Skip to main content
Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles News

2024 NFL Scouting Combine Cheat Sheet: Defensive Line

Alabama's Dallas Turner
Alabama's Dallas Turner

Watching defensive linemen go through drills is one of my favorite parts of the Combine, and that's why I love that the NFL made the change to have them lead off the festivities a couple of years ago. There are some big-time talents off the edge to go along with some potential game-wreckers on the interior as well. I will note that some of these edge rushers will actually take part in the linebacker workout, but for the sake of comparisons, I will keep them with this group here.

Workout Warriors

These are the players who analysts expect to see perform best in the athletic testing portion of the workout"

Dallas Turner (Alabama) – A former five-star recruit out of the powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Florida, Turner has all the tools of a Pro Bowl pass rusher. He's long, quick, loose, explosive, and really slippery on the corner to avoid blockers and get home to the quarterback. An All-American who finished with 13 sacks in 2023, Turner should be one of the best testers in this year's edge group, which has many analysts believing he could be the first defensive player off the board in April.

Byron Murphy (Texas) – Another true junior, Murphy was not quite the heralded recruit that Turner was, but wasn't far off when he came out of DeSoto High School in Texas (the same program that developed Von Miller). Murphy is a 280-pound defensive tackle with explosive traits to go with impressive lateral quickness and body control. He was unblockable at times for the playoff-bound Longhorns and was one of the most disruptive linemen in the country by pretty much every metric. A two-way player who was stout against the run to go along with his pass rush potential, Murphy should be the first interior lineman to hear his name called this spring.

Kris Jenkins (Michigan) – In case you were wondering, yes, he's the son of THAT Kris Jenkins (the former Pro Bowl tackle for the Panthers and Jets). Jenkins is a stout interior player with disruptive physical traits. While his father was more known for his dominance as a run defender, Jenkins has more pass rush tools thanks to his athleticism. The Athletic publishes a yearly Freaks List by Bruce Feldman, highlighting the top athletes in college football, and last summer Jenkins had some mind-blowing numbers connected to his name. Feldman reported that Jenkins turned in a 7.16-second time in the 3-cone drill, 4.33-second short shuttle, 116-inch broad jump, and a 34-inch vertical leap. All four of those numbers would be in, at least, the 90th percentile of all defensive tackles drafted in the last decade. If he hits all of those marks, Jenkins will be one of the big winners of the entire event.

Chop Robinson (Penn State) – Michigan has made it a yearly routine of churning out some of top athletes in the country, but Big Ten rival PSU has been right there with them when it comes to Combine performances. Robinson looks to be next on the list. The explosive edge rusher flies off the ball, can turn the corner as well as anyone in this class, and should test as one of the top athletes at his position group.

Chris Braswell (Alabama) – Another big-time recruit from the Crimson Tide, Braswell didn't have the level of production that his teammate Turner enjoyed, but he has all of the traits to stand alongside him. He wasn't always asked just to pin his ears back and get after the quarterback, but he did turn in 8 sacks and 33 hurries this year for Nick Saban. At 6-foot-3, 257 pounds, he has modest size, but his ability to get upfield and also drop in reverse will be a valuable skill set for a team that enjoys players with traits off the edge.

Eric Watts (Connecticut) – Watts will be a guy I'd categorize as a "sleeper" for the Combine from a testing standpoint. Playing for the Independent UConn Huskies, Watts flew under the radar the last couple of years, but the combo player has a pro-ready skill set. With extensive experience both off the edge and on the interior, Watts stands at 6-foot-5, 277 pounds with nearly 36-inch arms and he has juice off the line. He closes incredibly well and has unique movement patterns for a kid that big. It would not shock me if he's one of the big "winners" from the event when it's all said and done, especially when you factor his size into the equation.

The Drill to Watch

The Combine is always trying to roll out different drills to challenge prospects at every position, and my favorite recent addition is the Figure 8 or Run the Hoop Drill, featuring a pair of large hoops placed on the ground to form an 8. The pass rushers will be asked to run both hoops consecutively, tracing the number and finishing through a final cone to close it out. Things you may notice in this drill:

  • Can the prospects both stay low and keep their balance while running the hoops?

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 keep gaining ground before finishing strong through the cone.

Here are the players who have a chance to shine in these drills:

Michael Hall (Ohio State) – The defensive tackle group will hit the field first on Thursday, and so I'll start with two guys from that position. Hall had outstanding flashes down in Mobile at the Senior Bowl and the traits ooze off the tape. He's an explosive athlete with impressive bend and flexibility for a 280-pound tackle. A disruptive run defender and powerful pass rusher, Hall has the ability to get linemen on skates because of his combo skill set. It would not shock me at all if he ended up in the Top 40 picks of this draft.

Brandon Dorlus (Oregon) – A three-year starter in Eugene for the Ducks, Dorlus has been one of the most productive rushers in the nation over the course of his stay on campus. At 6-foot-3 and just over 270 pounds, he has a hybrid skill set that has resulted in him working at both defensive end and defensive tackle, but he has been productive no matter where he has been. His 127 career quarterback hurries are more than any defensive tackle drafted in the last decade. And 27 tackles for loss and 12 sacks are nothing to sniff at either, but above all else this player is disruptive. He has a fast first step and he constantly chases the football, plus his ability to turn the corner at his size consistently stands out. I expect him to look good in this drill.

Javon Solomon (Troy) – From a 270-pound combo tackle to a 247-pound edge rusher, Solomon posted 16 sacks and cracked the Top 50 of Feldman's Freaks List. He should be one of the top testers in Indy this week, but I expect him to crush this drill as well because of just how fast he can turn the corner. The senior finished his illustrious career with an outstanding 33 sacks and 49.5 TFLs, largely in part because of his ability to turn the corner like a sports car.

Jalyx Hunt (Houston Christian) – If he wasn't so athletically gifted, Hunt easily would have fallen into my next category as one of the coolest backgrounds in this group. Just under 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, Hunt actually began his career as a safety in the Ivy League for the Cornell Big Red, where he played in 17 games with one start in the secondary. Hunt decided to transfer to Houston Christian, where he made the move to the front seven to put his rare 34 1/4" arms to good use. Still a raw prospect, Hunt has an impressive athletic profile and should look great in this environment turning the Figure 8.

Missouri's Darius Robinson
Missouri's Darius Robinson

Best Stories

All of these players have great stories to tell, but who has taken the most unique journey to get to this point?

Darius Robinson (Missouri) – When the NCAA granted every player in the country a free year of eligibility back in 2020 during the COVID-19 season, the term "super senior" was born, as players got to play an extra year of college football. Since that time, we've seen many players come and go, getting drafted basically in the same spot that they would have the year before had they decided to come out. At times, however, we get a case like Robinson's, who stands at 6-foot-5, 286 pounds. He'll be a 22-year-old rookie this fall (still young, considering his experience), but had he not gotten that extra year, he would have come out of Mizzou in 2023 having started 18 games with seven TFLs and 4.5 sacks to his name. That wouldn't have moved the needle. Fast forward to his fifth season, when Robinson started 12 games for the Tigers, turning in 14 TFLs and 8.5 sacks this year alone. He parlayed that performance into a Senior Bowl invite, was one of the most physically imposing linemen in Mobile, and there is now first-round buzz surrounding the former three-star recruit. Robinson bet on himself with the extra year and he won.

Dewayne Carter (Duke) – Viewed by many as one of the best pure 3-technique tackles in the draft, Carter was a three-year starter for Duke. He also became the first three-year captain in school history this fall, and his intangibles are off the charts. His father starred at Ohio State, and his uncle did the same at Notre Dame. He comes from a high school (Pickerington Central) that has churned out high-caliber NFL draft picks along the defensive line. He's strong against the run and has been disruptive against the pass. Both on the field and off the field (where he's known for both his community work and as a spearhead pushing for additional student-athlete rights), Carter brings the goods.

Jonah Elliss (Utah) – Robinson and Carter are seniors, but Elliss is one of the few underclassmen from this group, declaring for the draft after a productive 2023 season. A compact, 6-foot-2, 243 pounds, Elliss came off the edge for the Utes and racked up 12 sacks this season as a first-team All-Pac 12 performer. He's got a great sense of how to use his hands and is one of the most refined rushers in this draft class ... which shouldn't come as much of a surprise. After all, this is the family business for Elliss. His father, Luther, was a first-round pick of the Detroit Lions and twice was named to the Pro Bowl before getting into coaching (he actually coaches the defensive tackles at Utah). Elliss also has brothers in the league ahead of him, including current Eagles nose tackle Noah and former Eagles linebacker Christian.

Fly Eagles Fly

How did the current Philadelphia Eagles perform out in Indianapolis? We'll take a look at one number or performance from the current depth chart that stood the test of time.

Milton Williams (Louisiana Tech) – Milton Williams had to deal with the unique circumstance of not having a Combine after the event was canceled due to COVID-19 in the spring of 2021. That said, his Pro Day performance was truly legendary. It was one of the best workouts of any defensive linemen in the last decade-plus. At 284 pounds (which is light for a defensive tackle), Williams jumped 38.5 inches in the vertical, better than any tackle drafted in the last 10 years. Only six drafted tackles bested his 121-inch broad jump. Only five had a faster short shuttle (4.33 seconds). Only one had a better 3-cone drill (6.96 seconds), and only one ran a faster 40-time (4.67 seconds). When you combined that athletic workout with his age and level of disruption up front, it was easy to fall in love with his profile.

Significant Stats

These are the players of note with a special statistic or measurement that sets them apart from their peers.

Laiatu Latu (UCLA) – I could honestly have put Latu in any of the categories for this piece, because I think he'll do fine in the athletic testing portion of the workout. He's got a great story (bouncing back from a medical hardship that nearly forced him to retire). He is as skilled a rusher as it gets and will look awesome in position drills. But the numbers speak louder than anything I can write about his game. Pro Football Focus has a number of metrics to grade pass rushers, including win rate. Basically, how often did you beat the guy across from you on a pass rush snap? Latu's win rate (25.4 percent) from this season is higher than anyone in this class at the Combine, and it's in the 90th percentile of all pass rushers drafted in the last decade based off their final college season. On third down, Latu's win rate was also number one in this group in Indianapolis, but he's not "just" a pass rusher. PFF also has a stat that shows how often a defender earned a positive grade against the run. Latu's was 24.3 percent, which also is in the 90th percentile of all drafted edge guys in the last decade. The only first-round picks who finished in the 90th percentile of both of those stats? Nick Bosa and Aidan Hutchinson. That's good company for Latu.

Jared Verse (Florida State) – Many evaluators believe that sack production is something that travels from college to the NFL. If you believe that, then you have to be excited about Verse, who got the quarterback down for 36.5 sacks over the course of his career at FSU and Albany, the highest number of anyone in this Combine class. Only three players drafted in the last decade have bested this number. Verse wins with power and physicality, as he overwhelms tackles early in the down and then closes with relentless pursuit of the football.

Braden Fiske (Florida State) – Let's slide inside to Verse's teammate, Fiske, another transfer who came to FSU courtesy of Western Michigan. The senior finished his college career with 19 sacks, which puts him in the 90th percentile of all defensive tackles selected since 2014. He's not just a sack artist, however, as Fiske stacked up loads of TFLs (36) and hurries (94) in college, both of which are top-shelf numbers at the position. Quick fun fact: he also played 303 core special teams snaps in his career, more than any other defensive tackle in the last decade. That speaks to his athleticism and competitiveness.

T'Vondre Sweat (Texas) – A behemoth nose tackle built in the same mold of Eagles former first-round pick Jordan Davis, Sweat was one of the top linemen in football this season. An absolute tank against the run, Sweat was immovable at the point of attack and shut down opposing teams on a weekly basis from start to finish this season. Just how dominant was he? His average depth of tackle was 0.41 yards – basically at the line of scrimmage – over the course of the season. Not only was that the lowest in this group at the Combine, but that's one of the best numbers of any drafted defensive tackle in the last 10 years.

Myles Cole (Texas Tech) – One other "sleeper" from an athletic testing portion of this workout would be Cole, who followed in the footsteps of last year's Top 10 pick Tyree Wilson as a freaky stand-up edge rusher, standing at nearly 6-foot-6 and 272 pounds. Now, Cole didn't match Wilson's production, so he's not being talked about as a top pick in this class, but the traits are there, and what stands out most is his length. Cole checked in at the Senior Bowl with a jaw-dropping 87-inch wingspan. That's the longest of any edge rusher drafted in the last decade.

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" 40-yard dash time? What about arm length? The broad jump? Here's what the average player drafted at each position has looked like over the last decade (based on my own personal research).

Edge Rushers

Height: 6035 (6'3 5/8")

Weight: 256 pounds

Hand Size: 978 (9 7/8")

Arm Length: 3348 (33 1/2")

Wingspan: 8028 (80 1/4")

Unofficial 40-Time (Stopwatch): 4.68 seconds

Official 40-Time (Laser): 4.72 seconds

10-Yard Split: 1.62 seconds

3-Cone Drill: 7.18 seconds

Short Shuttle: 4.35 seconds

Broad Jump: 120"

Vertical Jump: 34.5"

Defensive Tackles

Height: 6031 (6'3 1/8")

Weight: 304 pounds

Hand Size: 1000 (10")

Arm Length: 3318 (33 1/8")

Wingspan: 7978 (70 7/8")

Unofficial 40-Time (Stopwatch): 5.01 seconds

Official 40-Time (Laser): 5.04 seconds

10-Yard Split: 1.73 seconds

3-Cone Drill: 7.63 seconds

Short Shuttle: 4.62 seconds

Broad Jump: 108"

Vertical Jump: 29.5"

The Rest of the Pack

Everyone else who will take part in the events in Indianapolis (in alphabetical order):

Austin Booker (Kansas), Solomon Byrd (USC), Nelson Ceaser (Houston), Jaden Crumedy (Mississippi State), Tyler Davis (Clemson), Justin Eboigbe (Alabama), Gabe Hall (Baylor), Jaylen Harrell (Michigan), Marcus Harris (Auburn), Adisa Isaac (Penn State), Brennan Jackson (Washington State), McKinnley Jackson (Texas A&M), Javontae Jean-Baptiste (Notre Dame), Trajan Jeffcoat (Arkansas), Jordan Jefferson (LSU), Cedric Johnson (Mississippi), Mohamed Kamara (Colorado State), Marshawn Kneeland (Western Michigan), Logan Lee (Iowa), Zion Logue (Georgia), Fabien Lovett (Florida State), Braiden McGregor (Michigan), Myles Murphy (North Carolina), Johnny Newton (Illinois), Eyabi Okie-Anoma (Charlotte), Ruke Orhorhoro (Clemson), Keith Randolph JR (Illinois), Justin Rogers (Auburn), Maason Smith (LSU), Leonard Taylor (Miami), Xavier Thomas (Clemson), Bralen Trice (Washington), David Ugwoegbu (Houston), Mekhi Wingo (LSU)

Related Content