Earlier, we took a look at the best Combine performers on offense. Now, it's time to dissect the defense and find out who stood out in the annual February job interview.
Defensive end - While he may project as a 3-4 outside linebacker,Dontay Mochof Nevada worked out with the defensive linemen and left his position-mates behind athletically. Moch ran a 4.44 40-yard dash, best among defensive linemen, and his vertical jump was just as impressive - 42.0', tied for the best output by a defensive lineman in the last six years at the combine.
Defensive end- With apologies to California's Cameron Jordan and North Carolina's Robert Quinn, who both solidified their standing as top-15 picks at worst, Wisconsin'sJ.J. Wattgets the other defensive end nod after his dispelled any questions about his athleticism. Watt, 6-5, 290, probably fits best as a 3-4 defensive end, but the athleticism he showed at the Combine hints that he could fit anywhere. In addition to looking fluid in the drills, Watt finished in the top five among defensive linemen in every drill aside from the 40-yard dash.
Defensive tackle - Rarely does consensus opinion on a draft debate change so drastically as the Nick Fairley vs. Marcell Dareusrace for top defensive tackle did after the Combine. Coming in, Fairley was considered by most to be a notch above Dareus. But Fairley turned out to be 6-3, not his listed 6-5, and didn't stand out during drills. Meanwhile, Dareus wowed scouts with his explosiveness when he was timed with a 1.66 second 10-yard split in his 40-yard dash. He also more than looked the part in drills and locked up his top-five status.
Defensive tackle - While Stephen Paea of Oregon State set the recent combine record with 49 bench press reps, he had already solidified his status as an attractive nose tackle prospect in the middle rounds. Marvin Austinof North Carolina however had more to prove after missing his entire 2010 season. Austin, 6-2, 309, looked smooth for his size in drills and continued a strong post-season that began with what was said to be a dominating performance at the East-West Shrine Game.
Linebacker - One linebacker spot has to go to Von Millerof Texas A&M who solidified his spot as the top linebacker in the draft. The explosive Miller ran in the low 4.5's and had the best broad jump of the linebackers. To that, he added a strong showing in the drills and looks to be a likely top-12 pick.
Linebacker - Illinois' Martez Wilsonpaced the field with his 4.49 40-yard dash time and backed up his ranking as Mike Mayock's top inside linebacker. Some teams project Wilson to play on the outside, but regardless of where he plays, he'll be able to handle the speed at the next level.
Linebacker - Just as Moch may end up as a linebacker, Georgia'sJustin Houstonmay end up as a pass-rushing defensive end at the next level. But his athleticism was on display in linebacker drills Monday and Houston, 6-3, 270, is likely to come off the board somewhere between the late first round and the middle of the second round.
Cornerback - Considered by some to be the best player available in the entire draft class, LSU's Patrick Petersondid not disappoint. Peterson, who came in slightly heavier than expected at 6-0, 219, was still able to run the second-fastest 40-yard dash of any Combine participant. He also looked comfortable in drills and is said to have done well in interviews as well. Peterson is a lock for the top 10, and could end up in the top five.
Cornerback - Staying chalk at the cornerback position despite the performances of Texas' Curtis Brown and Tennesse-Chattanooga's Buster Skrine, the second cornerback spot goes to Nebraska's Prince Amukamara, who answered any questions about whether he has the speed to stick at the cornerback position. The consensus No. 2 cornerback in the draft, Amukamara, 6-0, 206, ran a 4.45 40-yard dash, fifth-best among the corners. In drills, Amukamara looked every bit the part of the polished corner he's considered to be.
Safety- Rahim Mooreof UCLA is considered the cream of a weak safety crop, and did nothing to dissuade that opinion on Indianapolis. While he didn't do anything spectacular, Moore, 6-0, 202, played the pole position well, looking the part in drills and putting up a solid 4.62 40-yard dash.
Safety- Because the safety crop is so underwhelming, the second spot goes to a fringe cornerback/safety in Marcus Gilchristof Clemson. Gilchrist, 5-10, 195, played cornerback in college and could stick there at the next level, but he has the speed and ball skills to make a smooth transition to safety. And, of note to Eagles fans, he has experience as a productive kick returner.
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 7:00 p.m., March 2