INDIANAPOLIS – Watching defensive linemen go through drills is one of my favorite parts of the entire Combine, particularly the edge rushers. This year's group will be no different, as a number of prospects figure to improve their stock in Indianapolis with impressive showings. Use this preview as a cheat sheet for today's action (4 PM on NFL Network) to understand which drills are most important throughout the workout at Lucas Oil Stadium. For a full explanation of each category, jump down to the bottom of the piece.
Top of the heap: Chase Young, Ohio State
A freak athlete who many expected to test off the charts here in Indianapolis (it has been reported that he will not participate in on-field work) and was insanely productive for the Big Ten Champs. Young racked up 16.5 sacks despite missing two games due to suspension. He's a disruptive force and seems destined to join his former quarterback, Dwayne Haskins, playing for Washington in the NFC East.
Workout warrior: K'Lavon Chaisson, LSU
Chase Young will fly around like a freak – but Chaisson should also post outstanding raw numbers this week as well. The big question for him will be his weight (he was listed under 240 pounds by LSU), which will be a deal-breaker for some, but he's an outstanding athlete who showed an improved skill set as a pass rusher in 2019 after missing all of 2018 with a knee injury.
Off the radar: Alex Highsmith, Charlotte
An undersized pass rusher with an explosive first step, impressive flexibility turning the corner, and a solid motor to boot, Highsmith is a fun player to watch on film. That being said, his athleticism will help him stand out this week, as he has the straight-line explosiveness and lateral movement to post strong numbers across the board.
Stopwatch shocker: Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State
Gross-Matos has been a flash player throughout his career with the Lions, and his upside is undeniable. A tall, long pass rusher and a graceful athlete, Gross-Matos (like many Nittany Lions of recent memory) will surprise people with how he tests in Indy.
Will kill the drills: Bradlee Anae, Utah
Anae was consistently productive throughout the course of his career and accomplished that with a high motor and extremely violent hands. He's not going to blow people away on the stopwatch this week, but he should look very good in bag drills and stringing multiple moves together throughout each rep.
Trust the tape: A.J. Epenesa, Iowa
Epenesa is a big-bodied rusher with excellent skill when attacking offensive linemen. He does not win with explosiveness or twitch off the ball, and isn't the most flexible when turning the corner, but make no mistake, Epenesa is a great player. Don't knock him for a subpar workout.
Most productive college player: Curtis Weaver, Boise State
No one in this edge rush group had more career sacks than Weaver (34), who set the Mountain West Conference record during his time on the blue turf. Weaver isn't the toolsiest prospect, but you can't knock the production, as he made a living feasting on tackles all over that part of the country.
One-year wonder: Josh Uche, Michigan
Uche never really became a key part of the Wolverines' defense until this season, and while he still was not a full-time starter, he became an important contributor to that front seven. An undersized pass rusher with a unique blend of flexibility and power, Uche should fare well in athletic testing and will be a highly debated prospect around the NFL this spring.
Best pro comparison: Jonathan Greenard, Florida
A transfer from Louisville, Greenard has long arms and can win with some power, but his game is based off flexibility and being able to win the corner and attack offensive tackles on the outside. He's built very similarly to former first-round pick Robert Quinn, who has made a hell of a career doing similar things in St. Louis for the Rams, in Miami, and now in Dallas for the Cowboys.
Best story: Kenny Willekes, Michigan State
A former walk-on who earned himself a scholarship in the spring of 2017, Willekes finished his career as a three-year starter for the Spartans despite having his length and explosiveness being major questions. A smart, energetic pass rusher who never stops, it's hard to imagine that he won't will himself onto an NFL roster. Willekes played running back and linebacker, along with Rugby, in high school as an underrated recruit out of Rockford, Michigan.
Small-school standout: LaDarius Hamilton, North Texas
The same school that produced the legendary defensive lineman 'Mean Joe' Greene, North Texas has a standout defender at this event in Hamilton. The senior lined up inside and outside, winning with violent hands and an active pass rush plan. He's absolutely flying under the radar at this point in the process.
Philly connection: Zack Baun, Wisconsin
Baun is a very fluid athlete who posted 12.5 sacks this year, but people are sleeping a bit on his movement skills. Baun was an outstanding high school track athlete (both sprints and jumps) and a dynamic high school basketball player. Watching him play in coverage, I can see the athleticism; now let's see how that translates to the timed drills. What's his connection to Philly? Baun was coached in college by former Eagles assistant Bobby April III.
Most to prove: Terrell Lewis, Alabama
When he's on the field, Lewis has been a steadily-disruptive force for the Crimson Tide ... but again ... when he's on the field. Lewis missed all of 2018 with a torn ACL and missed most of the previous season with an elbow injury before getting dinged up here and there as a junior this past fall. With just four starts and eight career sacks on his resume, Lewis is more of a gamble than others in this draft, but the film shows an extremely gifted pass rusher built in the mold of Danielle Hunter when he was coming out of LSU in 2015. The medical checks will be big for Lewis.
Position drill to watch
One of the additions this year to the edge rusher workout is a Figure 8 drill, with a pair of large hoops being placed on the ground to form the shape of the number 8. The pass rushers will run both hoops consecutively, tracing the number, before sprinting through a final cone to close it out. Things to watch for include:
1. Can the prospects both stay low and keep their balance while running the hoops? That's the main key. You don't want to see stumbles or any wasted movement.
2. A huge positive is being able to see the prospect accelerate while running the hoop. Not only do these players keep their balance and stay low, but they're able to build up speed and continue to gain ground before finishing strong through the cone.
|Height||6' 3 3/8"|
|Arm Length||3348 (33 1/2")|
|Wingspan||8018 (80 1/8")|
|Unofficial 40-Time (Stopwatch)||4.70 seconds|
|Official 40-Time (Laser)||4.74 seconds|
|10-Yard Split||1.63 seconds|
|3-Cone Drill||7.15 seconds|
|Short Shuttle||4.37 seconds|
The rest of the pack
Kendall Coleman (Syracuse), Carter Coughlin (Minnesota), Tipa Galeai (Utah State), Jonathan Garvin (Miami), Trevis Gipson (Tulsa), Trevon Hill (Miami), Anfernee Jennings (Alabama), Azur Kamara (Kansas), Khalid Kareem (Notre Dame), Julian Okwara (Notre Dame), Chauncey Rivers (Mississippi State), Malcolm Roach (Texas), Alton Robinson (Syracuse), Qaadir Sheppard (Ole Miss), James Smith-Williams (NC State), Jason Strowbridge (UNC), Darrell Taylor (Tennessee), Casey Toohill (Stanford), Derrek Tuszka (North Dakota State), D.J. Wonnum (South Carolina), Jabari Zuniga (Florida)
Breakdown of the categories
Top of the heap: This is the player who, based on media projections, is at the top of the class and will likely hear his name called first at his position in April.
Workout warrior: This is the player who I expect to see perform best in the athletic testing portion of the workout.
Off the radar: This is the player who will come out of nowhere to post great numbers in the athletic testing portion of the workout.
Stopwatch shocker: This is the player who I expect to perform better in the athletic tests than most in the media predict.
Will kill the drills: This is the player who will look the best in the position-specific drills following the athletic portion of the workout.
Trust the tape: This is the player who I don't expect to test off the charts and is a better football player than he is an athlete. With that in mind, don't drop him down the board with a subpar workout!
Most productive college player: This is the player who produced at the highest level, either in his final year in college or over the course of his entire career.
One-year wonder: This is the player who performed at a high level in college, but only for a limited time on campus.
Best pro comparison: Comparing draft prospects to NFL players is tough, but here's a player with the easiest picture to paint when looking at his NFL future through my eyes.
Best story: All of these players have great stories to tell, but who has taken the most unbelievable journey to get to this point in his career? Here's the one that has caught my eyes (and ears) the most.
Small-school standout: This is the player who comes from a lower level of competition (outside of the Power 5 conferences) but still has a potentially bright future in the NFL.
Philly connection: This is the player with a special tie to the City of Brotherly Love or the Eagles who you should keep a close eye on.
Most to prove: This is the player who has the most to prove away from the field, whether it's during the interview process, medical examinations, or even the weigh-ins.
Mr. Average: We get to read all about the measurements for all these players over the next few weeks, but wouldn't it be nice to have some context? What is considered a "good" time in the 40-yard dash? What about arm length? The broad jump? Here's what the average player drafted at each position has looked like over the last decade (by my records).
The rest of the pack: A list of everyone else who will take part in the events in Indianapolis (in alphabetical order).
Fran Duffy is the producer of the Emmy-nominatedEagles Game Planshow which can be seen every gameday during the season on NBC10 in Philadelphia. He is also the host of two Eagles-related podcasts,Eagle Eye in the Sky, which examines the team from an X's and O's angle each and every week as well as theJourney to the Draft podcast, which covers college football and the NFL Draft all year round. Fran also authors the Eagle Eye in the Sky column, which runs four times a week during the football season to serve as a recap for the previous game and to preview the upcoming matchup. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging, and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices, and opponents.