On The Rise
The 2010 defensive class is one of the deepest classes in the history of the draft, especially at linebacker and along the defensive line. There were a lot of players who performed well on Monday, and the list of rising prospects is very long. So, instead of listing every impressive performance, I decided to list my top 10 defensive performers at LB and on the D-Line.
Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida
A former JUCO standout, who played just one-year at South Florida, Pierre-Paul, who measured in at 6-foot-5, 270 pounds over the weekend, had one of the best performances at the Combine on Monday. He ran an impressive 4.64 in the 40, and was fluid during drills; displaying quick feet and agility. Pierre-Paul has incredible upside and may have elevated his status into the top five. But as talented as he is, he’s considered a boom or bust prospect.
Griffen had one of the best performances on Monday.
Griffen decided to forego his senior season after he recorded 45 tackles, 9.5 for a loss and eight sacks. And after his performance on Monday, the 6-foot-3, 273-pound Griffen will ascend up draft boards and could be a top 15 selection. He played with a high motor and was fluid during drills. He showed tremendous athleticism and quickness, and recorded one of the fastest 40 times (4.66) on the day. Griffen also displayed his strength in the bench press and completed 32 reps.
An underrated linebacker who has tremendous athletic gifts, Chaney may have had the best performance on the turf at Lucas Oil Field. From a physical standpoint, Chaney, who checked in at 6-foot-1, 242 pounds, recorded the fastest 40 (4.54) of all the participants on Monday and displayed outstanding explosion with a 39-inch vertical jump. Chaney also demonstrated his strength in the bench press by competing 26 reps. He did wonders for his draft stock and will receive early third round consideration this April.
It’s hard for Suh and McCoy to improve on their draft status, since they’re projected to be top 3 draft picks in April. They showed why they’re the best two defensive tackles to enter the NFL in a decade, and the numbers they posted at the Combine were outstanding. Of the two, Suh had the better day, as he ran a 4.98 in the 40, completed 32 reps in the bench press and had quick feet and uncanny athleticism for a man standing at 6-foot-4, 307 pounds. McCoy, who measured in at 6-foot-4, 295 pounds, also had a great day, as he just beat out Suh in the 40 (4.96), but fell short in the bench press with just 23 reps. During drills, McCoy was agile and quick, and displayed his explosive nature. But it was obvious that Suh is the more dominant player, as his initial punch and overall explosiveness is much greater than McCoy’s.
Weatherspoon is one of this year’s elite linebackers and solidified his standing as a sure first round pick after his performance at the Senior Bowl. But what Weatherspoon accomplished on Monday has raised his value even more, and he now must be considered as a mid-first round selection. Weatherspoon ran a 4.68 in the 40, benched 225 pounds 34 times and displayed his explosiveness with a 40-inch vertical. He looked smooth during drills, flashed quick feet moving laterally and dropped well in coverage. Weatherspoon is the complete package who plays the game with great passion.
One of the most versatile linebackers in the entire draft, Washington had a great senior season at TCU and did an outstanding job at the Senior Bowl last month. At 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, Washington is undersized, but plays much bigger than his size suggests. He continued to impress scouts on Monday as he ran a 4.66 in the 40 and went through the drills effortlessly and fluidly. After his showing on Monday, there’s no question that Washington will hear his name called in the second round.
A true hybrid, Sapp has great athleticism and upside.
This year’s draft is full of rangy defensive ends who can drop back to the second level and line up at linebacker. At 6-foot-4, 252 pounds, Sapp is an intriguing hybrid who has terrific athleticism and natural talent. On Monday at the Combine, Sapp showcased his ability and was the most fluid defender during drills. He ran a 4.70 in the 40 and cemented his place as a sure second round draft pick.
The two undersized Georgia interior terrors, Atkins and Owens, have had great off-seasons, beginning with their performances at the Senior Bowl. Atkins was the more explosive player in Mobile, and also did well at the Combine on Monday, but Owens surprised scouts with his superior strength. At 6-foot-1, 304 pounds, Owens benched 225 pounds 44 times, one short of tying the Combine record of 45, and showed surprising speed in the 40 by running a 4.97. Atkins continued to impress scouts, despite his 6-foot-1, 293-pound frame, and ran a 4.73 in the 40 and did 34 reps on the bench press.
Another underclassmen who impressed on Monday, Worilds, who measured in at 6-foot-1, 254 pounds, has great pass rushing ability, but has to develop a larger repertoire of moves to be successful at the next level. But at the Scouting Combine, it’s all about your attributes and numbers, and Worilds tested out very well. He was smooth during drills, got good depth in his drops and showed the athleticism to play OLB in the NFL. He recorded a 4.72 in the 40, benched 225 pounds 24 times and had a 38-inch vertical. It’s a deep class on defense, but Worilds’ upside could move him into the second round.
Just like Worilds, Gibson decided to leave school early and show NFL scouts that he has what it takes to be successful at the next level. The 6-foot-2, 243-pound Gibson is an athletic defender who possesses great versatility and upside. He was a standout during drills and was fluid throughout, moving well laterally and upfield. Scouts knew that Gibson was fast, and the 4.71 he recorded in the 40 wasn’t a huge surprise, but the 32 reps he posted in the bench press were a pleasant surprise. Gibson has moved into third round consideration.
Making Their Mark
Watson has great potential and showed scouts his upside on Monday.
A three-year starter at Florida State, Watson has been recognized as an emerging player this offseason. He participated in the Senior Bowl, although he received mixed reviews, and was invited to the Scouting Combine. On Monday, Watson rebounded from his difficulties in Mobile and had one of the best performances. He did well in the drills, ran an outstanding 4.56 in the 40 and recorded a 40-inch vertical. Watson is a great athlete and will receive late third, early fourth round attention.
Joseph is an under-the-radar underclassman, who decided to forego his senior season at the last moment. The 6-foot-4, 328-pound Joseph is a mid-to-late round selection who impressed scouts on Monday with his 39 reps in the bench press and his surprising 40-time of 5.09. Joseph has fourth round potential.
Arthur Moats, DE/OLB, James Madison
An athletic defensive end at James Madison, Moats will likely move to outside linebacker at the next level. The former James Madison star had a great workout on Monday. He ran a 4.66 in the 40 and registered a 36.5-inch vertical. Moats is a late round prospect on the rise.
Cody Grimm, LB, Virginia Tech
The son of Hall of Famer Russ Grimm, Cody was a former walk-on at Virginia Tech and made himself into a player at the collegiate level. Measuring in at 5-foot-11, 203 pounds, Grimm had a solid workout in front of scouts on Monday and ran a 4.64 in the 40. Grimm was the smallest linebacker at the Combine, but still managed to complete 21 reps in the bench press. He’s likely to be an undrafted free agent, but a team may take a chance on him due to his bloodlines.
Keenan Clayton, LB, Oklahoma
Clayton was a two-year starter at Oklahoma and earned his way to the Combine. He measured in at 6-foot-1, 229 pounds, and had a standout workout running a 4.66 in the 40, benching 225 pounds 27 times and exploding for a 41.5-inch vertical. Clayton’s stock is on the rise and he could ultimately land in the sixth round.
On The Decline
Cody showed up at the Combine in better shape, but still struggled.
Cody will never be mistaken for a great athlete, but he did manage to show up at the Combine 16 pounds lighter than his Senior Bowl weight (370 pounds). Measuring in at 6-foot-4, 354 pounds, Cody looked better, but still appeared sloppy physically and on the field. He has tremendous strength and displayed quick feet during drills, but had one of the worst 40 times (5.64) of anyone at the Combine. With that said, there will be a team that over drafts Cody, probably high in the second round, because of the space he eats inside. Let’s just hope he doesn’t eat his way out of the league.
When Hardy wants to play, he can dominate a game. But getting him to play up to his potential is a difficult task. At 6-foot-4, 281 pounds, Hardy has the athleticism; size and skill to be a great pass rusher at the next level. But he lacks passion for the game and it showed during his woeful workout on Monday. Hardy ran an uninspired 4.87 in the 40 and appeared sluggish during drills. Hardy has top 20 talent, but it’s possible that he falls into the third round.
Sheffield had a great week of practice at the Senior Bowl and looked like he could be an option for a 3-4 team at outside linebacker. But the 6-foot-2, 257-pound Troy product left a bad taste in evaluator’s mouths when he ran a 4.90 in the 40. It’s possible that Sheffield plays faster than his timed speed, but his 40 and inconsistent workout on Monday will force scouts to review more of his film.
Injuries hampered Oghobaase during the 2009 season and he had a chance to prove to scouts on Monday that he’s worthy of at least a third round pick. But the 6-foot-5, 303-pound failed to impress, as he ran a miserable 5.43 in the 40 and lacked explosion and pop during drills. Oghobaase’s stock is plummeting.
Middleton (6-foot-3, 268 pounds) was once a promising prospect after he recorded 50 tackles, 17 for a loss and 16 sacks as a sophomore, but since then he faded into obscurity and generated just seven sacks in his final two seasons at Indiana. Middleton didn’t do much to help his chances of getting drafted on Monday as he ran a poor 4.93 in the 40.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. Steuber’s features are published across the Scout.com network and on FoxSports.com. If you wish to contact Chris Steuber, email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also now follow Chris Steuber on Twitter.