The 2020 NFL Combine has almost arrived, and players will be flying into Indianapolis next week for their gauntlet of exams, interviews, and workouts. For the fans, the biggest draw is the last element—an exercise in grouping hundreds of different prospects into size-and-speed tiers.
Which players can shine in this setting? We won’t always catch the Dri Archers of the world before they show out on the track, but here are five defenders with reputations for top-tier athleticism.
Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
There are few players in college football with Gladney’s level of burst, fluidity, and closing speed. Ranking number 13 on Bruce Feldman’s college football “Freaks” list, Gladney reportedly squats 620 lbs, and was timed at a 4.34 40-yard dash last offseason.
Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
Nothing sums up Simmons quite like his positional breakdown this season: OLB, ILB, safety, slot CB, and even a handful of snaps at outside cornerback—at 6’4” and 230 lbs. His ultimate NFL destination is totally up in the air, but that versatility suggests you’ll find one of the best pound-for-pound athletes in the entire draft class.
Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne
Dugger didn’t start the offseason as a household name, but the Division II safety began a meteoric rise with a standout performance during the Senior Bowl—he led his team in total tackles during the game, after a strong week of practice highlights. The 6’1”, 217-lb safety is remarkably explosive, and the Combine could be his next opportunity to separate himself from the pack.
Chase Young, ER, Ohio State
Young is arguably the best player in this draft class. Listed at 6’5”and 265 lbs, he combines intense power with freakish flexibility and speed. Recent years have seen some tremendous first-round athletes at edge rusher, including Jadeveon Clowney, Myles Garrett, and Montez Sweat. Young hopes to join that group.
Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
Queen only started 16 games in his college career, but still earned the defensive MVP award in this year’s National Championship. That speaks to LSU’s excellent roster, and also to the fact that Queen may be a diamond in the rough. Listed at 6’1” and 227 lbs, he’s a bit undersized for a linebacker, but his explosiveness is very evident on the field.