It’s a good year for teams that need help rushing the passer — the 2019 NFL Draft class is absolutely loaded with defensive linemen and linebackers.
On Sunday, those positions worked out and ran through drills at the 2019 NFL Combine. Among those who participated are Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen, Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, Michigan defensive lineman Rashan Gary, and LSU linebacker Devin White. That group happens to be the top five players off the board in Dan Kadar’s latest mock draft.
All that means there’s millions of dollars on the line for the players jockeying for position at the top of big boards. A big part of that battle will depend on how those defensive linemen and linebackers perform Sunday in Indianapolis.
Last year, UTSA’s Marcus Davenport put together an NFL Combine performance reminiscent of Jadeveon Clowney, and UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin stole the show with a freakin’ 4.38-second 40-yard dash.
Here’s which defensive linemen and linebacker stood out Sunday:
Quinnen Williams, Alabama
Williams is one of the defensive linemen in the running to be the No. 1 pick for the Cardinals (that is, unless Kyler Murray hasn’t already started locking that up) and the Alabama defensive tackle looked the part Sunday.
After he ran a 4.87 40-yard dash — at 303 pounds! — an awestruck Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network said “somebody’s in the mix for the first overall pick.”
How fast is Quinnen Williams? Just listen to this commentary: pic.twitter.com/K5McfxqHv1— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) March 3, 2019
That time was amazing enough that his agent told him there was no need to run a second time. Williams did so anyway and got a 4.84.
Full transparency: I told Quinnen not to run the second 40 because how great his first time was. He didn’t listen. Decided to bet on himself and BEAT his first time. My type of guy!— Nicole Lynn (@AgentNicoleLynn) March 3, 2019
What may be most special about his run is that it started with a ridiculously fast 10-yard split — which is especially important for defensive line who need to explode off the line of scrimmage.
If the 1.69 10-yard split holds for DL Quinnen Williams, it would be a big-time number.— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) March 3, 2019
A few notable NFL DL who didn't get below 1.70: Geno Atkins (1.75), Ndamukong Suh (1.74), Gerald McCoy (1.74), Marcell Dareus (1.73), JJ Watt (1.71), Cam Jordan (1.71)
Williams was one of the most unblockable players in college football last year, and his tremendous showing in the 40-yard dash showed part of the reason why.
Montez Sweat, Mississippi State
Here’s an easy way to make the winners section: Break an NFL Combine record.
Yep, that’ll do the trick.
Rashan Gary, Michigan
The 277-pound defensive lineman was once the top high school football recruit in the country, so it’s not too much of a surprise that Gary is freaky athletic. But he still exceeded expectation with a 40-yard dash time that is rare for a man of his size.
Here’s the list of 275+ pound players to run under 4.70 at the combine in the last 20 years:— Chris Trapasso (@ChrisTrapasso) March 3, 2019
- Margus Hunt (4.62)
- Aaron Donald (4.68)
- Rashan Gary (4.61u... should be well clear of 4.70 when it’s official)
That’s the mark Ed Oliver should be aiming to hit.
He also posted a ridiculous number in the vertical jump:
Top official vertical jumps for defensive linemen at #NFLCombine:— NFL Draft (@NFLDraft) March 3, 2019
1. Ben Banogu, @TCUFootball, 40
2. Jamal Davis, @ZipsFB, 39
3. Rashan Gary, @UMichFootball, 38
4. Jordan Brailford, @CowboyFB, 37.5
5. Charles Omenihu @TexasFootball, 36.5
The question Gary will have to answer is why his elite athleticism didn’t translate into more domination on the field. But his numbers from the combine will make NFL teams want to see if they can fix that themselves.
Devin White, LSU
White is one of the best linebackers of the class and proved he’s one of the most athletic too when he recorded a blazing 4.42-second 40-yard dash. It was clear that was a number White was happy with when he was overcome with emotions after seeing his time.
His 39.5-inch vertical jump was damn impressive too.
Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame
Tillery didn’t post the best number in any drill, in particular. He only managed to finish top five among defensive tackles in just about all of them.
Notre Dame DT Jerry Tillery checks all the boxes when it comes to length & athleticism...— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) March 3, 2019
At 6’6 ½" - 295 with 34 ¼” arms, Tillery ran a 4.93 40-yard dash + 32” vertical jump & 9’7" broad jump, all top 5 among defensive tackles.
@JerryTillery | @NDFootball | #NFLCombine pic.twitter.com/i93bKVh2ie
Any time a defensive tackle can run a 40 in under five seconds, that’s impressive. Tillery rounding out his day with strong numbers in the explosion drills is a great cherry on top.
Jachai Polite, Florida
Polite is an edge rusher in the first-round conversation, but his trip to Indianapolis wasn’t a positive one at all. He spent much of the media session Saturday complaining about the way his meetings with teams went:
#Florida EDGE Jachai Polite said that when he met with the 49ers at the Combine, they didn’t even really talk football with him at all. “They just bashed me the whole time... Idk.”— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) March 2, 2019
Jachai Polite said Rams were his best meeting “bc they didn’t bash me. Everybody else picking at my game”— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) March 2, 2019
Then he hit the field Saturday and ran an unimpressive 4.84 40-yard dash. It was his only result of the day, because Polite pulled out of the rest of the drills due to a hamstring injury. That may explain his subpar 40-yard dash time, but now he’ll need to prove that at the Florida Pro Day.
Nick Bosa, Ohio State
Kyler Murray is picking up momentum to be the No. 1 pick, but up until the NFL Combine, Bosa has been the heavy favorite. But in Indianapolis, he didn’t look particularly special.
His 40-yard dash time of 4.79 seconds was just barely better than Quinnen Williams’ 4.83 seconds. The problem is Bosa is 6’4, 266 pounds and Williams is 6’3, 303.
It’s not a bad time, and it’s almost exactly the same performance that Joey Bosa had a few years ago before going No. 3 overall.
Joey Bosa vs Nick Bosa 40 time race.— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) March 3, 2019
I think Joey won by... a nose...pic.twitter.com/8p0Ge3Hn4r
But if Nick Bosa wanted to show that he’s the best prospect in the class, his numbers didn’t do that. Most of them — including his 33.5-inch vertical and 29 bench press reps — were good, not great.
Expect to see more mock drafts with Murray and Williams in the top spot ahead of Bosa after this weekend.
Daylon Mack, Texas A&M
Mack finished with a low percentile in just about everything at the combine except weight, bench press, and hand size.
So basically, he’s a short, big, slow, strong guy. It’s the kind of chart you’d get if Butterbean was invited to the NFL Combine.