Day 3 of the 2018 NFL Combine is officially in the books, and with that comes the end of my second consecutive trip down to Indianapolis to watch the action.
The atmosphere down in Indy during Combine week is very fun. There are players, coaches, scouts, executives and reporters roaming around the city, and it’s fun to try to keep an eye out for familiar faces - all without being invasive, of course.
On the third day, defensive linemen and linebackers had the chance to prove their worth to NFL teams. The Chicago Bears desperately need edge rushers, so one could assume that they had their eyes glued on today’s prospects. Here are a few of my own notes that I took from the workouts.
- I started off with my day with the same breakfast that I had on Saturday, but this time I added on a danish and a piece of banana bread. I’m pretty sure the danish was apple, but it was pretty solid nonetheless.
- Yours truly slept in on accident and didn’t wake up in time to watch the interior defensive linemen do their drills in person. However, I was able to catch them on TV. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see Vita Vea in position drills, but his 40-yard dash was impressive. It wasn’t the sub-5.0 that some thought he would run, but a 5.11 40-yard dash with a 1.77 10-yard split at 6’4" and 347 pounds is still insane. He proved in college that he isn’t just a space-eating nose tackle: he’s a game changer. He is a dangerous run stuffer who has more pass-rushing upside than most nose tackles that weigh in above 330 pounds. I don’t think the Bears will take him at No. 8, since they already have Eddie Goldman at nose - where Vea is best suited in the pros - but he has potentially to develop into a Dontari Poe-level player.
- Stanford’s Harrison Phillips, who led defensive linemen in bench press reps on Saturday with 42, looked great in workouts today. He kicked the day off with a solid 5.21 40-yard dash with a 1.79 10-yard split. He displayed a violent club in bag drills, which would be assumed considering his bench press numbers, and his footwork was quicker and more refined than expected: he changed direction fairly well in pursuit drills. Phillips figures to be a Round 2 player. While the Bears don’t need a defensive lineman as much as they do other positions, they could still be in the market for another defensive end alongside Akiem Hicks. Phillips would be a nasty and technically sound addition to Chicago’s front seven.
- Florida’s Taven Bryan and Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne are both likely late first-round players who won’t be on the board when the Bears pick in Round 2, but they both stood out athletically today. Bryan ran a 4.98 40-yard dash with a 1.68 10-yard split, and posted a 9’11" broad jump and a 35-inch vertical jump at 6’5" and 291 pounds. Payne, who measured in at 6’2" and 311 pounds, ran a 4.91 40-yard dash with a 1.67 10-yard split. Both players looked smooth in agility drills and displayed impressive athleticism.
- Fort Hays State’s Nathan Shepherd, whom I profiled a while back, also had a solid outing at the Combine. The small-school prospect ran a 5.10 40-yard dash with a 10-yard split. He showcased a solid blend of athleticism and power throughout his drills. His jabs in bag drills were impressive, his hand usage was refined and his feet were quick in most of his drills. His frame was a little bit high in drills, which was a flaw I mentioned in the aforementioned profile, but it was somewhat better than it was when I watched his tape. That will be an indicator of his pad level on the field. However, he showed impressive athleticism and power. If general manager Ryan Pace wants to continue his small-school run from last year’s draft, then Shepherd would be a great pick in Round 4 if available.
- Breaking news: North Carolina State edge rusher Bradley Chubb is good. He ran a 4.66 40-yard dash with a 1.63 10-yard split at 269 pounds, which is about a tenth of a second faster than I thought he would run. His workout was arguably better than any other edge rusher at the Combine. He displayed fluid hips, quick feet, very good bend off the edge, a powerful club and surprising athleticism. He even looked good dropping back in coverage, despite playing as a hand-in-the-dirt 4-3 defensive end in college. If I’m Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard, I’m making sure that today’s workouts aren’t the last time that Chubb dominates in Indianapolis. He won’t be there when the Bears pick at 8, but if there’s anyone they should trade up for in this draft, it’s Chubb. (Side note: they shouldn’t trade up, but Chubb would be a great addition to Chicago’s roster)
- UTSA edge rusher Marcus Davenport predictably impressed at the Combine. He weighed in at 264 pounds at nearly 6’6” and ran an impressive 4.59 40-yard dash with a 1.63 10-yard split. That athleticism showed up in positional drills, as well. He showed off fluid hips, quick feet, a fast and powerful punch and great bend off the edge. Although he wasn’t a world beater in coverage drills, he still displayed decent ball skills and athleticism to keep up with tight ends at the next level. Davenport is still obviously very raw, but he’s an enticing blend of athleticism and size that Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio could work wonders with. He would be a very good option for Chicago if they wanted to trade down.
- The two most impressive edge rushers in coverage drills were Boston College’s Harold Landry and Kansas’ Dorance Armstrong Jr. They had smooth hip flips when dropping back in coverage, and they displayed solid ball skills. Both showed upside in pass-rushing drills, Landry more so than Armstrong. Neither were fantastic, as Landry had some footwork issues and Armstrong’s bend wasn’t stellar, but both are athletic players who are tailor-made for the 3-4 outside linebacker position in the NFL. Landry will more than likely be off the board when the Bears pick in Round 2, but Armstrong could be a name to look out for in that round.
- Virginia’s Andrew Brown worked out with edge rushers today, but I see him more as a 3-technique in the pros. Nonetheless, he put together a very good workout for himself. He ran a 5.04 40-yard dash with a 1.73 10-yard split, which is a very good time for a player who weighed in at over 280 pounds. He showcased quick feet for a big man, solid bend off the edge and a violent punch in both the bag drill and the club-rip drill. I’m higher on Brown than most, and I think that he would be a great target for the Bears in Rounds 4 or 5.
- Neither Ohio State’s Sam Hubbard nor LSU’s Arden Key ran a 40-yard dash, just like how they both chose not to do the bench press on Saturday. However, they both ended up having very good outings in positional drills. Hubbard’s hips were fluid in athleticism-based defensive line drills and in coverage drills. His footwork was very good, the explosion in his punches were impressive, and he was quite good at turning the corner off the edge on club-rip drills. His 6.84 three-cone drill was the fastest time among defensive linemen, too. Key’s hips weren’t as fluid as Hubbard’s, but he still showcased a bit of that athleticism that jumped out at you on his 2016 tape. He had quick feet, changed direction well and had a violent club. Hubbard is more likely to be available for the Bears in Round 2 than Key is, but one could argue that he would be the better pick even if both of them were still on the board.
- Looking for a mid-round sleeper off the edge? Utah’s Kylie Fitts had a very good day today. He ran a 4.69 40-yard dash with a 1.62 10-yard split and had a 6.88 three-cone drill time at nearly 6’4” and 263 pounds. His bend off the edge was impressive, his feet were quick and his hips were fluid. He changed directions well and held his own in coverage drills, despite not having the softest hands of the bunch. If the Bears elect to wait until Day 3 to draft an edge rusher, then Fitts would be a very good fit(ts) in Fangio’s system.
- UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin ran a 4.38 40-yard dash, just one day after posting 20 bench press reps at 227 pounds. If you don’t feel inspired after watching the one-handed wonder do better than many able-bodied players at the Combine, then you have no soul.
- Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds measured in at nearly 6’5” and 253 pounds and ran a 4.55 40-yard dash. That in itself is an impressive feat. He showcased very fluid hips, quick feet and jaw-dropping athleticism in positional drills, which support his tape’s displays of athleticism while dropping back in coverage. Edmunds proved with his performance at the Combine that he can be a Pro Bowl-caliber linebacker if he develops well. Considering the fact that he’s only 19 years old, his athleticism for his size is just unfair. He’s best suited to be a 4-3 SAM backer or a 3-4 JACK backer (although the MIKE would likely work for him, too), which isn’t necessarily a huge need for the Bears right now. However, having a dynamic, young athlete like Edmunds who can make an impact stopping the run, dropping back in coverage or blitzing up the A and B gaps would be an intriguing possibility.
- Side note: why are there so many windmills in Indiana? I drove up I-65 on my way back home and saw nothing but farmland and windmills for quite a while. I know that southern Illinois has quite a bit of windmills, but I basically never see any windmills in the northwest suburbs.
- Georgia linebackers Roquan Smith and Lorenzo Carter both put on a show at the Combine. Although Smith didn’t participate in positional drills, he posted an impressive 4.51 40-yard dash. He’s arguably the best off-ball linebacker in this year’s class, as his athleticism, instincts, ability to execute his assignments, tackling and ability in coverage are all top-notch. Like Edmunds, Smith would be a 3-4 inside linebacker, which isn’t necessarily a huge need. Being my fifth overall prospect in this year’s class, though, he would be a fantastic value pick whose ceiling compares to that of Patrick Willis. Carter, at 6’5” and 250 pounds, had the third-fastest 40-yard dash time among linebackers with a blazing 4.50. I’ve been high on Carter, who bears a lot of resemblance to current Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, for months now, and I knew that he would run well at the Combine, but even I wasn’t expecting him to run as well as he did. He was an edge rusher in college, but, like Floyd when he came out of Georgia in 2016, some analysts see Carter as an off-ball linebacker in the pros. I think that he has the potential to be a very good 3-4 outside linebacker in the pros, although he admittedly has a bit of work to do in regards to technique. He may end up sneaking into the back end of the first round with his outing at the Combine.