2015 NFL Combine: OLB Workout Analysis

What matters and what the outside 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.Shaq Thompson, Washington 6-0, 228
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: The only question mark is whether or not he can hold up. He’s almost too good to be true in terms of all the things he can bring, but he’s not all that big and he’s not all that strong, but that doesn’t really matter considering his athleticism. He’ll get erased by the tougher blockers and linemen, and there’s no natural fit, but as long as he’s as quick as everyone expects, he’ll be fine.
Key To The Workout: Is he a safety? Not really. He was lightning quick through the 20-yard drill, but the 4.64 40 makes him a linebacker. There wasn’t anything about the workout that upped his stock, and he’s going to have to find a role somewhere on some defense – he’s a football player. Scouts will have to get past the numbers.

2.Bud Dupree, Kentucky 6-4, 269
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: Is he an NFL pass rusher? He has the tools and he has the upside, but he needs coaching. The interview process will be vital – the GMs and coaches are going to grill him. On athleticism and speed, he’ll be high on everyone’s board, but he needs to sell his upside a bit.
Key To The Workout: He unfortunately had a pull and couldn’t run through the various drills, but what he was able to do stood out to another level ripping up a 4.56 in the 40 and with a jaw-dropping 42” vertical and 11’6” broad jump. Now he has to heal up and show off even more on his pro day – this was the start of something special.

3.Hau'oli Kikaha, Washington 6-2, 253
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: Can he hold up against power running games? He has decent size, but he gets beaten on a bit too easily and he takes lots and lots of big shots. The physical will be his biggest challenge after having knee problems over the course of his career.
Key To The Workout: He didn’t do all the drills and wasn’t timed. Still intruiging, the pro day will be among the most watched and scrutinized.

4.Kwon Alexander, LSU 6-1, 227
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: Can he diagnose? The interviews will be where he has to shine after mostly getting by on his great speed. Everyone is going to like him, but he has problems with his positioning – he makes up for mistakes by flying to the ball. In the drills, he has to be really, really quick and off-the-charts athletic to make up for his lack of raw bulk.
Key To The Workout: Size, size, size. He measured in slightly smaller than expected, but he made up for it with a blazing 4.55 40 – he needed that. Very fast, very smooth, and very explosive, he did what he needed to do. The 36” vertical might be enough to overcome the 6-1 height.

5. Max Valles, Virginia 6-5, 251
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: Is he ready to shine right away? Still a project, he has the basic tools and the potential is through the roof, but he needs time. He needs coaching and he needs a lot of polish, but he could still jack up his stock with a great workout – he has everything in place to just that.
Key To The Workout: Absoltuely terrific – to a point. He came in about ten pounds heavier and he carried it well moving easily and effortlessly. He was smooth and cut on a dime, shifting through the drills without any problem, except he just wasn’t fast enough. The 36 ½” vertical was outstanding, and he blew up the broad jump, but the 4.83 40 hurts.

6.Jake Ryan, Michigan 6-3, 240
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: Is he tough enough to handle the inside and/or quick enough to be a pass rusher on the outside? He should test and time fine, and there’s no questioning his fight or his leadership, but he might need help around him. He’s not quite as quick as was before suffering a torn ACL two years ago.
Key To The Workout: Really, really nice. This was the pre-ACL Jake Ryan who cut and moved and planted and zipped without any laboring whatsoever. The 4.65 40 was strong, but he truly excelled in the short drills and cones. He looked the part to go along with the good tape. Was he quick enough again? Absolutely.

7.Lorenzo Mauldin, Louisville 6-4, 259
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: Is he inside or out? Everything is there except for a set position – and fluidity. He’s not really an inside linebacker, and he’s not really an NFL pass rusher. He has to come out of Indy with the scouts being certain he’s an outside defender who could grow into a disruptive force.
Key To The Workout: He looked an awful lot like an inside linebacker for a possible outside linebacker. The short drills were way, way too slow and he lumbered whenever he had to change direction. He might be a football player, and everyone is rooting for him, but he doesn’t have a true position if he can’t fit inside.

8.Kyle Emanuel, North Dakota State 6-3, 255
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: A dangerous pass rusher and playmaker behind the line at the lower level, he has to bring the speed and cutting ability to eventually become an NFL edge rusher. He might not be powerful against the stronger run blockers, but that’s not going to be his game – he has to look the part.
Key To The Workout: Any more questions about what he needs to do to look like he belonged? He killed the workout with a good enough 4.77 to go along with 27 reps on the bench and a great 34” vertical. He’s athletic enough and he’s quick enough. He might not have the length and he might need to be surrounded by bulk, but he came up with the workout he needed to have.

9.Geneo Grissom, Oklahoma 6-3, 262
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: Is he a small defensive end or a big linebacker? His workout might determine that. Not a finished product, he needs to look athletic and has to be smooth. Can he turn? Can he effortlessly cut in coverage? He’s one of the more interesting prospects considering his upside, but there’s still a lot of scouting to be done.
Key To The Workout: Strong as a defensive end, a bit slow as an outside linebacker. The 4.81 40 didn’t really work, but the 37” vertical was explosive and he ran well enough to get through the short drills. While he didn’t sink well enough and didn’t move all that smoothly, it was an okay all-around workout – if you can figure out where to put him.

10.J.R. Tavai, USC 6-2, 249
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: Can he run well enough? He’s a strange prospect because he doesn’t play like a natural outside linebacker. He’s not a top-shelf athlete and he was always banged up in one way or another. The scouts are going to love his potential and his fire, but he has to move well.
Key To The Workout: Strange. He’s SO smooth and looked SO polished and fluid, but he just didn’t move fast enough. The 4.91 40 was appalling, and he didn’t explode through any of the other drills. It’s hard to see what he is outside of a special teamer – he’s a better football player than a workout performer.

11.Martrell Spaight, Arkansas 6-0, 236
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: Does he have the raw NFL tools? He turned into a good SEC football player after starring at the JUCO level, but can he move well enough? Does he have the bulk? He can hit, but he might not look the part and might not time well – he has to come close.
Key To The Workout: Shorter than expected and a bit heavier, he looked bulky and stocky, and he ran like it. The 35” vertical showed off his explosion, but he was really, really, really slow. He ran the slowest 3-cone drill of every linebacker who participated, and the 4.88 40 didn’t work. He needs to get his stock back in his pro day.

12. Alani Fua, BYU 6-5, 238
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: If he’s going to be a pure pass rusher, he has to show off the speed and the burst. Is he going to be physical enough for his frame? He has the size to add more good weight and be more of an end, but first he has to rock the numbers. He just might be one of the talks of the combine if he works out like he’s supposed to.
Key To The Workout: Really, really quick. The 4.73 was solid for his size, and the other drills were fine, but where he really stood out was in the shuttles and in the 3-cone. Any concerns about whether or not he has the raw athleticism to become a pass rusher were answered, but he still needs to add a little more weight and still move as well.

13. Deion Barnes, Penn State 6-4, 260 (Not Invited)
At some point he’ll have to look like an outside linebacker. He’s not quite strong and bulky enough to work as a true NFL end, and he’s not athletic enough to be a high-end 3-4 pass rusher, but there’s enough talent there to find a role in someone’s defense.

14. Mark Nzeocha, Wyoming 6-2, 232
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: How bad is his knee? It might not be the worst thing in the world to get a redshirt year to take to NFL coaching – he’s still very raw and needs lots and lots of work – and he might get it. A phenomenal physical prospect, he’ll be a flier, but a good one. First his knee needs to heal.
Key To The Workout: Not able to run because of his knee, he weighed in – and was a bit smaller than expected – and he came up with a strong 24 reps on the bench.

15.Obum Gwacham, Oregon State 6-5, 246
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: A way-undersized defensive end who’ll be a better fit at outside linebacker, can he handle another position change? The former wide receiver can move, but he’s still trying to figure out how to play defense and needs time no matter where he plays. He has to look like a defensive player, even if Indy is purely a workout.
Key To The Workout: As expected, he ran like a wide receiver turning into a defender, but is he a defensive end? The 4.72 40 was great no matter where he plays, and he was terrific in the leaping drills coming up with a 36” vertical and a broad jump of over ten feet. He still needs to learn how to be a defender, but he showed enough athleticism and the right tools to be worth developing.

16. Xzavier Dickson, Alabama 6-3, 260
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: Is he too bulky to be an outside linebacker? Is he quick enough? Is he strong enough to think about being an end? He doesn’t really have a true position, and he’s not going to do anything in pass coverage. He has to sell the scouts that he’s more than just a part of a puzzle.
Key To The Workout: He dropped a little weight and he ran fast. The 4.74 40 was great, but he was slowish through the short drills – at least compared to the other outside linebackers – and he didn’t explode in the jumps. He was under 30” in the vertical. The 19 reps on the bench didn’t help.

17.Tony Washington, Oregon 6-4, 247
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: Does he have any special traits? Can he move at an NFL level and does he have anything that stands out? He’s a good, sound, versatile defender who should find a spot somewhere in an NFL mix, but he has to look like a pass rusher. He has to fly though the short drills.
Key To The Workout: Yuck. He jumped fine and he was in the mid-range of the linebackers in terms of time in the cones and short drills, but the real problem was the 4.99 40. At his size and height he needed to move better and needed to show off something impressive. He’s a better football player than he timed – he might get back on track in his pro day.

18.Edmond Robinson, Newberry 6-3, 245
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: The bench matters. There are the obvious concerns and questions about his potential after coming from the lower level, but the scouts want to see if he has the strength and the pop. He’s a tall, rangy defender who can move, but he could also use about ten pounds of good weight.
Key To The Workout: Solid. The 4.61 was great for a player of his length and look, and he came up with a great leap of 37” in the vertical and was quick in the short drills. The bench, though, was just good enough but not special hitting 20 reps. He still needs a little more bulk, but he came up with the workout he needed to have.

19. Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil, Maryland 6-2, 248
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: He’ll be great in interviews and he has the right attitude, but he doesn’t really have an NFL position and isn’t quite athletic enough. Can he zip around the short drills? He has to be quicker than fast – he has to be fluid.
Key To The Workout: He didn’t run and he didn’t do the full workout, but he came up with 25 reps on the bench. It was a start – scouts are going to want to find reasons to like him. The big bench set the tone for the pro day.

20. Neiron Ball, Florida 6-2, 246
What He Needed To Prove In Indy: The physical will be mostly what matters. From brain surgery early in his career, and other injuries he’s had to deal with, he has to be checked out closely. A special teamer, he’ll have to pass the pokes and prodding part of the program to have any hope of being drafted.
Key To The Workout: He didn’t run after trying to come back with his microfracture surgery. However, he was able to lift, and the 22 reps were good.

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