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Combine Preview: Defense

Posted Feb 24, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS -- Every year there are players who are deemed “risers” and “fallers” following the position drills at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. While those terms are used more in the media than in actual NFL circles, there is no denying that every February certain players generate buzz after dazzling athletic performances out on the turf. Who are the players that some expect will stand out in drills over the next few days? Let’s take a look at each position and the players to keep an eye on from the defensive side of the football ...

Defensive Line

From a pure athleticism standpoint, there may not be a better physical specimen than Oregon’s Dion Jordan. At 6-6, 248 pounds, Jordan is an explosive, rangy athlete who can rush the passer off the edge and run with receivers 20 yards downfield out of the slot. While Jordan may be a bit on the leaner side to hold up for three downs right away, he’s got a great frame and his athleticism will surely get him drafted in the top half of the first round.

The dynamic athleticism doesn’t end with the former Duck though, as LSU’s Barkevious Mingo and BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah should both perform well in drills on Monday. Mingo is one of the most explosive edge rushers in the class, and at over 240 pounds, he will make jaws drop with the way he moves on the turf. Ansah is a versatile athlete who is still very new to the sport, but has shown potential in his one year as a starter to turn into a great player at the next level. Ansah’s closing speed in pursuit is one of his best attributes, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see him turn out some of the top splits of the linemen group.

In the weight room, don’t be surprised if defensive tackle Jesse Williams of Alabama tops the group on the bench press. A fireplug inside, Williams is a name that is seemingly lost amongst a group of talented interior linemen, but will be a fun player to watch in 2013.

Linebacker

Athletically, there are two players who are expected to stand out above the rest in drills. One is Georgia's Alec Ogletree, who has had some off-field issues in recent weeks, but is still one of the most explosive defenders in the class. The other is Eagles running back Bryce Brown's brother, Arthur. The Kansas State product exhibits great speed from sideline to sideline and exceptional athleticism dropping back into coverage. Rutgers’ Khaseem Greene, a former safety, should perform well in speed and agility drills as well, and is an ideal fit as a weakside linebacker. Lastly, Ohio State’s Etienne Sabino, fresh off a broken leg, could run one of the fastest 40’s of the group after exhibiting great closing speed throughout his career in Columbus.

Defensive Back

Perhaps no position is as scrutinized when it comes to the 40-yard dash as the secondary group, where there are a number of players who should run very well on Tuesday.

Small-school prospect Robert Alford from Southeast Louisiana is a bit on the smaller side, but shows great speed and athleticism on the back end. He should test very well in front of scouts here in Indianapolis. East-West Shrine Game standout Brandon McGee of Miami could break into the 4.3 range in the 40 as well, which will be an impressive showing for the former Hurricane. Hawaii’s Mike Edwards should flash good speed as well in the event, and is expected to turn in good times in drills.

At safety, Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro appears to be the player most likely to stand out from an athleticism standpoint. That is to be expected after seeing him match up one-on-one with West Virginia’s Tavon Austin in the slot repeatedly in their game last season. Other safeties who should impress with their speed and fluidity are D.J. Swearinger of South Carolina and Philip Thomas of Fresno State.

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