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2020 NFL Combine: Preview for defensive line and linebackers

The defensive linemen and linebackers (and yes, the EDGE players) are working out today at the NFL Combine, so check out who our Senior Draft Analyst, EJ Snyder, has his eyes on.

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NFL Combine - Day 4

The NFL Network is going all out for their coverage of the 2020 NFL Combine, so we’re giving you guys an open thread to discuss all the on-field action each day. Today it’ll be the defensive linemen and linebackers going through their workouts and drills. Coverage will start at 3:00 p.m Central on the NFL Network.

Most NFL Draft prospects will go through the following workouts, 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump, 3 cone drill, and the shuttle run.

Besides the usual drills we’ve seen each year at the combine, this year they’ve added new drills for each position group.

The defensive lineman will have two news drills to workout this year, the run and club and the run the hoop, but they’ll still be doing the punch and hand shiver drill, the body control drill, a bag COD drill, a pass rush drill, and the ever popular front start wave drill and lateral reaction.

The linebackers will do brand new shuffle, sprint, change of direction drill and a short zone breaks drill. They’ll also have their usual 4 bag agility drill, the wave drill, the 90 degree catch drill, a pass rush drill, and a back pedal and react drill.

Now I’ll turn it over to our Senior Draft Analyst, EJ Snyder, so he can go over a few prospects he’ll have his eye on today.

EJ’s prospects to keep an eye on:

DL: This year’s crop of defensive space-eaters has some really interesting talent packed into some very different frames. Watching these guys move, jump, and lift will be eye-opening if you haven’t taken a spin through their tape.

Up High: All the talk at the top is focused around Derrick Brown and rightfully so: he’s a crazy talented prospect that should be off the board in the top 10 picks. My favorite is the guy ranked just behind him though; Oklahoma’s Neville Gallimore. This round rocket (6’2”/304) is a ball of energy and moves like no 300-pounder ever should. He’s lightning quick, exceptionally strong, and rarely gives up. The result is some unbelievable highlights and his testing numbers on almost all fronts should be through the roof.

In the middle: Raequan Williams - He grew up in Chicago and has an amazing personal history. His tape presents a player that takes nothing for granted, controls the point of attack with exceptionally strong hands, and won’t back down from a challenge. Once he’s through a gap his pursuit is surprisingly rapid. Based on how effective he is, he’s not getting near enough attention from the Draft press.

Down Low: Nebraska has a trifecta of players in this draft at this position - which is rare. Darrion Daniels, Carlos Davis, and Khalil Davis are all at the Combine and watching them perform in the drills will help provide additional distinction between what each one does well. A solid performance could drive home a draftable grade. Bombing testing might mean navigating the first year trying to get attention as a UDFA.

EDGE: This EDGE class is dripping with variety. You want classic power rushers? Got ‘em. Pure speed guys? They’re here too. Mixtures of everything in between? You can probably find one you like.

Up High: Yetur Gross-Matos - This Nittany Lion has length for days and plays with heavy hands at the point of attack. You’d think with longer levers (6’4”/264) he’d be slower but he shows surprising quickness especially once he’’s cleared a path to the QB with his signature crossover move. Better hitter than tackler but he can light up opposing offenses.

In the Middle: Khalid Kareem - A very solid (6’4/265) player that really stirred the drink for Notre Dame’s rush unit. His stats aren’t spectacular but if you dig through the tape he is almost always causing havoc and creating impact from his EDGE rush spot. He also plays the run at an extremely high level right now. Armed with very good power and a good combination of hand usage and quickness, he’ll make an impact sooner rather than later in the league.

Down Low: Fishing for low-round EDGE rushers is a low-payoff gamble, but occasionally teams can hit the jackpot. When they do, it sets them up in a favorable roster position for years to come. Watch Kendall Coleman from Syracuse. His rush-mate Alton Robinson is more physically gifted and overshadows Coleman, but if you want a rusher who is quick to flatten down the line with a little dog in him, Coleman might just be your cup of tea. Combine drills on a fast indoor surface might be just the thing to pump his draft stock up a bit.

LB: This linebacker class isn’t terribly deep but it does have some serious star power. The Combine will highlight just how much the interior linebacking scene has become a full-scale speed merchants party.

Up High: Kenneth Murray - Just a missile when tracking the ball. Murray’s head processes information very quickly and his body follows suit just as quickly. At 6’1”/243 he can flat-out close to the ball. He might even be quick as Roquan Smith. Is he quicker? Speed and agility drills will give us a concrete sense of what level of hyper-athleticism we are dealing with here.

In the Middle: Francis Bernard - A smart linebacker who led the overtly-physical Utah defense from both a cerebral (play-calling) and tone-setting perspective. When Bernard gets to you, you’ll remember the hit. He can really move and knows how to concentrate his mass into impact when he arrives. He’d look great in navy and orange next fall.

Down Low: Cameron Brown - Brown is lanky at 6’5”/232. Add in his 80” wingspan and nose for the ball, and I’m consistently surprised to see him so low on so many draft boards. If he runs well you could be looking at linebacker with good movement skills who can influence a really large area in the middle-of-the-field passing lanes with his frame. If not? He could be available late as a gadget add for a creative defensive coordinator willing to take on a project with potential.


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