For teams that need athletic linebackers, 2018 is the draft to invest. The players in this year’s class have speed and agility, and most of them are demonstrating it while weighing more than 230 pounds, rather than playing as converted box safeties. 17 of the 27 linebackers to run the forty yard dash finished with above-average times (relative to historic data). 13 of 16 beat the average in the three cone drill, 12 of 21 were above-average in the vertical leap, and 18 of 22 were above-average in the broad jump.
The defensive linemen and edge rushers didn’t have the same level of dominance, but several players stood out in both groups. Here’s your daily stock report for the defensive front seven:
Stock up: Shaquem Griffin, LB, UCF
Griffin was the talk of the town in Mobile, Alabama, but his name was left off the initial list of Combine invitees. Eventually he made the cut, and NFL scouts got to see that there’s no pity behind the invite for this one-handed linebacker, only skill and character. Griffin ran a 4.38 forty yard dash, the fastest result for a linebacker since 2003. He also put up 20 bench press reps, and held his own in the drills, catching balls as well as his two-handed competition.
Stock up: Matthew Thomas, LB, Florida State
Thomas had a rough career for the Seminoles, missing half of 2014, the entire 2015 season, and the final game of his career due to school-imposed suspensions. The former five-star recruit showed off the freaky potential that earned him a lofty ranking out of high school, though. He led all linebackers in the vertical leap (41.5 inches!) and the broad jump (10 feet eleven inches!), his 6.85 three cone drill ranked fourth, and his 4.58 forty yard dash was sixth.
Stock up: Leighton Vander-Esch, LB, Boise State
Vander-Esch had a helluva portfolio at the Combine - 20 reps on the bench press, a 4.65 forty yard dash, a 39.5 vertical leap, 10’4” broad jump, 6.88 three cone drill, and 4.15 short shuttle. Oh, and he did that while measuring in at 6’4”, 256 pounds, with nearly 34 inch arms. Freak!
Stock up: Dorian O’Daniel, LB, Clemson
O’Daniel bulked up in preparation for the Combine. At the Senior Bowl, fresh off the College Football Playoffs, he weighed 215 pounds, but he weighed 223 in Indianapolis. The extra mass didn’t hurt his on-field performance, though. He led all linebackers in the three cone drill (6.64 seconds) and the short shuttle (4.07 seconds). He also put up 21 bench press reps.
Stock down: Nick DeLuca, LB, North Dakota State
Very few linebackers had a bad day on Sunday, but DeLuca’s day was probably worst. He ran a 4.85 forty yard dash, second worst among linebackers. He finished a group-worst 29.5 inch vertical leap and a group-worst 9’4” broad jump. While his 7.09 three cone drill was actually above average relative to historic data, it was fourth-worst in this set.
Stock up: Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
Finally recovered from an ankle injury that held him out of the end of his season and the Senior Bowl, Landry reminded everyone why he was once considered the best edge rusher in this class. His 6.88 three cone drill, 11.35 60-yard shuttle, and 4.19 short shuttle led the group. His 36 inch vertical leap ranked third.
Stock up: Josh Sweat, EDGE, Florida State
In interviews at the Combine, Sweat boasted that he was aiming for a forty yard dash in the 4.4s, and a 40 inch vertical leap. He didn’t quite get there, but his 4.53 forty yard dash and 39.5 vertical leap were pretty freaking close, and outstanding results for a player who measured in at 6’4”, 251 pounds.
Stock down: Dorance Armstrong Jr, EDGE, Kansas
The 6’4” 257 pound Armstrong had a disappointing day of timed results. His 4.87 forty yard dash was third-worst in the group of edge rushers, and his 30 inch vertical leap was second worst. He did turn in a solid 4.23 short shuttle time, but didn’t distinguish himself in the broad jump or three cone drill.
Stock up: Taven Bryan, DL, Florida
When you’re getting compared to J.J. Watt, you know you had a great day at the Combine. Bryan didn’t quite reach Watt’s three-sigma level of athleticism, but at 6’4” 291 pounds, he turned in a great performance. He ran a 4.98 forty yard dash, had an outstanding 7.12 three cone drill, put up 30 bench press reps, leaped 35 inches, and had a 9’11” broad jump.
Stock up: Da’Ron Payne and Da’Shawn Hand, DL, Alabama
Both of these members of the Crimson Tide traded excellent outcomes on Sunday. Hand turned in a 4.83 forty yard dash, while the 311-pound Payne managed a 4.95. Payne had a 7.58 three cone drill, Hand had a 31.5 inch vertical leap. Both players will be starting on Sundays.
Stock holding: Vita Vea, DL, Washington
Vea was billed as a freak athlete, and at the start of the Combine, he was living up to that reputation. At 6’4” 347 pounds, he put up 41 bench press reps and ran a 5.10 forty yard dash. A pulled hamstring ended his day before he could show off his explosiveness or agility.
Stock down: Tim Settle, DL, Virginia Tech
Vea was one freaky defensive tackle in this group, and the other was Settle, who moved with great agility around the field on his tape. That didn’t manifest in the workouts, though. His 5.37 forty yard dash was third-slowest on the day, his 23.5 vertical leap was the worst, his 96-inch broad jump was second-worst, and his 7.95 three cone drill was third worst.
Stock down: Derek Nnadi, DL, Florida State
Nnadi had a reputation as a guy who can keep the linebackers clean, so his results may not affect his stock very much. But he had a very lousy day. His 5.38 forty yard dash, 5.02 short shuttle, and 8.15 three cone drill were the worst in the group, and his 96-inch broad jump was second worst.