With the offensive players wrapping up their Combine activities over the weekend, Monday was left to the dark side—with a little something for everybody. While corners and safeties were weighed and measured, defensive linemen and linebackers went through the on-field drills. Tops on the list for most scouts was determining which players—specifically, ends and outside linebackers—would fit into their squads’ respective schemes .
“Hamstring” was the word of the day, with a pair of potential first-round selections limping off after suffering hamstring injuries. Texas end Brian Orakpo turned in an impressive workout prior to his injury, with 31 reps on the bench press (second among defensive ends), a 39.5-inch vertical (also second among his position), and a 4.70 time in the 40 (third among ends). Aside from the tweak, which didn’t appear to be serious, the only other downer to Orakpo’s workout was that he didn’t look particularly comfortable participating in linebacker-type drills. Worst-case, Orakpo positioned himself as one of the more explosive ends in the draft and should still hear his name during the first half of Round One.
USC inside linebacker Rey Maualuga suffered the other hammy tweak, aggravating an injury he said he’s suffered during workouts a couple weeks earlier. Maualuga pulled up lame at the end of his 4.82 40 and shut down for the rest of the day.
Maualuga’s performance, or lack thereof, might have hurt his draft stock more had the other elite inside linebacker, Ohio State’s James Laurinaitis, been more impressive. Instead, Laurinaitis posted a 40 time just a whisker faster than the injured Trojan (4.82), though his cone and shuttle drill times were at or near the top of his colleagues. Still, more was expected from Laurinaitis, who after this performance may be clinging to a low first-round grade.
Plenty of other linebackers helped themselves with solid Combine showings, including Wake Forest’s Aaron Curry. Not that there were questions, but following position-bests of 4.56 in the 40 (at 6-2 and 254 pounds), 10-4 in the broad jump, and 37 inches in the vertical jump Curry has laid out a compelling case to be the first overall selection in April’s draft. USC’s Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews were also impressive. Cushing paced the position with 30 reps on the bench and posted solid marks in other drills, while Matthews looked equally athletic during his workouts.
Among the hybrid DE/OLBs, the performance of Cincinnati’s Connor Barwin stood out. Much like multi-positional tight end James Casey of South Carolina, Barwin has been an athlete without a position, playing tight end and on special teams before moving to defensive end last year. His 4.66 40 ranked second among ends, while his vertical and broad jumps and shuttle and cone drill times were all tops at the position. While some might fear the potential of a “workout warrior”, Barwin’s performance with just one year of experience on the defensive line suggests that he’s a great athlete ready to be molded into a great pass rusher.
Not far behind Barwin were Florida State’s Everett Brown and Richmond’s Lawrence Sidbury. Brown is still considered among the top down ends, but his workout showed enough athleticism that he could play as an up end as well. Sidbury is slightly bigger than Brown and even more athletic, not only answering questions about his ability to fit into a 3-4 as well as a 4-3 but sending his draft stock skyrocketing as well; he may not crack the draft’s first day, but he won’t have to wait long for a call on Sunday.
Conversely, Penn State end Aaron Maybin failed to impress during his linebacker-type drills—disappointing, considering that at 249 he was among the lighter ends. His 4.88 40 was average at best, and his 22 reps were closer to the bottom of his position than the top. Without demonstrating the versatility to fit into a 3-4 scheme, the comparisons to DeMarcus Ware are fading and could negatively impact Maybin’s draft stock.
Among defensive tackles, Missouri’s Ziggy Hood used a 4.89 40—tied with Iowa’s Mitch King for fastest at the position—to answer questions about his speed, and 34 bench reps—third among DTs—to remind folks of his strength. At 6-3 and 300 pounds, Hood’s Combine performance should ensure he’s a first-day pick as teams switching to the 3-4 hunt for a prototypical nose tackle. Clemson’s Dorrell Scott also posted impressive measurables (a 4.95 40 and 29 bench reps at 6-3 and 312), which may help scouts overlook his sluggish senior season and focus on his potential and strong sophomore and junior campaigns.
The Combine’s final day will feature defensive backs taking their shot at Chris Johnson’s 4.24 standard in the 40.