The offensive players have had their times in the spotlight at the NFL Scouting Combine, but now it is time for the defenders to show what they can do.
This year's class is loaded with defensive linemen and linebackers who can get to the passer and also shut down the run. Considering the success of the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers this year, as well as the Seattle Seahawks in years prior, it's clear developing the front seven goes a long way toward team success.
While the combine is just one factor in the draft, a strong performance can certainly help a player move up draft boards. Sunday's workouts especially feature some exciting athletes, so make sure to tune in to see what these men can do.
|NFL Combine Sunday (Feb. 28) Schedule|
|Defensive Linemen, Linebackers||On-Field Workouts (Timing, Station, Skill Drills)|
|Defensive Backs||NFLPA Meeting, Psychological Testing, Bench Press, Interviews|
Full workout schedule available at NFL.com.
Predicted Top Performers
Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss
The combine is a big moment for everyone trying to get drafted, but Robert Nkemdiche might have more on the line than anyone. He first had to alleviate concerns about off-field problems stemming from an incident where he fell out of a hotel window and was charged with marijuana possession.
I’ve just got to wait and see [where I’m drafted]. I’m doing everything I can to make teams believe me, and believe the person I truly am. I made a mistake as a 21-year-old, and I’ve got to just keep moving forward and hopefully they believe me. I’m going to do what I have to do on Sunday [in the defensive linemen combine workout] to make them see my athleticism, and hopefully I go as high as possible.
That last part is key because his athleticism is what has teams interested in him in the first place. The 6'4", 296-pound defensive tackle can move like a much smaller man with speed and explosiveness almost unseen at the position. In the individual events, you could see some head-turning numbers for a man his size.
The off-field concerns and inconsistency on the field have hurt his value, but Nkemdiche could still be a first-round pick based on his upside alone. When he is at his best, the Ole Miss star is a monster on the field and can change a game on his own. This will be a great opportunity to show exactly what he can do.
Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia
The biggest questions about Leonard Floyd are whether he has the size and strength to handle the grind of the NFL. Although he is 6'4", his weight at 231 pounds provides some concerns. This allowed opponents to push him around at times at the college level and could lead to ineffectiveness in the NFL.
With that said, Sunday's workouts will be a chance to make people forget all about these problems.
Floyd is a speedster around the edge, and he can showcase this ability with a great 40-yard dash. His pure speed, mixed with the shuttle run and cone drills, could help separate himself from the others in the class. His agility should also stand out in the positional drills, as he shows the ability to handle pass coverage as well.
At the moment, front offices have mixed feelings about the linebacker. Mike Mayock explained the varied viewpoints this week, per Jon Ledyard of USA Today's Draft Wire:
Jon Ledyard @LedyardNFLDraft
Mayock: Some people think Leonard Floyd is a top ten talent.2/23/2016, 7:07:05 PM
Jon Ledyard @LedyardNFLDraft
Mayock: Others think Leonard Floyd is next Barkevious Mingo. Polarizing player.2/23/2016, 7:07:25 PM
Once teams remember how dominant a fast linebacker like Von Miller was in the Super Bowl, though, they will get right back to pushing Floyd near the top of the first round.
Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor
There might still be questions about what type of football player Shawn Oakman can be in the NFL, but an event where you can showcase your size and athleticism without pads is right up his alley.
You might remember Oakman from the memes that circled the Internet a year ago, which the Atlanta Falcons' Twitter account was kind enough to remind us of:
Atlanta Falcons @AtlantaFalcons
Also, this is Shawn Oakman. #NFLCombine https://t.co/4VsDFDDlbu2/26/2016, 7:29:37 PM
Jokes aside, the defensive end is truly an imposing presence on the field. According to Colt Barber of 247Sports, Oakman is the tallest defensive lineman at 6'7 ⅝" and has the longest arms at 35 ¾ inches. Despite being almost 290 pounds, he also looks like a wide receiver with seemingly no body fat.
As far as his explosiveness is concerned, just look at this video of him jumping 40 inches with 70-pound dumbbells in his hands:
This won't be a test at the combine, but he can show off his athleticism in the broad and high jump while likely displaying great speed and strength throughout the week. At the very least, he will turn some heads in Indianapolis.
Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for year-round sports analysis.
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