INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — An analytical look atthe defensive players whose performance at the NFL Scouting Combine most dramatically affected their stock:
Pat Angerer, LB, Iowa. Previously considered a stiff and limited athlete, Angerer ran much better than expected and looked quicker and more athletic in drills. He came to the Combine as a late-round possibility but left with a fourth- or fifth-round grade.
Geno Atkins, DT, Georgia. Personnel men were impressed with him at the Senior Bowl. And after he looked bigger than expected and bench-pressed 225 pounds a surprising 34 times and showed great athleticism in drills Monday, he is a second-round lock who could sneak into the bottom of the first round.
Eric Berry, S, Tennessee. He already was a top prospect on most every team’s draft board, but his display of elite athleticism, body control and coordination likely pushed him into the top five of the draft.
Thaddeus Gibson, OLB, Ohio State. Personnel men and coaches wanted to see if the explosiveness and athleticism he showed playing defensive end in college could translate to playing outside linebacker in the NFL. He answered those questions at the Combine, looking explosive, quick, agile and athletic in all drills. More than a few scouts said he looked like he had been playing linebacker his whole life. He will go in the first round to a team using a 3-4 scheme.
Sergio Kindle, DE/OLB, Texas. He can play anywhere, be it outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme or end in a 4-3 system. He showed the elite explosiveness and speed to be a pass-rush demon from either alignment. His Combine performance should lock up a top-15 pick.
Taylor Mays, S, USC. Hestruggled as a senior—showing questionable athleticism and coverage skills—and then was inconsistent during Senior Bowl practices. At Lucas Oil Stadium, he looked like his did in ’08, showing good all-around athleticism for a big safety. Most NFL teams will place his final grade somewhere between his great play as a junior and his inconsistent senior season, which should get him drafted in the middle-to-late first round.
Earl Mitchell, DT, Arizona. He jumped onto NFL radars with strong East-West Shrine Game practices. Still, personnel men wanted to see if he could repeat those flashes of elite quickness and athleticism. On Monday, he ran an excellent 40-yard dash (in the low 4.8-second range) and showed good athleticism in all the drills. Now, there are no doubts he has NFL size, strength and athleticism and could go as high as the third round.
Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech. He looked great on film in ’09, but personnel men wanted to see his size and athleticism up close. He impressed by weighing in at 266 pounds with long arms and displaying great quickness, burst and athleticism throughout his workout Monday. Morgan and South Florida’s Jason Pierre-Paul likely will battle it out to be the first defensive end drafted April 22, perhaps both in the top 10.
Jared Odrick, DT, Penn State. He came to Indy viewed as a solid athlete who was productive mostly because of his smarts, technique and effort. On Monday, he showed surprising quickness, agility, flexibility and athleticism and put himself into the discussion as to who is the third-best defensive tackle, behind Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy.
Jeff Owens, NT, Georgia. After the season, Owens was viewed as a solid third- or fourth-round prospect, but he then dominated at the Senior Bowl and moved into second-round consideration. At the Combine, he no doubt looked better than the other top nose tackles—Tennessee’s Dan Williams and Alabama’s Terrence Cody—and could slip into the bottom of the first round.
Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri. Weatherspoon had a disappointing senior season, playing heavier than he did in ’08. At the Senior Bowl, he showed up in much better shape and looked quick and athletic all week in practice. Then at Combine, he displayed the athleticism NFL coaches covet and has personnel men convinced he can be productive in a 4-3 scheme (middle or weakside linebacker) or in a 3-4 (inside linebacker). He should be a late-first- or early-second-round pick.
Jason Worilds, DE/OLB, Virginia Tech. Scouts weren’t quite sure where he fit best, the primary reason he was viewed as a fourth-round prospect before the Combine. On Monday, he proved he is a top-level athlete and pretty much locked up a spot in the third round and could move up even further with a strong on-campus workout March 18.
Joe Haden, CB, Florida. He was the nearly unanimous No. 1 cornerback heading into the Combine, but some surely will question that after his 4.57-second 40-yard dash Tuesday. He showed poor technique Tuesday but looks faster and more athletic on film, and our opinion of him won’t change. That said, general managers drafting in the top 10 might be scared off by Tuesday’s poor performance. The pressure is surely on to show marked improvement at his on-campus workout March 17.
One cautionary note: Brandon Flowers had been a top-15 prospect in ’08 before a poor 40 at the Combine sank his draft stock. The Chiefs stole him in the second round, 35th overall, and Flowers now is one of the NFL’s better cornerbacks. Haden is unlikely to fall that far, but he very well could slide on draft day.
Kendrick Lewis, S, Ole Miss. Scouts around the league have been glowing about Lewis since the start of the ’09 season, and many NFL evaluators have given him second-round grades. He struggled Tuesday at the Combine, and his stock could really suffer. Safeties who run the 40 in more than 4.7 seconds historically become late-round picks regardless of their on-field play.
Vince Oghobaase, DT, Duke. Some scouts had tagged him as a "sleeper" because of his size, athleticism and intelligence, but after a disappointing Combine he no longer holds that tag. He looked slow in all drills Monday, lacking speed and quickness and burst. He likely will fall into the late rounds.
This story appears in March 3’s edition of Sporting News Today. If you are not receiving Sporting News Today, the only daily digital sports newspaper, sign up today.
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