With the offensive players having wrapped up their Combine work, the attention turned to the defensive side of the ball. On display Monday were two defensive tackles who could conceivably go one-two in April and at minimum will be off the board five picks in.
So let’s address the main event first, and we’ll call it a split decision. Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh (6-3, 307), expected to be the first overall pick unless the Rams take a quarterback, ran a 4.98 40 with 32 reps on the bench press, a 35.5-inch vertical and an 8-09 broad jump. Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy (6-4, 295) was slightly faster (4.96) but significantly weaker on the bench (23 reps); the duo split the explosive jumps, as McCoy’s vertical (30.5) was five inches less but his broad jump (9-06) was almost a foot more.
While Suh and McCoy dominated the tackle conversation, IDPers were more focused on the defensive ends. Athletically, it’s tough to top how South Florida’s Jason Pierre-Paul (6-4, 270) came across with a 4.64 40 (tops among defensive linemen) and a 9-07 broad jump. While his 19 reps on the bench press could be explained by his long (almost 35 inch) arms, it’s worth noting that Fresno State punter Robert Malone put up 225 pounds just as many times.
Ohio State’s Thaddeus Gibson (6-2, 243) also showed well, with a 4.71 40, 32 reps, and a 9-07 broad jump. Gibson has a second/third round grade, while Pierre-Paul is expected to go early in the first round; the key decision for scouts now is whether or not their athleticism augments or contradicts their film—in essence, whether they’ll be the next Jevon Kearse or the next Vernon Gholston.
Perhaps the most notable drill for the defensive linemen came when a little more than a third of the DL group was pulled aside to participate in linebacker drills. The “conversion” group let scouts see how ends who may never have played in space looked dropping back into coverage. It’s tough to make a snap judgment based on two dropbacks without pads, but among the ends who looked as if they’ll have no difficulty transitioning to an outside linebacker role include Utah’s Koa Misi and Auburn’s Antonio Coleman.
Among the pure linebackers, Missouri’s Sean Weatherspoon lived up to the hype with a 4.68 40, 34 reps on the bench (second only to Washington’s Donald Butler among LBs), a 40-inch vertical (among LBs only Oklahoma’s Keenan Clayton jumped higher), and a 10-03 broad jump (second among LBs to Dekoda Watson of Florida State, who jumped 11-02). Conversely, Alabama’s Rolando McClain DNP’d for the drills with an injury while Florida’s Brandon Spikes didn’t run or lift and was underwhelming in his vertical and broad jumps.
Finally, the defensive backs showed up Monday to be weighed and hit the bench press. Notable numbers include USC safety Taylor Mays (6-3, 230 pounds, 24 reps at 225); Boise State corner Kyle Wilson (5-10, 194, 25 reps); safeties Earl Thomas (5-10, 208) of Texas and Eric Berry (5-11, 211) of Tennessee weighing in a little bigger than expected; and finally, seven defensive backs subscribing to Deion Sanders’ theory about never having to bench press Jerry Rice and failing to put up double-digit reps at 225 pounds.