2015 NFL Combine: ILB Workout Analysis

What matters and what the inside linebackers need to prove at the 2015 NFL Combine

For those invited and participating in the 2015 NFL Combine, what matters? What did they need to do? How was the workout? What to take away from …

1.Eric Kendricks, UCLA 6-0, 232
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: Can he be an explosive athlete? He’s a good all-around football player, and he’s sound with almost no bust potential, but can he be a true difference-maker who blows up offenses? The better he does in the jumping and leaping drills, and the better he is in the short and agility ones, the more his stock will go up – the 40 time doesn’t really matter.
Key To The Workout: Excellent. The 4.61 40 was excellent and he exploded through the leaps with a 38” vertical and a 10’4” broad jump. He moved and looked like a Day One NFL starter and came up with the exact workout needed to show that the tools really do match the tape.

2.Denzel Perryman, Miami 5-11, 236
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: Some scouts are going to demand that he’s the No. 1 inside linebacker on the board if he’s able to come up with a great workout. He’s a fantastic leader, he’s built like a true middle linebacker, and he’ll tackle everything, but is he quick compared to the rest of the top options in this class? You know what you’re getting, but he has to show that there’s the potential for more.
Key To The Workout: Sluggish and slow. He showed no real quickness, and while his straight-line speed was fine with a 4.78 in the 40, he was clunky in the short drills and when he had to try to look like he could cover someone. He might not be a three-down defender, but his 27 reps on the bench showed what he is – a nasty-tough interior force.

3.Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State 6-4, 246
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: Can he move fluidly? He’s not really built like an inside linebacker, and some are going to want to put him on the outside or inside in a 3-4 scheme, but he’s a leader and a main man for the middle. He can’t be stiff and he can’t run like the tall, rangy player he is. He has to be agile.
Key To The Workout: The numbers were better than he looked. He’s still a bit rangy, and he’s still way high and not great at sinking his hips, but he came up with a humongous 40 ½” vertical along with a good 4.66 in the 40. However, when he had to get through the short drills, he struggled.

4.Ramik Wilson, Georgia 6-2, 237
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: It will do him a boatload of good to come up with a great bench and to appear physical. He’s not big enough and he’s not that great in coverage, but the biggest question mark is his toughness against the bigger running games. He has to look like someone who can blast away.
Key To The Workout: It was nice. The 40 was slow checking in with a 4.77, but he cranked up the leaps with a 35” vertical and good broad jump. More than that, he looked the part when he had to cut and move, working well and getting around without much of a problem. Effortless is a bit too strong a word, but he worked out like he didn’t have any problems.

5. Hayes Pullard, USC 6-0, 240<
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: Is he just an athlete or can he bring the thump on the inside? He’s not going to be for every style, and he could put up huge stats in the right system, but can he be a physical presence? Does he have the type of attitude that’s going to convince coaches that he’s going to be the alpha-male?
Key To The Workout: Smooth as silk. He effortlessly cut and ran like a defensive back, getting around the drills effortlessly. The 4.7 40 was a bit slow, but he flew around the short drills and he looked like an NFL athlete. There was little wasted motion as he zipped around – he could work as an outside linebacker if needed.

6.Stephone Anthony, Clemson 6-3, 243
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: Be quick. He’s a good, fast, aggressive hitter and moves fine for a player of his size, but he needs to be good in coverage. He’ll look fine in shorts and he should build off a great Senior Bowl week, but his times in the short drills need to be excellent to show that he can keep up on third downs.
Key To The Workout: Excellent. He needed to be quick, and he needed to be fast, and he was both. He ripped through the short drills with a fantastic 4.03 in the 20-yard shuttle, and his 4.56 was outstanding. Basically, he checked off every box and concern – the 37” vertical and 23 reps helped, too.

7. Paul Dawson, TCU 6-0, 235
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: Able to play anywhere in a linebacking corps and be a playmaker. Really quick and really athletic, he can move around and be disruptive, but he has one big question mark among the scouting community – his attitude. He’ll have to ace the interview process to get past character concerns.
Key To The Workout: Disastous. Considering the concerns over his personality and character, he needed to blow away the combine but instead slothed through a 4.93 40 and was way too slow through the short drills. He’s a far better football player than a workout warrior, but he lost money in Indy.

8. Jordan Hicks, Texas 6-1, 234
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: The physical needs to be clean. He’s a good all-around prospect and he’s going to be everything a team wants, but can he stay healthy? He missed way too much of his career, and while that doesn’t necessarily make him injury-prone, he’s been worn down.
Key To The Workout: Yeah, he looks great, but can he last? The 38” vertical was fantastic, and he blasted away on the short drills like they weren’t even there. He threw up 20 reps on the bench, and the 4.68 40 was good enough. Again, great … can he stay healthy?

9. Damien Wilson, Minnesota 6-2, 240
With good size, nice tape, and enough bulk to be a true middle linebacker, he has everything except for next-level quickness and athleticism. He has to give the scouts something to go off of – he has to look like a defender who can play in a few different spots.
Key To The Workout: Good. It was a strong all-around workout checking off the boxes in every area to look like a viable option to man the inside of an NFL defense. The 37” vertical was the eye-opener, and the 4.77 40 was ood, but more than that, he looked the part in the rush of drills. He always seemed to look a wee bit quicker and more fluid than the others.

10. Mike Hull, Penn State 6-0, 237
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: Something about him has to be special to overcome his lack of size and his mediocre quickness. He’s a good hitter and he can move just enough to be fine inside, but if he’s going to be versatile in any way, he needs to be fluid. His workout has to standout with one great thing a scout can sell.
Key To The Workout: He needed to come across as athletic, and he more than did his part. The 31 reps on the bench were excellent, but it’s through the cone and shuttle drills that made him stand out. He’s not big, and he’s not going to be for everyone, but he did what he needed to do to show that he’s good enough and quick enough. He helped himself in a big way.

11.Taiwan Jones, Michigan State 6-3, 245
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: Can he move at all? He’s as strong as they come when things are funneled to him, but his game is all about power. He has to look agile and he has to appear fluid to up his stock. He’s a true middle linebacker, but he can’t look like it.
Key To The Workout: Ugh. The 4.95 40 was brutally painful, and the 19 reps on the bench weren’t enough to make up for it. Too slow, too stiff and too sluggish, it’s going to be hard to push for him as anything more than a tough-guy interior defender.

12. Ben Heeney, Kansas 6-0, 231
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: Everything is there except NFL talent – something about his workout has to change that. He’s not big, he’s not fast, and he’s not athletic, but he’s a baller. Now he has to show the scouts that he has the potential and the upside to be a starter. That happens with a great weekend.
Key To The Workout: Uhhhhh, huh? Back to the video … where did THAT come from? One of the fastest and most athletic linebackers at the combine, he ripped off a 4.59 40 and was fantastic in the short drills. He moved without effort as he came up with some of the best times in the cones and shuttles, and he exploded thorough his leaps. Now he’s worth the development.

13. Trey DePriest, Alabama 6-0, 254
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: He has to be athletic and he needs to move well. Everyone loves his hitting ability, and everyone is going to like him against the power running games, but he needs to run better and he has to appear to be more of a playmaker outside of the box. Can he cover anyone? Can he be a pass rusher? That only comes out if he can run.
Key To The Workout: He didn’t work out as he recovered from a torn meniscus, but he interviewed and he weighed in, coming in shorter and heavier than expected.

14.Zach Vigil, Utah State 6-2, 240 (Not Invited)
Everything looks great on tape and everyone wants players like him, but does he have the raw speed? Does he have the functional strength to go along with the football pop? He needs to be the athlete to go along with the on-field production.

15. A.J. Johnson, Tennessee 6-2, 245
(Obviously, the ranking is based on him being able to play and if he’s cleared of all charges. He didn’t workout in Indy.) Character, character, character. He’s not an elite athlete and he’s a big-tackle player because he seems to read everything correctly, but he’s not a blazer. He surrendered himself on charges of aggravated rape, and while he maintains his innocence, he’s not draftable until the situation is played out.

16.Amarlo Herrera, Georgia 6-1, 244
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: Is he tough enough? He’s a good stat defender and he should run well and move just fine, but he has to come up with a strong bench and look nasty in the more physical drills. He’s not a blow-up hitter against the powerful backs, so if he can show raw strength, he’ll up his stock.
Key To The Workout: While he was smooth through the drills and cut and ran well, he wasn’t all that fast and he was a half-step slow at times. The vertical was a great 32”, and he did a nice job on the broad jump and in the short drills, but it wasn’t the standout workout he needed. It was fine – it just wasn’t special.

17.A.J. Tarpley, Stanford 6-2, 241 (Not Invited)
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: When he gets his chance, he can’t be slow. He’s a smart, instinctual defender who’s always around the ball and always making plays, but to be drafted he has to show good lateral quickness and moves. He can’t be stiff.

18.Bryce Hager, Baylor 6-1, 234
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: Too small, too slow, and not explosive. He gets around the ball well and he’s decent in pass coverage, but will he be manhandled at the next level? There has to be something about his workout that stands out as something NFL-worthy.
Key To The Workout: It’s exactly what he needed to do. Slow? The 4.6 40 helped end that. Not explosive? The 35” vertical silenced that problem. Not quick enough? Okay, so he wasn’t quick enough compared to the other linebackers, and he’s still too small, but it was a good enough workout to be draftable – or at least get a much longer look.

19.Quayshawn Nealy, Georgia Tech 6-1, 235 (Not Invited)
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: A very, very good college player and a great worker with the smarts to be the leader of a defense, he doesn’t have the athleticism to overcome his mediocre size. In his workouts he has to be physical, but more than that he has to be quick.

20.Aaron Davis, Colorado State 6-0, 225
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: Way, way, way too small, if he doesn’t come up with a lights-out workout in the quickness drills, he’s probably not going to be drafted. He could turn into a great special teamer and reserve, but to be a starter, speed counts.
Key To The Workout: Yeeeech. He’s a scout favorite among the community, but it’s just not that. Too small, the 4.95 was too slow, and 16 reps on the bench were too few, and he just didn’t do anything to look like an NFL player. Someone will love him, though – even though it’s cemented that he’s a special teamer.

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