Monday marked the Scouting Combine’s switch to the dark side, with defensive players taking main stage at Lucas Oil Stadium. And while that may trim the fantasy interest to IDPers, everyone stopped to watch the Jadeveon Clowney Show.
To his credit the South Carolina defensive end did not disappoint, clocking a 4.53 40 time that bested, among others, Johnny Manziel as well as 36 of the running backs and wideouts from earlier in the Combine. Clowney also exploded to top-two showings among defensive linemen in both the vertical (37 ½”) and broad (10’4”) jumps, jaw-dropping numbers even with Clowney trimmed down to 266 pounds. Those looking to ding the potential first overall selection for a questionable work ethic had fodder as well, with Clowney opting out of the on-field drills, but there’s no question the freakish athleticism was on display as well.
Despite the Clowney media saturation there were a few other guys who also performed on Monday, including another top-10 defender in Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack. Like Clowney, Mack ranked in the top five at his position in the explosive measurements with a 4.65 40, a 40” vertical and a 10’8” broad jump; unlike Clowney, Mack participated in all the positional drills and looked extremely smooth and fluid. No less a pundit than NFL Network’s Mike Mayock has indicated he’d take Mack over Clowney at the top of the board, and even with Clowney’s strong showing Mack did nothing Monday to suggest that opinion is off-base.
Another early-first linebacker, UCLA’s Anthony Barr, was just a whisker behind Mack in the measurable: 4.66 in the 40, 9’11” in the broad jump, 34 ½” in the vertical; both should join Clowney in hearing their name called among the first 10 picks of the draft as well as ranking among the most anticipated IDP rookies of 2014.
In IDP leagues that parse out defensive tackles, Pitt’s Aaron Donald continued to stand out. On the heels of a strong showing at the Senior Bowl, the 6-foot-1, 285 pound DT blasted a 4.68 40 time and mixed explosiveness (32” vertical, 9’8” broad jump) with power (35 reps on the bench press). Now that Donald has athleticism and measurable to stack alongside his on-field performance, he may force his way into the Day One conversation.
Missouri edge rusher Michael Sam, who has drawn plenty of media attention off the field in Indy, took to the field and did little to bolster his third-round draft stock with ordinary (or worse) showings in the 40 (4.91), bench (17 reps) and vertical (25 ½”). Worse, Sam looked stiff during linebacker-based positional drills, suggesting he’ll be limited to playing on the line. Then again, Sam must be able to play at least a little bit; they don’t hand out co-Defensive Player of the Year awards in the SEC to just anybody.
And what of Auburn’s Dee Ford, another Senior Bowl standout and the guy who called out Clowney as a “blind dog in a meat market”? Ford clarified his comments, saying he meant that Clowney gets by on raw athleticism but that he (Ford) has the technique as well to make him a better pass rusher. However, Ford was unable to match any of Clowney’s Combine work after being red-flagged due to a back issue stemming from a two-year old injury.
Tuesday’s Combine finale will see the defensive backs take the field for their 40s and positional drills. While there are no projected media splashes like Clowney or the quarterbacks, there should be plenty of speed on display and maybe even a few names for IDPers to note heading into the 2014 NFL Draft.