Reflections from the Combine: Defensive Players
Now it’s time to get to my favorite part of football, the defense. Much like the offensive-side of the ball, this year’s defensive class is deep as well with every position stacked except the linebackers. Here are some of the defensive lineman that stood out to me.
A lot more was said about Ealy’s teammate Michael Sam coming into the Combine than about Ealy himself but he didn’t fail to look good during the drills. Standing at 6’4” 273 lbs., Ealy is probably best suited playing as an outside linebacker, pass-rushing specialist in a 3-4 defensive scheme much like his teammate. Of course the big question would be if he could successfully fall back in pass coverage and keep up with a running back or potentially a tight end since he ran a less than desirable 4.92 second 40-yard dash. But what he lacks in overall speed, he gains in quickness off the line and has great technique. His footwork and athleticism were solid, pulling off a position best 6.83 second 3-cone drill. Ealy has the potential to go late in the first round but is more likely to fall to at least the 3rd round.
I’ll admit it’s just as hard to say where in the draft this guy will go as it is to pronounce his name, but he did have a good Combine and should hear his name called sometime during the 5th round of the NFL Draft. One thing that stands out about him is his size. Standing nearly 6’3” and weighing in at just under 300 lbs., this guy will plug up holes and stuff running backs and has the strength to back it up, doing 29 reps. He also showed off some explosiveness with a 101” broad jump and a 28” vertical, which is really impressive considering his size. His technique and footwork looked good too, finishing the 3-cone drill in a respectable 7.78 seconds. Oh, and he’s pretty darn fast too, clocking a 5.15 second 40-yard dash time.
Carrethers passes the eyeball test of what an NFL defensive tackle should look like, standing at about 6’2” and 337lbs. Does that stature alone mean he can be a solid contributor at the next level? Right now, I would put him in the 6th at best and possibly an undrafted free-agent but watching him at the Combine, I think teams should think about taking a shot on him late in the draft. He ran a very respectable 5.47 second 40-yard dash, which was the slowest for his position. However, to put it in perspective, the fastest time was run by Aaron Donald, a potential first-round draft pick, who weighs 50 lbs. less than Carrethers. He also did 32 reps in the bench press. On top of that, his footwork and agility looked good for a big guy. He finished the 3-cone drill in 7.89 seconds, which was middle of the pack for his position. He could have helped his cause more with a better broad jump but did manage a 26” vertical, which,again, is pretty impressive considering his size.
Along with Moncrief, Phillip Gaines was one of the players that really stood out to me during the Combine and was a real pleasure to watch during drills. This 6′ 193 lbs. cornerback has the build and the skill set that NFL teams are looking for. I would say he is going to be a mid 3rd round to early 4th round draft pick at the latest. Possibly even a late 2nd round pick. and here is why: For beginners, Gaines is fast. He turned out the second fastest 40 time for defensive backs and the fifth overall fastest for all Combine invitees, with a 4.38. Now sure, that kind of speed will make you start to take notice but that is not what made him stand out to me. It was the fact that he had speed with a purpose. What I mean by that is the 40 is great for just straight line speed, but rarely in the NFL does a cornerback just run quickly in a straight line. Gaines had a good burst off of the line and was very fast while back-pedaling. His agility and ability to swivel quickly to keep up with quick route runners was on par or better than the bigger name draft picks in this year’s class. He was definitely one of my favorite players to watch during my four days in Indianapolis.