Today was the day we've been waiting for since the start of the Combine: Drill day for DEs, DTs and LBs. I will break down this day in more detail than any of the others, because whereas we all have differing opinions on who we should take, we can probably agree that our first round pick is likely to be among this group.
Before I get started rehashing the days events. however, I've got a couple of bones to pick. First of all, I understand the Combine is chaotic, but the NFL Network has to do a better job covering it. THREE different times they listened in on coaches describing upcoming drills, and right as DE Michael Johnson (who was so physically talented they were using him as a demonstrator for every drill) was about to start, they cut to commercial. By the time they came back from the break, only the last of the group, which is organized by alphabetical order, was left, so I didn't get to see guys like Robert Ayers (TEN) participate in the drills. Secondly, there has to be something wrong with the electronic 40 timer. For all positions thus far, the official time has been .05 to .1 seconds slower than everyone else's "unoficial" times. Maybe the electronic version is closer to being "exact", but the problem is these guys are all getting tagged as slower than ever, and that's against guys from previous years when this didn't seem to be an issue. Take that for what it's worth.
Ok, woo-saah. Now that I've got that out of the way, let's get down to it. Quite frankly, the LBs lit it up. It was already known that this year's LB class is very deep in talent, but many helped their stock even more. Aaron Curry's (WF) 4.56 40 and 37" vertical, both of which were bests among all LBs, coupled with impressive performances in drills, have analysts speculating that he might be the first overall pick. Also, you guys might as well kiss goodbye to Brian Orakpo (UT) because he was sensational and there is no way he will make it to us. The guy looked like a beast at 6'3"/263, and still ran a 4.7 40 (which was an unoficial 4.61). He was looking great in all the DL drills until he unfortunately strained his hamstring. The injury was reported to not be serious, and everyone unanimously stated that it should not hurt his stock which is now very high. Two other "tweeners" or 3-4 hybrid DE/LBs, Lawrence Sidbury (RICH) and Connor Barwin (CIN) had a great day as well. Unfortunately things weren't so rosey for Rey Maualuga (USC), who hurt his hamstring running his first 40 and said he "heard a pop". The other two LBs from Southern California, Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews Jr., looked great in his absence. Matthews surprisingly barely edged out Cushing in the 40 (4.67 to 4.74), the broad jump (10'1" to 10') and the vertical (35.5" to 35"), although in fairness Cushing recorded 30 reps in the bench press. More on tweeners and Cushing versus Matthews later.
The pool of defensive linemen did not seem nearly as deep in comparison with the LBs. B.J. Raji (BC), despite prediting a 5.06, ran a 5.13 40 and looked okay in my opinion in drills, although everyone was praising him. Michael Johnson (GT) looked amazing, but this did not surprise anyone, especially Mike Mayock, who repeated several times that physical talent has never been a question with him and compared him to Vernon Gholston (for whom Warren Sapp had an interesting description). Still, a 4.75 40 (4.65 unoficial), 10'8" broad jump (tied for best), 28 bench press reps, and a 38.5" vertical is really impressive for a 6'7" guy who weighs 266 pounds. Meanwhile, I am now officially and completely against drafting Aaron Maybin. He not only looked terrible to me in drills, but he ran a mediocre 4.88 40 (4.78 unoficial) which showed me that the 15 pounds he added to his frame since the end of the college season has diminished his best attribute; speed. It appears teams are still high on him though, so that's good for us.
How does this all affect us? First, the emergence of so many talented tweeners is a great development. Several teams that draft before us, including Kansas City, Cleveland and Green Bay all run a 3-4. These teams will either take a high rated tweener like Orakpo, or they will try and wait for the second round to take a guy like Barwin. Secondly, I think that DTs and classic DEs will likely go quickly because teams realize that there's not much talent to be had in later rounds.
Four players, who are realistically on our radar, made an impression on me today. I don't want to make this post too long, so I will begin writing a separate article on them, which I will try to have done ASAP.