2018 NFL Scouting Combine: Defensive Recap
The 2018 NFL Combine is in the books. The Combine had over 300 of the top players available for selection in the 2018 NFL Draft. Over the course of four days, they all were poked and prodded, most took part in a litany of athletic tests and then took part in position-specific drills.
So now let’s recap what we know about the defensive players after all of this with a position-by-position breakdown.
Taven Bryan (Florida) was the star of the show for this group. Bryan blazed a 1.68 10-yard split. He added a 35-inch vertical and a nearly 10-foot broad jump. Not bad for someone 6’5” 291 pounds. Rasheem Green (Southern Cal) ran a 4.74 forty. He is probably a five-technique and not a true interior player, but still impressive. Harrison Phillips (Stanford) did 42 reps of 225 pounds on the bench, just beating out Vita Vea (Washington) who put up 41. Phillips looked plenty nimble during the field drills as well. Vea wanted to run a sub-5 second 40 at 341 pounds but couldn’t quite pull it off. He got dinged up on his second attempt and couldn’t partake in the drills.
Nathan Shepherd (Fort Hays State) continued his rise from unknown, to Senior Bowl practice star, to being a top 50 prospect. Shepherd looked sculpted on the field. He put up solid testing numbers and looked phenomenal during drills. Tim Settle (Virginia Tech) was the complete opposite. He looked sloppy, tested poorly, and lumbered around during drills at times even looking uncoordinated. Michigan’s Maurice Hurst got flagged during the Combine medical checks for a heart condition and was not allowed to take part in any drill. He will be re-examined this week and hopefully, everything checks out for the young man.
Josh Sweat (Florida State) came to impress. His production has been spotty and his medicals will be key, but boy did he put up some gaudy numbers. At 251 pounds, Sweat ran a 4.53 forty (with a ridiculous 1.55 10-yard split) and had a 39.5” vertical leap. Ade Aruna (Tulane) also made some noise with dominant physical testing and an equally impressive performance in the field drills. Bradley Chubb (NC State) did nothing to dissuade me from saying he is the top edge rusher in this class. Harold Landry (Boston College) showed no effects of being injured and put together a great day of athletic testing. Marcus Davenport (UTSA) may well be a stud pass rusher someday, but he has a way to go still. Sam Hubbard (Ohio State) didn’t run the forty but put up a group best 6.84 in the three-cone.
There is no way to talk about anything else before I talk about the performance of Shaquem Griffin (UCF). A true inspiration to anyone who has ever been told they couldn’t do something. Griffin, who has only had one hand since he was four years old due to a birth defect, did twenty reps of 225 pounds on the bench with the use of a prosthetic. If that was all it would have been a great story. Griffin then went out and ran a 4.38 forty which is the fastest time ever run by a linebacker at the Combine (They started officially keeping records in 2006).
Dorian O’ Daniel (Clemson) continued his rise from the Senior Bowl by posting a position best 6.64 in the three-cone. Roquan Smith (Georgia) only ran his first forty and ended up pulling something. In fact, no one saw him on the field again. Rashaan Evans (Alabama) did not run a forty but looked great in the field drills. Tremaine Edmunds (Virginia Tech) ran a great forty time for someone of his size. Leighton Vander Esch (Boise State) had a great day of testing and also looked great on the field. Skai Moore (South Carolina) ran a slow forty (4.74) but looked tremendous in the coverage drills.
Three players from this group ran 4.32 in the forty. Denzel Ward (Ohio State), Donte Jackson (LSU), and Parry Nickerson (Tulane). Ward added a 39” vertical and a ridiculous 11’4” broad jump to likely cement himself into round one. Nickerson came up lame after his forty and that is truly a shame. I believe he could have put on a show. Jackson was a track star in addition to football at LSU so his speed was no surprise. Mike Hughes (UCF) didn’t run a quick 40, but his other tests were good. He did look hesitant in the field drills. Many can say the same for Isiah Oliver (Colorado). Joshua Jackson (Iowa) put up some nice numbers and showed great ball skills in the field drills.
The best in show performance of this group for me would be Jaire Alexander (Louisville). He ran 4.38, had a 35-inch vertical, a 6.71 three-cone, and dominated all the field drills. Jordan Thomas (Oklahoma) for the most part had a mediocre day. Then he went out and set the Combine three-cone record with a time of 6.28 seconds. The most disappointing player in this group for me was Tarvarus McFadden (Florida State). I thought he was at worst a Top 20 player on tape. Corners that run 4.67 do not find themselves high in the NFL Draft. McFadden better get a lot faster between now and his pro day.
I came into the NFL Combine with Derwin James (Florida State) as my top-rated safety and Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama) as my top-rated corner. They will stay at the top but will be flipping positions. I think their respective skill sets are better suited at the opposite position. Fitzpatrick tested well but James tested better. Another safety I think should get a shot to play corner is Tre Flowers (Oklahoma State). He has great speed, long arms, and tremendous size. Flowers also showed nice ball tracking during the field drills.
Dane Cruikshank (Arizona) made a case to move into my Top-100 with his Combine performance. He ran 4.41, had 25 bench reps, a 38.5” vertical, and a 6.89 three-cone. His physicality shows up on film as well. The out of nowhere name was easily Troy Apke (Penn State). Apke ran a group best 4.35 forty. He added to that a 41” vertical, a near 11-foot broad jump, and a 6.56 three-cone. The one-year starter is going to send everyone back to the tape.
What defensive players stood out to you at the 2018 NFL Combine? Let us know in the comments.