. The first was Purdue’s Stanford Kegler, who is seldom mentioned. At 6’2, 239, he has the body for the NFL and at 4.58 he has the speed as well. Kegler went through the full workout and finished near the top of his position in nearly every category. He’s an impressive kid with good potential. Then I also liked Virginia Tech’s Xavier Adibi (4.69 40). Adibi measured in at 6’1, 235, which surpassed his expectations. He has the body for the NFL and plays coverage very well. He’d fit in perfectly for a team running the Cover 2. Then there’s Florida State outside linebacker, Geno Hayes, who decided to leave school early. For the most part, many of the linebackers today hurt themselves with below average 40 yard dashes. 4.7 has seemed to be a good cutoff number for linebackers with a few exceptions. With many running below that number, Hayes came out with a solid 4.64. He can get up and down with tight ends and backs, but many wonder how physical he can be at the point of attack. Lastly, I also loved Jerod Mayo from Tennessee. At 6’1, 242, Mayo tested well with an unofficial 4.56 40 and a 32 inch vertical leap. He was a round two guy prior to the Combine due to lack of polish. Look for him to go in the late first-early second range thanks to slowish days from the rest of the crop.
Visit our page for an easy-to-read spreadsheet of measurements and numbers as they happen while the defensive backs hit center stage on Tuesday.
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