We continue our look into the NFL Combine with Day 3 on-field workouts and agility tests for the defensive lineman and linebacker units. The past two days we have covered the offensive lineman, running backs, special teamers, quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends. Today, we start things off with a look at the defensive lineman.
How to watch
2016 NFL Combine
Location: Indianapolis, IN | Lucas Oil Stadium
Time: 6:00 AM - 1:00 PM PT
Channel: NFL Network
Live Stream: NFL Now
There are four critical areas the 49ers and all other NFL teams deem important during the NFL Combine process, which are medical evaluations, one-on-one interviews, verified measurements, and agility tests and drills. For viewing NFL fans, it is the on-field drills and agility tests the NFL Combine highlights, particularly with five on-field measurable drills performed by all prospects choosing to participate. These five drills consists of:
The marquee event of the combine is all about speed and explosion with the timed 40-yard interval measuring vertical speed over distance and acceleration from a static start. Prospects are also timed at 10 and 20 yard intervals (10-yard split and 20-yard split), where the 10-yard split measures initial quickness and burst, and the 20-yard split measures sustained quickness and burst.
The vertical jump is all about lower-body explosion, power, and leaping ability.
The broad jump is all about lower-body explosion and lower-body strength testing explosion and balance.
3 Cone Drill
The 3 cone drill is all about the prospect's athletic ability to change direction at a high speed. The drill measures agility, flexibility, and change of direction skills (COD).
The short shuttle or 20-yard short shuttle (5-10-5) is all about testing a prospect's lateral quickness, agility, burst, flexibility, balance, and explosion in short areas.
Although the bench press (225 pounds) is not part of the five on-field measurable drills performed today (bench press performed the day before), it is a crucial part of measurables testing upper-body strength (not functional strength) and endurance; moreover, it gives insight for NFL clubs on how often the prospect frequented his college weight room for the last 3-5 years.
How the measurable drills translate for defensive lineman:
When looking at the defensive lineman perform their drills today, keep in mind of some minimum measurable targets defensive lineman should be expected to target as a minimum result. For the most part, prospects exceeding these minimal targets tend to find success in the NFL.
40-yard dash - Minimum Target: 5.15
10-yard split - Minimum Target: 1.80
Vertical jump - Minimum Target: 30"
Broad jump - Minimum Target: 8'9"
3 cone drill - Minimum Target: 7.75
20-yard shuttle - Minimum Target: 4.55
Bench press - Minimum Target: 26
Flying-20 - Minimum Target: 2.13
40-yard dash - Minimum Target: 4.85
10-yard split - Minimum Target: 1.70
Vertical jump - Minimum Target: 33"
Broad jump - Minimum Target: 9'9"
3 cone drill - Minimum Target: 7.35
20-yard shuttle - Minimum Target: 4.30
Bench press - Minimum Target: 24
Flying-20 - Minimum Target: 2.13
40-yard dash - Minimum Target: 4.70
10-yard split - Minimum Target: 1.65
Vertical jump - Minimum Target: 36"
Broad jump - Minimum Target: 9'9"
3 cone drill - Minimum Target: 7.10
20-yard shuttle - Minimum Target: 4.10
Bench press - Minimum Target: 23
Flying-20 - Minimum Target: 2.01
As for the drills themselves in relation to predicting future success, there is not an exact science on which drill equates to NFL success; however, specific drills for each position tend to garnish more importance than other drills. For the defensive tackles and defensive end positions, measurable drills aiding future success are: broad jump, 10-yard split, and the flying-20 (*The flying-20 is the measured last 20 yards of a 40-yard dash measuring separation speed. The flying-20 is a key measurable the 49ers value). For the smaller defensive ends/edge rushers/outside linebackers, measurable drills aiding future success are: 40-yard dash, 10-yard split, flying-20, and the broad jump.
Defensive line prospects to watch:
DL06 *Joey Bosa, No. 97, 6050 - 269 lbs., 33 3/8" arms, 10 1/4" hands, 24 bench - Ohio State
Joey Bosa could very well be the first pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. He is a tremendously gifted athletic talent showcasing a terrific combination of size, strength, athleticism, natural ability, power, quickness, and superb technique. A relentless motor, Bosa dominates in the run game with great fundamentals and pure power. Stack and sheds nicely and has tremendous awareness. Not necessarily a speed rusher off the edge, Bosa does utilize fantastic speed to power conversion to get in the backfield, along with quickness and flexibility to side-step opponents on his way to the quarterback. He also has a very impressive swim move. A man amongst boys, Bosa is an all around complete player with excellent technique, adept in all facets of the game whether rushing the passer, wreaking havoc in the backfield, or a stout run stopper. Extremely strong, Bosa has been reported to have benched 440 pounds and squat 500 pounds while in high school. In the 49ers' 3-4 scheme, I envision Bosa as a five-technique, but he his scheme diverse, so the options with Bosa are numerous; therefore, standing up as an outside linebacker in the 34 is also an option. The bottom line is Bosa bestows versatility, where he can be utilized all over the defensive line.
There are a few minor issues Bosa needs to maintain consistency on. For example, he occasionally comes out with a high pad level losing the leverage battle allowing offensive lineman to get into his chest. Plus, at times he gambles a bit at the expense of gap integrity. However, the main issue with Bosa is decision making, in terms of off the field. Bosa, along with three other Buckeyes, were suspended for the season opener for violating athletic department policy. Although it is extremely important to stress the exact infractions have not been associated to any specific suspended player, it has been reported the issues are stemming from alleged "marijuana and/or academics" infractions.
Nevertheless, Bosa is a sure fire NFL ready prospect day one. He does not rely solely on athleticism like most do in college football; however, he uses his athleticism to his advantage by building on top of his savviness and technique similar to premier players in the NFL employ.
Draft Projection: 1st
Bosa's 2015 stats : 51 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 1 interception, 4 pass deflections, and 1 forced fumble.
DL07 DeForest Buckner, No. 44, 6070 - 291 lbs., 34 3/8" arms, 11 3/4" hands - Oregon
One of my favorite 3-4 defensive end prospects that is dominant as a 4/4i-technique is DeForest Buckner. Buckner showcases a superb combination of size, length, power, awareness, quickness, and athleticism. The former high school basketball player is explosive off the line of scrimmage providing a tremendous jolt at the point of attack, utilizing his length and long arms to keep blockers away and easily stack and sheds blockers and cross facing opponents down the line to make the stop, or occupying blocks in order to allow his linebackers a free run to the ball carrier. Shows commitment to gap integrity and dominates with leverage, powering through offensive linemen with an impressive bull rush.
At times, Buckner's pad level is too high allowing himself to get stonewalled. Due to his superior height and length, maintaining leverage will always be a concern. He is not a true edge rusher, and Oregon's scheme dictates his production; therefore, he will not blow you away with high stats a la Arik Armstead, although they are far more impressive than Armsteads.
Speaking of Armstead, Buckner has a very similar game to the 49er; however, at this current point of their careers, Buckner is a better player, which shows in stat production when comparing the two. Personally, I believe Armstead's ceiling is higher than Buckners due to his superior athleticism and power, but I believe Buckner will end up being a very impressive and dominant NFL player. As mentioned earlier, he is a great scheme fit for the 49ers, and quite honestly, I would not be surprised if Baalke drafts another 3-4 defensive end very high (look at the back-to-back-to-back safety picks) allowing Buckner and Armstead to block out the sun as future bookends wreaking havoc for years to come. Nevertheless, Buckner showcases many desirable skills plenty of NFL teams will salivate over.
Draft Projection: 1st
Buckner's 2015 stats: 83 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, 5 pass deflections, and 1 fumble recovery.
DL53 *A'Shawn Robinson, No. 86, 6040 - 307 lbs., 34 1/2" arms, 10 1/2" hand, 22 bench - Alabama
A'Shawn Robinson, a junior, is a very strong long-armed defender with great size, length, power, instincts, and athleticism. A large stout run stuffer, Robinson showcases excellent power continuously winning against front-side blocks at the point of attack easily capable of handling two-gaps with tremendous strength and leverage. Robinson is solid at collapsing the pocket, has sound awareness to stop ball carriers next to him utilizing sensational hand technique (great power in hands) stacking and shedding, and plays with good leverage and power with a high motor chasing down ball carriers. He has quick feet with balance to navigate through the trash and the athletic ability to defend superbly against back-side blocks. Robinson shows the versatility to play NT in a 3-4, as well as the 5-technique, and is a highly intelligent player.
Robinson's season stats: 46 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 2 pass deflections, and 1 fumble recovery.
DL55 *Noah Spence, No. 9, 6020 - 251 lbs., 33" arms, 10 3/4" hands, 25 bench - Eastern Kentucky
A dominant force in the FCS at Eastern Kentucky, Noah Spence's journey to draft-eligible stardom has endured a rocky road. The former five-star elite high school prospect exploded on the scene with Ohio State showcasing his amazing pass rush talent bursting off the edge displaying explosion, quickness, agility, power, flexibility, and athleticism. A quick-twitch player, Spence erupts off the line displaying tremendous quickness and closing speed with excellent bend off the edge. He utilizes fair hand technique with a decent pop at the point of attack, quick to transition into his pass rush moves winning with tremendous speed and power. He also possesses great balance, body control (excellent leverage and dip), and impressive change of direction skills, where coming out of the arc from his bend he is able to adjust with ease and take advantage of his freaky athleticism and power. Spence has the versatility to play in space showing sound awareness, good coverage skills, and an excellent tackler in space; moreover, the versatility to line up on both the right and left edge winning on either side.
Unfortunately, Spence's rise at Ohio State ended abruptly after getting dismissed from the school and permanently banned from the Big Ten due to drugs (ecstasy). With the help of Urban Meyer, Spence was placed in a drug-treatment program, and ultimately ended up 3 hours down the road at Eastern Kentucky, again with the assistance of Meyer. Spence has been clean and has dedicated his life to be drug-free showing the willingness and maturity in overcoming his indiscretions; however, the red flags from his past will still need to be addressed moving forward into the NFL. Trent Baalke is one to give deserving players a second chance, and with pass rush an area of concern for the 49ers, Noah Spence is an elite 34 edge outside linebacker prospect easily capable of filling the void the Niners currently lack with their pass rush.
Draft projection: 1st
Spence's 2015 stats: 63 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, and 3 forced fumbles.
DL33 *Shaq Lawson, No. 90, 6030 - 269 lbs., 32 3/4" arms, 10" hands - Clemson
The junior, Shaq Lawson, displays impressive strength at the point of attack, great at setting the edge, superb awareness, solid burst, power, foot speed and quickness, change of direction skills, length, and athleticism coming off the edge. A very balanced player, Lawson is excellent in both aspects of the game, shutting down the run, and rushing the passer. Lawson played great against one of the top ranked tackles in Ronnie Stanley, beating him with power and speed. Ideally, Lawson is best suited in a 4-3 scheme (lacks lateral fluidity in a 3-4); however, he is scheme diverse and will get looks as a 34 edge defender locking down and setting the edge as more of a "power" defender.
Draft Projection: 1st
Lawson's 2015 stats: 59 tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, and 1 forced fumble.
DL51 Jarran Reed, No. 90, 6030 - 307 lbs., 33 3/8" arms, 10 1/2" hands - Alabama
Jarran Reed is very strong defender with great size, length, power, and athleticism. A large stout run stuffer, Robinson showcases power at the point of attack, capable of handling two-gaps, great in collapsing the pocket, has sound awareness to stop ball carriers next to him utilizing good hand technique (great power in hands) stacking and shedding, and plays with good leverage and power with a high motor chasing down ball carriers coming off back-side blocks. Reed has quick feet with balance possessing great lateral agility navigating impressively through the trash. The space-eater two-gap defender is extremely stout against the run dominating front-side blocks at the point of attack and displays great quickness for a man his size. He has the versatility to play nose guard in a 3-4, as well as the 5-technique, which makes Reed an ideal fit for the 49ers.
Draft projection: 1st
Reed's 2015 stats: 57 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 pass deflections, and 1 fumble recovery.
DL16 *Kevin Dodd, No. 98, 6050 - 277 lbs., 34" arms, 10" hands - Clemson
Kevin Dodd, a junior, is a former outstanding high school track athlete with an excellent combination of size, strength, length, speed, power, instincts, and athleticism. He showcases good size with a thick and NFL ready frame, decent explosion off the edge with good speed, flexibility, agility, and change of direction. Moreover, he shows good athleticism and strength utilizing fantastic speed to power conversion maximizing leverage with a relentless pursuit to the ball carrier fueled by his high-motor. He does not possess elite explosion, but displays great quickness and is efficient in technique, but has plenty of room to grow (needs to improve hand technique). Displays strength at the point of attack and quite simply is a dominant disrupter on the field. A perennial rotational player (sat behind very talented players) prior to the 2015 season, Dodd exploded production wise in 2015; therefore, the one-hit wonder stigma will need to be addressed. Dodd showcases great initial quickness, movement skills, and edge skills to be a great fit as a 34 edge defender.
Draft Projection: 1st
Dodd's 2015 stats: 62 tackles, 24 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 forced fumble.
DL45 *Emmanuel Ogbah, No. 38, 6040 - 273 lbs., 35 1/2" arms, 10" hands, 20 bench - Oklahoma State
Some players go through a steady progression each year slowly improving their craft, and there are others who absolutely explode onto the scene, surpassing expectations taking the game by storm. Emmanuel Ogbah fits in that last category. The pass rushing phenom from Lagos, Nigeria, had a breakout year in 2014 that started with a very impressive game against the Florida State Seminoles, where he made plays all over the field and sacked Jameis Winston twice. Explosion is the theme with Ogbah, as he generates tremendous power to burst off the line of scrimmage, launching his impressive thick and powerful frame against his opponents with a violent push at the point of attack and speed at the edge. Ogbah showcases ideal size, bulk, length, power, quickness, speed, and athleticism you look for in a pass rusher; however, he is also great in the run game, where his agility, balance, and strength helps him set the edge, stack with his long arms and disengage easily to make the play. He shows decent fluidity in space and has good awareness with the knowledge to always throw up his hands to disrupt passing attempts. Shows versatility to line up all over the defensive line, particularly lining up on both the right and left edge winning on either side, and can drop in coverage. High character athletic with a strong work ethic.
Even though he had an impressive 2014 and 2015 season, he is still growing into the position, where awareness and reaction will need to continue to grow. Moreover, Ogbah will need to improve his technique, specifically consistency on hand usage, as well as develop more pass rush moves. He flashes a lot of dominance, but he needs more consistency to his all around game and display more of his athleticism, since he has a tendency to stay upright and tight (stiff). Nevertheless, Ogbah already displays an NFL ready frame with impressive athleticism and length teams at the next level will be eager to get their hands on. Moreover, he is still learning the nuances of the position and will continue to polish his game fitting in as an ideal 34 outside linebacker.
Round Projection: 1st-2nd
Ogbah's 2015 stats: 63 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, 4 pass deflections, 1 fumble recovery, and 3 forced fumbles.
DL26 Austin Johnson, No. 99, 6040 - 314 lbs., 32 3/4" arms, 9 7/8 hands, 25 bench - Penn State
Austin Johnson is a thick-sized naturally strong prospect with an impressive game. He showcases an excellent combination of size, quickness, power, awareness, and athleticism. He excels as a run defender anchoring the middle with his huge lower half easily capable of handling multiple blockers with active violent hands, tree trunk arms, ideal strength, and a solid stout base dominating front-side blocks at the point of attack. A former high school all-state performer in basketball, Johnson displays quick feet, impressive agility for his size, sound leverage, fluid lateral movement navigating through the trash, and a knack for shedding blocks quickly getting down the line consistently making impact plays (78 tackles for a DL) showcasing his natural athletic ability defending against back-side blocks. A stout run defender, Johnson also displays surprising pass rush ability utilizing his intensive high-motor and continuous effort. A nose guard in the 49ers 3-4, Johnson also has the athleticism to succeed out of the 1 and 3 technique.
Draft projection: 1st-2nd
Johnson's 2015 stats: 78 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, 2 pass deflections, and 1 fumble recovery.
DL09 Vernon Butler, No. 9, 6040 - 323 lbs., 35 1/8" arms, 10 3/4" hands, 26 bench - Louisiana Tech
Vernon Butler is a very athletic and nimble man for his size with tremendous quickness, strength, and power. The former high school basketball player and track athlete plays with an intensive high motor with relentless pursuit, quick burst off the line of scrimmage, uses violent hands very well, and is a disruptive force collapsing the pocket and clogging up gaps. Shows great speed to power conversion. Butler also displays good awareness and tremendous balance utilizing his nimble feet easily navigating through the trash. Plays with sound leverage utilizing his long arms (35 1/8") to be always in a position to overwhelm opponents with his impressive power and quickness.
Draft Projection: 2nd
Butler's 2015 stats: 50 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 2 pass deflections, and 1 fumble recovery.
DL10 Shilique Calhoun, No. 89, 6040 - 251 lbs., 34 1/4" arms, 9 7/8 hands, 23 bench - Michigan State
Shilique Calhoun is an edge prospect (possible 3-4 OLB in the 49ers scheme) showcasing a solid combination of size, speed, flexibility, and length bending quite well coming off the edge with good foot quickness and speed. A physical and aggressive edge player with a quick burst off the line of scrimmage, Calhoun shows good change of direction skills, strength at the point of attack, solid instincts, and is a relentless player that has an eye for the ball with impressive closing speed and a high motor. He is good at setting the edge, stacks and sheds with decent technique, and overall is good against the run, showcases good speed to power off the edge and can set the edge in the run game, but will need to be more consistent and gain more strength at the next level.
One area of concern with Calhoun is inconsistency. Too many times he lets opponents get into his chest and gets stonewalled. He needs to gain a considerable amount of strength at the next level in order to help disengage when shedding from opponents and to help generate power on his pass rush. He shows the potential with flashes of greatness, but his Jekyll and Hyde performance needs to end.
Draft Projection: 2nd
Calhoun's 2015 stats: 49 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, 3 pass deflections, and 1 forced fumble.
DL30 Bronson Kaufusi, No. 90, 6060 - 285 lbs., 34 1/2" arms, 9 3/4" hands, 25 bench - BYU
BYU's edge rusher, Bronson Kaufusi, was targeted by Jim Harbaugh as a potential Stanford recruit back in the day, so there is your Harbaugh related nugget for the day. Kaufusi, a former collegiate basketball player for the BYU Cougars in the 2012-2013 season, showcases amazing size, length, quickness, agility, strength, and athleticism. Utilizing his impressive length (long arms 34 1/2"), Kaufusi easily takes on front-side blocks maintaining ideal separation and leverage, stacking and shedding opponents, and the quickness and agility to be a posing threat rushing the passer and attacking down the line with lateral quickness coming off back-side blocks. Kaufusi shows good awareness, strength, and stoutness setting the edge, with sound reliable technique he continues to improve upon (father is BYU's defensive line coach), and displays various effective moves as a pass rusher. A standout amongst draft-eligible 3-4 defensive ends, according to PFF, Kaufusi earned the eighth-best run-defense grade and the second ranked pass-rush grade of all 3-4 defensive end prospects.
Draft projection: 2nd
Kaufusi's 2015 stats: 57 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, 1 interception, 2 pass deflections, 1 fumble recovery, and 3 forced fumbles.
DL41 Dadi Lhomme Nicolas, No. 90, 6030 - 235 lbs., 34 3/4" arms, 10 3/8" hands, 14 bench - Virginia Tech
Dadi Lhomme Nicolas is a former high school basketball player showcasing tremendous length, size, speed, athleticism, fluidity, and explosion. Moreover, Dadi has an excellent first step, shows quickness and great bend with impressive change of direction skills. He flashed good hand technique to help stack and shed opponents, and shows great balance, body control, and lateral quickness to side-step and burst with closing speed. Has a natural ability in coverage (good fluidity) and looks solid in space and a tremendous ability to run down ball carriers.
Dadi is still a raw player at the position (only one year of high school football). He relies heavily on his elite athletic skills, although he does flash technique, footwork, and athleticism in concert to show his amazing potential. He needs to gain functional strength for the next level (a lot of it). Once an opponent gets a hand on him, he easily gets stonewalled. Slender build, but capable of adding more weight without sacrificing the speed, quickness, and athleticism. Needs to learn the nuances of the position and in general, become a better student of the game in order to improve his awareness. Misused at Virginia Tech playing with his hand in the dirt getting overpowered on a consistent basis, but will transition nicely to the 49ers 34 scheme as an edge outside linebacker.
Draft Projection: 3rd
Nicolas' 2015 stats: 45 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 2 pass deflections, 2 fumble recoveries, and 2 forced fumbles.
* = indicates junior status