Monday, March 5, 2012

2012 NFL Combine catchup: defensive line

With the Rams sitting at the fourteenth pick in last year’s draft, hopes in Rams Nation prior to the Combine were that Julio Jones would stay on the board long enough for the Rams to get him. Instead, Jones had a ridiculously good Combine and played his way into the top ten, well ahead of the Rams’ pick. 

Though there’s at least 120 pounds difference, Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe became the 2012 version of Julio Jones last Monday. Any hopes in Rams Nation of getting Poe with pick #33, or even currently still Cleveland’s #22, are now nevermore after his performance last weekend. He won the bench press with 44 reps, then followed that up, at 345 pounds, with a 4.98 40. Good grief. His athleticism drew him comparisons to Haloti Ngata all weekend. Moving laterally in drills, he looked as light on his feet as Gene Kelly. Showed physicality as a pass rusher and a very good punch. Good power in stack-and-shed. 

Other players may also have moved ahead of the Rams’ ability to reasonably draft them. Fletcher Cox (Mississippi State) looks like another top-20 prospect, a defensive tackle with amazing skills for his size. Great footwork, good punch, looked like a complete natural in stack-and-shed, ran a 4.79. The Rams would have to love all that, if they could get it.

Senior Bowl standout Kendall Reyes (UConn) could also slip the Rams’ grasp. Did all the drills well, showed great feet, ran a sub-5.0 and bench-pressed 36 times.

If the Combine brought the Rams some bad news on the defensive line, it also brought good news: this is one of the deepest, best defensive line classes in years, especially at tackle this time around. The Rams can still come up with a fine prospect if some of the top ones get by them. RamView’s takes on some more of this excellent group:

* Michael Brockers (LSU) is rated as the top defensive tackle by most. I just wish we could have seen a lot more of him on NFL Network’s coverage and a lot less is-your-car-up-a-pole-again commercials. Brockers is another DT with incredible feet for his size, and he took good angles in pass rushing drills. 

* Melvin Ingram’s (South Carolina) stock stays on the rise. He slugged every bag with an exaggerated punch that made you think people have been dinging him on his strength. An “I’ll show you” attitude. He was perfect in lineman change-of-direction drills, then worked at LB and did a coverage drill there that was picture perfect until he dropped the ball at the end. He can probably line up as a full-time pass rusher, but the ideal use of his skills is at OLB, based on that pass coverage drill. It was poetry.

* Bruce Irvin (West Virginia) drew the spotlight with a 4.5 40, but like Dontae Moch last year, you got the feeling it’s kind of cheating to put him in the 40 with the rest of the defensive linemen. I am not sure what to do with him, though it is not due to any lack of skill on his part. He looks good at everything. Good edge rush skills. Really launches into the blocker, plays with a good, wide base. Didn’t do the stack-and-shed drill like a speed rusher at all, looked like a real lineman. Charles Davis says he’s strictly an OLB, but his footwork may be just good, not great. My sense is to agree with Davis and say Irvin is a 3-4 OLB, but I don’t think he would be out of his league in a 4-3.

* Andre Branch (Clemson) is in a similar boat. Branch is an intriguing prospect. He showed good feet and was one of the few I noted that had good dip as an edge pass rusher. He was spot-on perfect in the change of direction drills and showed awesome burst. Again, you had a commentator, Mike Mayock this time, insisting he’s limited to 3-4 OLB. But again, the guy’s trying out with the defensive linemen, and he showed a lot of natural ability as a pass rusher.

* Now, Jake Bequette (Arkansas), I think does need to be a 3-4 OLB. I think you have to play him in open space where he can use his speed. Nice feet, but he gets too out of control and plays too high in close quarters. He’s one of the best athletes in the group, and was one of the few linemen worked out at LB who looked comfortable dropping back into coverage.

Others I liked:

* Alameda Ta’amu (Washington) wasn’t too far behind Poe at anything, but should come at much less of a price. You’re not going to get Poe’s explosiveness, but Ta’amu’s just about as light on his feet, and showed good pass rush skills and also had a good stack-and-shed run.

* I doubt Loni Fangupo (BYU) has a spot on the Rams, but I like him anyway. Built like a bulldog and strong as a bull. But is really light on his feet. But delivers a thunderous punch. About blew the stack-and-shed drill out of the water. Also one of the top bench-pressers. Somebody’s going to get at least a solid backup nose tackle by drafting Fangupo.

* This year’s version of Robert Quinn would appear to be Olivier Vernon of The U. He was suspended half of this past season for accepting illegal benefits, and only started three games. He made the most of his opportunity to show his abilities at the Combine, though. 4.8 in the 40, 31 bench presses, one of the longest broad jumps of the group. Also showed near-perfect footwork in the bag drill, had one of the best corner turns in the edge pass rush drill and had one of the best stack-and-shed drills of anyone. Very smooth athlete.

* Whitney Mercilus (Illinois) shouldn’t have hurt his case. He ran a great 40 (4.68), his footwork looked fine, and he looked good in the edge rush drill. Didn’t look like he delivered a lot of power in stack-and-shed, but his weight room performance was fine (27). 

* Also liked Derek Wolfe of Cincinnati. Nice footwork, delivers a strong punch, defensive tackle who runs a five-flat. 

Others I, let’s just say still have questions about:

* I still do not get the fuss about Quinton Coples (North Carolina). He is not a player I look at and see the top-10 lock the “experts” see. He tripped during the bag drill. He showed no punch in pass rush drills and played too tight to the line. He looked slow in the stack-and-shed. You are getting great change of direction, and elite burst, which is backed up by his (unofficial) 1.63 ten-yard split. Is that enough for top-10 status?

* Jaye Howard (Florida) is still who I thought he is. He drilled like a finesse defensive tackle. I think you will get very good pass rush out of him. Still not sold on his run defense.

* Vinny Curry (Marshall) didn’t pop like I hoped he would, but that may be NFL Network coverage’s fault. Don’t recall seeing much of him.

* Dom Hamilton (Mizzou) showed one of the best punches, but it seemed to take him a long time to wind up and deliver it. Strength won’t be a question for him, but footwork and explosion probably are.

* Jamaar Jarrett (Arizona State), wow. Was out-of-balance every single drill and looked as fluid as a box of rocks. Poor balance, no smoothness at all. Practically fell down on drills that shouldn’t be challenges to one’s balance. He played like he’d either just come from a wine tasting, or had an inner-ear infection. Maybe both.

Linebackers next, then defensive backs. I went through 12-plus hours of Combine coverage this weekend, dangit, I’m recapping it. Then maybe I’ll finally get to this whole Gregg Williams business.

The short version: I’d fire him.


1 comment:

football junkie said...

Wow Mike! So knowledgeable and so smart!! ...... Who's Mike?