Throughout the course of the NFL Scouting Combine, former NFL defensive back Matt Bowen will bring you his daily notebook from Indianapolis.
Aaron Donald continues to improve his draft stock
Aaron Donald doesn’t have the ideal size/length (6’1”, 285 pounds), but going back to my Senior Bowl notes, and watching him workout on Monday, there shouldn’t be any question about his value as a first-round defensive tackle.
The Pittsburgh product posted a 4.68 official 40 time (with a 1.59 ten yard split) and displayed his athleticism/footwork throughout the drill work on the field. That meshes with Donald’s week of practice in Mobile (and his game tape) where the defensive tackle showcased his quick burst off the ball, technique (hands/counter moves) plus the ability to create leverage at the point of attack.
An ideal fit as three-technique tackle in the NFL, Donald had an excellent workout that should draw the attention of the entire league.
Jadeveon Clowney put his speed on display
Clowney’s official 4.53 40-yard dash time at 266 pounds (along with his 37.5 inch vertical jump and 10’4” broad jump) reinforces what we already knew about the South Carolina defensive end: he has ridiculous athletic ability.
Even with the concerns that we heard over the weekend in Indianapolis concerning his work ethic, and the inconsistencies on tape, the skill set is the key here. With that amount of speed and overall talent, he projects as a top-five player in the draft.
Remember, this is a size/speed league. And Clowney has the top-tier measurables scouts look for with edge players in today’s game.
Keep an eye on Montana linebacker Jordan Tripp
Tripp stood out from my perspective because he moves like a strong safety. At 6’3”, 234 pounds, the linebacker has the footwork, transition skills and the lateral ability that allows him to sink his hips and drive on the ball.
The Montana product posted an official 4.67 40 time, but I was more focused on his skill set as it applied to the positional work on the field. This is where Tripp showcased the athleticism I saw during the Senior Bowl sessions. And while I do believe Tripp has to get stronger as he develops in the pro game, he has the ability to develop as a Nickel linebacker early in his NFL career.
Odds and Ends
- Buffalo’s Khalil Mack might have the top grade at the linebacker position, but I really like the skill set of UCLA’s Anthony Barr (6’5”, 255). He is a smooth athlete that can be used in multiple roles at the NFL level.
- I can see why there is some buzz on defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman given his size (6’6”, 310 pounds) and the athletic ability we saw on the field. The Minnesota product also posted 35.5 inches on the vertical jump, 32 reps on the bench and has an arm length of 34.25 inches.
- Florida State linebacker Telvin Smith should be an immediate impact player at the NFL level on special teams coverage units with his size (6’3”, 218 pounds) and speed (4.52 40). From a defensive perspective, look at Smith as a sub-package linebacker that can rush or drop into coverage as an underneath zone/seam defender.
- Monday’s workout would have been the ideal stage for Auburn DE/OLB Dee Ford (medical) to showcase the athletic ability, speed and movement skills that were on display during Senior Bowl practices.
- Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy (6’4”, 273 pounds) didn’t post a solid 40 time (4.92). However, given his 10-yard split (1.66), his 6.83 three-cone time and the game tape from the SEC, Ealy is still one of the top edge rushers in the draft.
- Boise State’s Demarcus Lawrence (6’3”, 251) showed the burst as an edge linebacker in a 3-4 scheme (1.62 10 yard split) and he can drop off the ball. During the simulated Cover 3/Fire Zone drops, Lawrence looked fluid getting to a landmark, squaring his hips and breaking on the throw.
- Michael Sam’s workout meshes with his performance at the Senior Bowl last month. The defensive end from Missouri doesn’t have top tier straight-line speed and he will display some stiffness/lack of flexibility when asked to drop or change directions. Sam (6’2”, 261 pounds) projects as a developmental edge rusher/core special teams player early in his career.
- The combine isn’t the best judge of talent for Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland. His 40 time (4.83) wasn’t impressive, and his size (5'11”, 248) has been questioned. However, Borland plays with solid lateral quickness and consistently shows up on the tape.
- Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan (6’2”, 298 pounds) had a good workout on the field. The projected first round defensive tackle looked quick, displayed solid footwork and I didn’t see a lot of wasted movement when he worked laterally in drills.
- Defensive backs finally get on the field tomorrow. And I can’t wait to watch safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor run the 40 and go through positional drills.
Seven-year NFL veteran Matt Bowen is an NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.