Well it’s finally upon us, the first major event in the otherwise long and brutal NFL off-season. Our first real glimpse into the future stars and players of the NFL kicked off in Indianapolis two days ago, and today we get a look at the defensive linemen and linebacker group.
Last year this group was the source of our first two draft selections and I wouldn’t rule out the chance that the very same thing happens again. As it stands we still lack anything close to a premier pass rusher and still have questions looming at linebacker.
An argument can be made that Eli Harold, Reuben Foster, and Malcolm Smith are a decent enough squad to hold down the starting linebacker group but each have question marks surrounding them at this time. With minimal game changing talent available at these positions via free agency you have to think John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan will be taking a hard look at all the Day 3 prospects.
2018 NFL Combine Day 3
Location: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
Time: 6 a.m. PT
TV: NFL Network
Online Streaming: NFL.com
Day 3: Defensive Linemen, Linebackers
I’ve previously talked a bit about what I consider to be my top 5 best linebackers and top 5 best edge rushers going into this draft, but now we also have to look at the big boys in the middle.
The main battle here will come down to Alabama’s Da’ron Payne versus Vita Vea from Washington. Both of them will go in the 1st round and have different qualities so it boils down to what a team needs for it’s roster. I don’t see there being any chance these two are in play for the 49ers, but we may take a look at a few prospects that could available later on for depth purposes.
One player that could do himself a big solid is Harrison Phillips from Stanford. Phillips doesn’t have the same size as the aforementioned two but he was a playmaking machine for the Cardinal. Considered by some to be a tweener that won’t fit any ideal role, Harrison could help himself out by putting up solid numbers in field drills as well as the 40 yard dash. Taven Bryan out of Florida is another prospect I would recommend keeping an eye on.
As far as linebacker goes I think all eyes will be on Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds. Both players look to be Day 1 starters for any team that drafts them and should blow the combine away. Edmunds to a greater extent, as his athleticism is on a whole new level for the position. Almost reminds me of how amazing Vernon Davis came across as a tight end back in 2006.
Diving deeper there are other quality potential starters that will be trying to impress the scouts, such as the combine darling Shaquem Griffin and my personal favorite Josey Jewell. Unlike wide receiver and running back it’s more difficult to really showcase all your skills as a linebacker at the combine, but if you pull up film on these guys you can see how they will be impacting the NFL for years to come.
Nevertheless, all these prospects will need to display speed and quick reactions times in the drills they are put through to solidify themselves come Sunday.
Lastly, we take a look at the edge rushers that will be watched by all 32 teams. Bradley Chubb is seemingly locked in as the top prospect going into the combine, and should stay there unless he puts up very pedestrian number in the 40 or bench press. Given the physical nature of his play and his proven ability to chase down running backs it’s hard to fathom such a scenario.
Marcus Davenport needs to keep the hype train rolling for him after turning heads at the Senior Bowl and garnering 1st round projections by most analysts. Similar to Solomon Thomas last year, Davenport can make himself a lot of money by impressing those in attendance this week.
On the flip side, one player that absolutely must crush the combine is Arden Key. Key will need to showcase his athleticism and even more importantly nail all his interviews to make up for what he showed on the field and off of it this year. My feeling is he will go down as a bargain for any team that has strong leadership because his natural gift to get to the quarterback will upgrade a team immediately. Harold Landry is the other big name that needs to produce at the combine after missing significant time with an ankle injury.
All in all I’d expect the 49ers to land 3 players in the draft from the group taking the field Sunday. So for an early glimpse at some future rookies, tune in to get your early impressions.
What players are you excited to watch and what players do you think excelled today?