There’s a good chance the Bears’ first-round pick worked out on Sunday in Indianapolis. The Bears currently have a huge need on the edge, as they have nothing opposite Leonard Floyd on the roster. But the value at the eighth overall pick appears to be at off-ball linebacker.
Among the edge rushers, Harold Landry had a nice day. Landry is a polarizing prospect as he had a huge 2016 season, but returned to school and struggled with injuries and his production suffered. He looked the part of a 3-4 outside linebacker, as he dropped well in drills. He also showed among the most violent hands on the pad drills. Landry is potentially a top-20 pick next month, and a definitely Bears target if they trade down from pick eight.
Marcus Davenport also potentially put himself into the top 20 with his workout. Davenport ran extremely well and did an impressive job staying low in drills. He’s still extremely raw and his level of competition leaves a lot to be desired, but Davenport has huge boom/bust potential. Davenport fits all the physical traits Ryan Pace looks for in an early draft pick.
Josh Sweat is another boom/bust guy. Sweat was very highly recruited out of high school but has had his share of knee issues affecting his draft stock. However, he passed the combine physical and posted elite numbers across the board in each workout event. If teams feel OK with his medicals, Sweat is a top 50 talent. If not, he’ll have to wait until Day three of the draft.
Lorenzo Carter looked and performed like a clone of his ex-teammate and current Bear, Leonard Floyd. Carter has a similar long, lean frame but may actually be a better athlete than Floyd. Carter looks to be more of an off-ball linebacker who occasionally rushes the passer, as opposed to Floyd who rushes the passer and adds in the ability to play off the ball. Carter would need some work in either role, but could have similar upside to the fellow former Georgia Bulldog.
Of the other big names, Bradley Chubb did what was expected and there’s little chance he’s there at eight for the Bears.
On the interior defensive line, I thought the top of the class really set itself apart from the rest. Da’Ron Payne and Taven Bryan look like first-round locks, though they are different types of athletes. Both guys really moved well in drills. Payne with a 4.91 40-yard at 311 pounds is insane. In fact, it’s the fastest time by someone over 310 since at least 1987. Alabama has churned out defensive tackles every year in recent history and he looks to be a notch above many the last handful of Tide defenders. Bryan proved athletically that he can play anywhere from three-technique to five-technique on the line, making him an option for both 3-4 and 4-3 defensive schemes. Both guys made money on Sunday.
While Vita Vea wasn’t able to go through the entire workout, he did run a respectable 5.10 forty-yard dash before hurting his hamstring.
Rasheem Green is a tweener who worked out with the interior defensive line, but basically ran circles around them athletically. Green’s projection is all over the place. He’s the size of a 4-3 defensive end, but his best bet may be to add some weight and move to the same position in a 3-4. Green may have as much upside as any defensive player in this draft.
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B.J. Hill of North Carolina State put together a nice day also. Hill kept pace with Payne and Bryan as one of the top three interior linemen in all the workouts. Hill looks like a versatile piece that can play either interior spot in a 4-3 or any of the down spots in a 30 front. He can play the run and get after the passer a little.
Maybe the most physically impressive defensive lineman on Sunday was Fort Hays tackle Nathan Shepherd. Shepherd physically sparked memories of former Bear Israel Idonije. He measured at over 6’5” and 315 pounds, with what looks like a complete absence of body fat. Shepherd is quick, agile, and most importantly powerful and violent like Idonije was. He also is from Canada, which makes the comparison even eerier. Shepherd is another player who has had a masterful postseason. He was dominant in the Senior Bowl, and on Sunday likely solidified his spot as the top non-FBS player off the board in April.
At linebacker, again the usual names showed up. Tremaine Edmunds showed the athletic ability at 6’5”, 250 pounds that makes him a realistic option for the eighth overall pick. He did nothing to hurt his stock. Roquan Smith ran a blazing 4.51 40-yard dash before an injury took him out of drills the rest of the day.
A few sleepers opened some eyes on Sunday. Florida State’s Matthew Thomas had an excellent athletic showing after a non-spectacular year for a down Seminole squad. Thomas dealt with a team rules suspension, academic ineligibility, a shoulder injury and his mother’s death at FSU, but showed why he was a top 15 recruit out of high school. He could have a little Telvin Smith to his game at the next level.
Another interesting sleeper performance was turned in by Tulane’s Ade Aruna. Aruna had the best jumps of the day and ran a 4.61 at 6’6”, 261 pounds. He also displayed solid movement skills in the field drills. Leon Jacobs of Wisconsin ran a 4.48 40-yard dash and looked fluid in drills. Jacobs is a guy that will force scouts back to watch tape of Badgers’ games.
Dorian O’Daniel was also among the most impressive in a very athletic group of linebackers. He ran an above average 4.61 40, was among the most fluid movers in drills, and quietly pulled off the second best three-cone for a linebacker since 2006. All are potential early day three picks that could help out the Bears as defensive depth and on special teams.
Last but certainly not least, Shaquem Griffin stole the show. What more can be said about this guy? He put up 20 reps on the bench with one hand. He ran the fastest ever 40 time run by a linebacker in combine history. He wasn’t great in pass dropping drills, but it’s time to stop thinking of him as an inspirational story and more as a football player. Griffin has top 50-tape and just put together a 1st round athletic combine. It may not be in a Bears uniform, but someone is getting a really good football player, likely on Day two of the draft next month.
(Photo Credit: USA Today)