Pro Day Tour: Star Defensive Linemen

From potential first-rounder Malcom Brown to two small-school stars, the Packers saw three talented defensive linemen, a couple sleeper receivers, a pass-catching tight end and more at four pro days in which at least one Packers scout was in attendance.

If Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown falls to No. 30, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson will have a big decision on his hands.

His defensive line should be better than it was in 2014, with the presumed returns of Letroy Guion and B.J. Raji, plus a year of growth from 2014 third-rounder Khyri Thornton. But Brown, a consensus first-team All-American and a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy (top defensive player) and Outland Trophy (best interior lineman), might be too good to pass up.

Brown (6-2, 319) is an attacking defensive lineman who is sturdy enough to play the nose but athletic enough to make an impact in pass-rushing situations. As a junior in 2014, his 6.5 sacks ranked third in the major-college ranks among nose guards, topped by Washington’s Danny Shelton (nine) and Fresno State’s Tyeler Davison (8.5). He ranked sixth on the team with 72 tackles and paced the squad with 15 stops behind the line of scrimmage.

At Texas’ pro day on Tuesday, which was watched by two Packers scouts, Brown stuck with his Scouting Combine workout, which included a 5.05 in the 40-yard dash and 26 reps on the bench. He excelled during his positional workout.

“I really believe I can play any technique,” Brown told reporters. “If you go to my film, since I’ve been here, I’ve played nose, three-technique, end, stand-up end. Just wherever you’re going to put me, I’m going to play. I’m going to attack the work.”

Linebacker Jordan Hicks (6-1, 236) also stuck with his Combine workout, which included a 4.68 in the 40 and a 38-inch vertical. We profiled Hicks and gave you a portion of his official NFL scouting report. He is projected to go late in the third round or the fourth.

A third intriguing option for the Packers would be Cedric Reed (6-5, 269), who projects to a 4-3 defensive end or, in Green Bay’s case, a possible elephant — the hybrid position played by Julius Peppers and Mike Neal last year. Reed was unable to work out at the Combine and didn’t do anything on Tuesday, either, because an injured left knee.

“I'm able to do everything, jump, cut, do everything that I can on my knee,” said Reed, a fourth-/fifth-round projection. “It's just I didn't feel 100 percent with my explosiveness and that comes with time. I wasn't going to put any more bad film on myself.”

Late in the draft, running back Malcolm Brown (5-11, 224) and receiver Jaxon Shipley (6-0, 192) could be options. In 44 career games (25 starts), Brown finished ninth in school history with 2,678 rushing yards. Brown, who ran in 4.62 at the Combine, improved to 4.50, according to NFL.com’s Gil Brandt. Shipley, who ran in 4.49, according to Brandt, ranks third in school history with 218 career receptions and caught at least one pass in 47 of 48 games. His brother, Jordan, was an All-American at Texas and caught 79 passes in three NFL seasons.

Northern Iowa

UNI’s top player, running back David Johnson, is a potential Day 2 prospect who probably will be long gone before the Packers start exploring the running back class. Johnson (6-1, 224), who led the team in rushing (1,553 yards) and receiving (536 yards), stuck with his Combine workout (4.51 40, 41.5-inch vertical, 25 reps on the bench).

That makes defensive tackle Xavier Williams (6-2, 309) the top draw from a Green Bay perspective. He dominated his small-school peers with 15 sacks, 29.5 tackles for losses and seven blocked kicks while becoming a two-time FCS All-American. Williams tweaked a hamstring during his 40 and put up an impressive 30 reps on the bench.

“It’s really big, especially coming from a smaller school. Guys want to see how athletic you are, how well you move; they want to see if you’re worth investing time in,” Williams said. “I was hoping to hit 34 (reps), so not far off. I just had that number in my head since I saw other d-linemen hit it had the Combine, that number’s been in my head. ... Tried to go out and do the best I can, hopefully match some of them, beat some of them and show I’m just as good as the other guys.”

Iowa State

E.J. Bibbs (6-2, 254) would be a later-round option if the Packers feel they need more from their tight end position.

One of eight semifinalists for the John Mackey Award, which goes to the nation’s top tight end, Bibbs recorded 45 receptions for 382 yards and eight touchdowns despite missing the final two games with a knee injury. He led all “Power 5” conference tight ends in touchdowns and was second with 4.5 catches per game. According to a source at the workout, Bibbs looked great in pass-catching drills. He ran in 4.78 after a bone bruise in his left knee prevented him from testing at the Combine. His 22 reps on the bench was an improvement of two from the Combine.

A late-round outside linebacker candidate is Cory Morrissey (6-4, 256). He had an excellent workout with a 4.67 in the 40, a 34-inch vertical and 20 reps on the bench. He worked at fullback, as well. As a senior, he had six sacks and 8.5 tackles for losses.

Dubuque receiver Tyler Rutenbeck (6-2, 189) opened some eyes with a 4.37 in the 40 and a 38-inch vertical. He caught 66 passes for 918 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior and 68 for 1,269 and 22 scores as a junior.

Northwestern State

The Packers got another look at defensive lineman Deon Simon (6-4, 321). He stuck with his Combine workout, which included a Combine-best 35 reps on the bench and a 5.12 in the 40. Simon started 19 games in his career, including seven during a senior season cut short by injury. Despite missing 5.5 games, he recorded 26 tackles, including 5.5 for losses and one sack.

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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