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2016 NFL Scouting Combine: Day 3 Stock Watch

After two days featuring the offensive prospects, the final two days sees the defence take their turn in the spotlight, and this year, that


After two days featuring the offensive prospects, the final two days sees the defence take their turn in the spotlight, and this year, that makes the second half of the 2016 combine the ones to watch as the strength of this class lies on this side of the ball.  In particular, the defensive line in incredibly strong, both with a huge amount of talent at the top and exceptional depth that will see absolute bargains still up for grabs in the middle rounds that would normally be long gone in other years.  It underlines the question of why so many defensive underclassmen chose this of all years to forgo extra eligibility and enter into this group.  The talent was so evident on Sunday in what was the best day of this year’s event so far.  Here are just a small handful of names that stood out for me to either boost their draft stock or delve further into their game film again, but could go on for far too long to include everyone who had a strong showing.  While mostly a positive outlook, the final name is included due to a disappointing day.   Emmanuel Ogbah, EDGE, Oklahoma State – The two-time Big 12 conference defensive player of the year at times this past season was unblockable, finishing the year with 64 tackles, 17.5 TFLs, 13 sacks and 19 quarterback pressures.  That said there were times when he was kept quiet for long stretches, and generally saw his production slow toward the end of the season during the time when the schedule was toughest and the opponents more talented.  For me, he’s borderline as to whether he’s a late first round prospect or early second round.  That said, after his athletic display at the combine, it seems likely that someone will take that chance on his upside on the first day of the draft.  I mentioned in our edge rushers top ten preview article that when Ogbah takes to the field at the combine, he will look and test the part, and so it proved to be.  It began with a blazing 40-yard dash of 4.63, second fastest among defensive linemen, and went on to show his excellent lower body explosion with a 35.5” vertical jump (tied 2nd) and 10ft 1 broad jump (tied 3rd).  While that straight line speed is impressive, Ogbah was far less so in the change of direction drills with very average marks in the three cone drill and the 20-yard shuttle run.  On top of that, his strength didn’t wow despite his build with 20 reps in the bench press.  While he certainly stood out in the more popular events, looking deeper reveals that a few questions remain that are backed up by his film, where Ogbah is a fairly basic pass rusher and is still working to develop an all-round game.  He’ll continue to hold a second round for me.   Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State – Let this statistic sink in.  Only 5 of Saturday’s wide receivers ran their 40-yard dashes faster than Lee.  The outstanding athlete flew down the track, demonstrating the speed that he utilised so well in his two seasons starting for the Buckeyes that makes him such a rare talent in space and in coverage for a player at his position, and saw him pile up 16.5 tackles for loss in 2014 and a further 11 in 2015 as a dynamic blitzer.  Being able to make game-changing plays both in the backfield and dropping deep are the skills that will make Lee a mid-first round selection in April, despite being relatively shorter than most linebackers at 6ft 1, albeit at a sturdy enough 232 lbs.  Lee fits the profile of the modern day linebacker who has to cover a wide area of the field while contributing on all three downs, but are so difficult to find.  A former high school quarterback who then transitioned to safety before settling in as a linebacker, Lee is both relatively inexperienced on the defensive side of the ball, and in general, having entered the draft as just a redshirt sophomore.  That said he was able to come into one of the best teams in the nation and dominate as an outstanding playmaker in just his redshirt freshman year, has handled big games and pressure situations as part of the 2014 national championship team, and started 28 games during his brief stay.  The quick, fluid movements saw him look superb throughout the positional workout portion of his session yesterday, and he backed up his speed in the dash with more great measurements across the various drills.  Lee put up a vertical of 35.5” (5th best among LBs), 11ft 1 in the broad (1st) and 4.20 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle (3rd).   Andrew Billings, DL, Baylor – The defensive line group is ridiculously deep and talented, it was incredible to watch so many soon-to-be high draft picks run so well at their size one after the other.  With all that athletic talent, for Billings to clearly stand out speaks to how exceptional he looked.  His quickness off the start of his dash at 311 lbs was something to see.  Combining that explosiveness with his strength is exciting.  Billings was a national record-setting weightlifter in high school and is one of the stronger players to enter the league in recent years.  So much so, that his high total of 31 reps in the bench press was in some ways an ever so slight disappointment!  I really thought he might challenge the combine record.  Billings continued his strong day with his field workout, looking exceptionally nimble with great footwork as he moved through each task.  Billings is billed as a run stuffer and nose tackle primarily by some; I think this does a huge injustice to his potential as an interior pass rusher.  He needs to finish more plays when in position, but the highly disruptive lineman spent a huge amount of time in the backfield the past two seasons.  He’ll fit well into both 4-3 and 3-4 schemes, and despite all the depth in the defensive line group in 2016, he ought to be one of the first off the board.  His showing at the combine did a lot to prove himself above many of his peers at the position.   Stephen Weatherly, EDGE, Vanderbilt – He is one of the less well-known prospects to many viewers of college football and the combine yesterday.  Despite a good season in 2015, Weatherly was still a bit of a surprise to choose to enter the draft early, and wasn’t helped by playing on a very poor Commodores team this year.  He gave his draft stock a good boost in Indy this weekend though, consistently looking one of the most polished and fluid movers through the positional workout section at the end of the linebacker session, out-performing plenty of bigger names.  He has a lot of length and next-level size at 6ft 4 & 267 lbs, with long arms and huge hands, making the weigh-in part of his weekend one of the big positives; he looks the part.  At that good size, he made it clear that he is a terrific athlete too, running well with a 4.61 40-yard dash time, good for 6th best among linebackers as one of the bigger guys in the group.  The short area quickness and explosion are fairly average, and placed fairly average too with a 31” vertical and 9ft 8 broad, but the smooth movement and good footwork he showed, and his strength as one of the top performers in the bench with 23 reps make up for a relative lack of explosion out of his stance as a pass rusher.  There’s a lot of good foundations to build on, so while he’s likely still a late round prospect, he’s shown that there’s plenty to work with and develop.  His versatility and experience at both defensive end in a 4-3 and outside linebacker in a 3-4 helps too, playing the latter in his final collegiate season.   Noah Spence, EDGE, Eastern Kentucky – And so, on to the unfortunate prospect whose stock has dropped after his time at the combine.  Considered the top “pure pass rusher” in this year’s class in terms specifically of getting after the quarterback, Spence was supposed to put on a show that would put his speed and explosive numbers up there with the likes of Von Miller and Kalil Mack, two names who the NFL Network team continually compared him with over the course of the day as Spence completed his drills.  That didn’t quite go to plan however, as the former Ohio State Buckeye put up pretty pedestrian numbers, with a 4.80 dash time, 35” vertical, 10ft 1 broad and 7.21 second three cone time.  Considering his lack of ideal length as an edge rusher, better numbers were hoped for.  There’s no doubt in full pads in games he’s dynamic off the edge, which takes precedence, but this still hurts him a bit.  Part of the issue, is that he is continually trying to prove that he is worth taking a chance on, given his history of drug use that saw him leave Ohio State and end up at Eastern Kentucky in the first place.  He’s been very open in discussing his issues and admitting his mistakes, and has passed all drug tests over the past year, but reportedly came across as “very shaky” during his team interviews prior to his workout, and comments from some front office exec who made the fairly damning statement of (to para-phrase) “this should end the talk of Spence going in the first round”.  He has first round talent, but the lack of measurables both in his size and what he showed on Sunday, added in with the off-field red flags, and Spence’s eventual landing spot in the draft remains a mystery.  

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Rebecca Rennie

Hello all, I'm Rebecca, also going by Bex, and I am the RealSport College Football Editor, as well as writer and NFL Draft analyst.  I also edit other sports including the CFL, cycling and golf, while occasionally contributing to the NFL section as well.  I'm a fan of most sports and enjoy discussing with fellow fans, so do please comment on articles and interact.  A big fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and of the Central Florida Knights in college.

2016 NFL Scouting Combine: Day 3 Stock Watch

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