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-- All everybody wants to do is talk about Jadeveon Clowney’s 40-yard dash time of 4.53 seconds, but he wasn’t the only defensive lineman who made headlines at the combine.
Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald continues to take full advantage of the pre-draft process. He was one of the best players at this year’s senior bowl and he followed that up with just as an impressive combine performance.
Donald, who measured 6-1 and 285 pounds, ranked No. 2 among the top defensive lineman with 35 reps of 225 pounds on the bench. This should takeaway the size argument that some make against him. Teams are always searching for power inside. Sometimes people falsely equate weight with strength, but the two attributes aren‘t one in the same. Donald is living proof of that.
In addition to his strength, Donald solidified himself as one of the most explosive defensive lineman in the draft with a 4.68 40-yard dash. His 10-yard split clocked in at 1.59 seconds. By comparison, Clowney’s 10-yard split was 1.56 seconds. Donald is nearly 20 pounds heavier than Clowney is.
-- Overshadowed by Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews and Auburn’s Greg Robinson, Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan entered the combine as the clear-cut No. 3 offensive tackle in this draft. That‘s still the case following the combine, but the gap between Matthews, Robinson, and Lewan may not be as wide as many previously thought.
Lewan displayed the kind of athleticism and movement skills you see from top 10 tackles. He led all offensive linemen with a 4.87 40-yard dash. Yes, the 40-yard dash isn’t very important among offensive tackles, as you don’t see tackles running 40 yards downfield.
However, the 10-yard split is an excellent indicator of whether a tackle has enough burst to reach the second level. Lewan’s 10-yard split was an impressive 1.64. He also added 29 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press and led all offensive linemen with a broad jump of nearly 10 feet.
The tape on Lewan is solid. His junior year is definitely superior to his senior year, but assumptions of a major drop off between those seasons are overstated. Michigan’s offensive line struggled in 2013, in large part because of their inexperience inside. Lewan remained a bright spot and earned second team AP All-American honors.
-- Another first-round pick that helped himself at the NFL combine was Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans. A concern regarding Evans was whether he had enough speed to separate from NFL defensive backs. It’s still a worry of mine, as I do not believe he plays as fast as his timed speed suggests. Nevertheless, Evans clocked in with a 4.53 40-yard dash.
For somebody his size (6-4 and 231 pounds), that’s a very strong time. He also chose to participate in individual drills, where he displayed strong hands (he caught everything) and very good route running.
Production was not an issue for Evans, who caught 69 passes for 1,394 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013. It appears athleticism isn’t, either.
-- At 6-3 and 211 pounds, Utah cornerback Keith McGill fits the profile of corners built like they’re safeties. He has long arms and does an outstanding job in press coverage.
His athleticism was on full display at the combine, where ran the 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds. Like Evans, McGill’s size makes that an impressive time. McGill also finished tied for third among cornerbacks with a 39-inch vertical jump. His workout reinforces the comparisons to Seattle cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner. Given their recent success in the NFL, that’s a good spot to be in for McGill, who should be a day two pick.
-- Also standing out among cornerbacks was TCU’s Jason Verrett. A possible first-round pick prior to the combine, Verrett made his case loud and clear. He ran an impressive 4.38 40-yard dash and tied McGill with a 39-inch vertical jump. He was also one of the most fluid cornerbacks to participate in individual drills.
Size will obviously remain an issue for Verrett, who is just 5-9 and 189 pounds. Nonetheless, he has the skill set to thrive as a slot corner, which continues to play an enhanced role as offenses develop their passing games around slot receivers.