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2023 NFL Combine: Winners from Day 1 of DL, LB workouts

WCG’s Lead Draft Analyst shares brief anecdotes on each of his top performers from Day 1 of the 2023 NFL Combine.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 08 Auburn at Georgia Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The first day of workouts for the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine took place on Thursday, and it was an exciting day of defensive line and linebacker play.

This group consisted of interior defenders, off-ball linebackers, and edge rushers alike as the first night of 40-yard dashes and positional drills carried on. It was likely an important day for the Bears to pay attention to, given their current weakness along the defensive line and the opportunity for a new linebacker or two to crack the starting lineup.

Here are some of the winners at each position from the first day of workouts in Indianapolis this year.

Note: All Relative Athletic Score (RAS) measurements come from Kent Lee Platte. He has been doing incredible work during the Combine these last few years.

Defensive line

  • Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh

Kancey broke the 40-yard dash record for defensive tackle, tallying an insane 4.67 40-yard dash. He opted out of positional drills afterward, and the size-length concerns are there. However, that level of athleticism is incredibly rare along the interior, and it shows when you watch him on tape.

  • Gervon Dexter, Florida

Dexter’s testing was strange in that his 10-yard split was well below-average, but his 40-yard dash of 4.88 at 6-foot-6 and 312 pounds was incredible. He moved very well in positional drills and showcased the same level of athleticism he displayed on tape.

  • Bryan Bresee, Clemson

Bresee’s 1.71 10-yard split was the second-fastest among defensive tackles behind only Kancey, and he did so being four-and-a-half inches taller and 17 pounds heavier. His tall frame and sheer athleticism off the line is impressive, and his quickness looked very good in positional drills.

  • Moro Ojomo, Texas

An above-average tester in each drill he performed in, Ojomo looked coordinated in movement drills when positional coaches got onto the field. His 33-inch vertical jump was in the 94th percentile for his position and placed second among all tackles on Thursday.

  • Jalen Redmond, Oklahoma

Redmond had the best performances in both the vertical and broad jumps, and the 3-cone and shuttle drills, and he had the second-best 40-yard dash and 10-yard split among all defensive tackles. Not too shabby!

  • Zacch Pickens, South Carolina

One of the most athletic defensive tackles in the 2023 draft showed up in his Combine performance on Thursday. Pickens looked incredibly smooth in positional drills and was one of the top performers at his position in every single athletic test.

  • Dante Stills, West Virginia

Stills is a bit underweight at 292 pounds, but his athleticism showed up in spades. His footwork and change-of-direction looked very good in workouts, and he was in the top three at defensive tackle. in every athletic test he took except vertical jump

Edge rushers

  • Adetomiwa Adebawore, Northwestern

He ran a 4.49 40-yard dash with a 1.61 10-yard split at 282 pounds. That’s all Adebawore had to do to impress at the Combine.

  • Nick Hampton, Appalachian State

Hampton’s flexibility showed up in positional drills, where the sack artist was able to stay low turning the corner and change direction out in space. He’s a smaller edge rusher and won’t thrive with his hand in the dirt, but his athletic numbers finished above average, and his speed and tenacity show up on tape.

He didn’t run his 40-yard dash, but White’s movement skills stood out when it came time for positional drills. The long-limbed 285-pounder will be high in demand in the NFL Draft, especially after he runs his 40-yard dash at his Georgia Tech Pro Day.

  • Lukas Van Ness, Iowa

I’ll leave this here for you all to interpret.

  • Nolan Smith, Georgia

Smith is coming off of a torn pectoral, and he ran a 4.39 40-yard dash with a 1.52 10-yard split, a 41.5-inch vertical and a 10’8” broad jump. The latter finished third among edge rushers, and the other three led all edge rushers. In case that description didn’t set in: he ran a 4.39 40-yard dash as an edge rusher. Bananas.

  • Byron Young, Tennessee

Even measuring well below the average in height and weight, Young had a 92nd-percentile RAS after his performance at the Combine. That says a lot about his speed and jumping numbers, all of which testing in at least the 96th percentile at his position. His positional drills showcased tremendous agility, too. If teams need an explosive 3-4 edge rusher and want to wait until late Day 2 or early Day 3, he could be their guy.

  • Yasir Abdullah, Louisville

Though he was listed as a linebacker, Abdullah spent most of his time at Louisville rushing the passer. Time will tell if he’s converted to an off-ball linebacker — a SAM, perhaps — but his 4.47 40-yard dash with elite RAS grades in his vertical and broad jumps give him great tools to work with.


  • Trenton Simpson, Clemson

The 235-pound Simpson is seen by many as the top linebacker in the 2023 draft, and his Combine performance lived up to the hype. He placed second at his position with a 4.43 40-yard dash and was just 0.03 seconds away from tying the position’s best 10-yard split. He didn’t test in most exercises, but he put together an absolute clinic in positional drills.

  • Owen Pappoe, Auburn

Pappoe’s 10-yard split of 1.52 was the best at the linebacker position, as was his insane 4.39 40-yard dash. He also placed in the top five in vertical and broad jump testing, and being as athletic as he is — both at the Combine and on tape — meant it was no surprise to see him moving like one of the best athletes in the linebacker group on Thursday.

  • Anfernee Orji, Vanderbilt

Orji exploded with a position-best 38.5-inch vertical jump, he ran a 4.53 40-yard dash, and his 10-yard split of 1.54 tied for the second-best in the class. His speed showed up in his testing, and despite a subpar shuttle time, his jumping measurements and 3-cone drill were all elite.

  • Dorian Williams, Tulane

A 4.49 40-yard dash and the second-longest arms of any off-ball linebacker at the Combine: that’s what you’re getting with Williams. That’s a winning combination for today’s NFL, and one that I’m sure a team like the Bears have certainly taken note of.

Henley’s movement skills in positional drills caught my eye on Thursday, especially in pass-rushing opportunities. He tested pretty well, too, but it was really his mobility and footwork on the field workouts that made him a winner for me.

  • Jack Campbell, Iowa

Though Campbell had the second-slowest 40-yard dash time for the linebacker, he dominated agility drills: his 6.74 3-cone drill and 4.23 20-yard shuttle times were both far and away the best at the linebacker position. What makes his agility even more impressive?He put up those elite numbers at 6-foot-5 and 249 pounds.