Josh Norris

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Draft 2012: Combine Wrapup

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Defensive Linemen

Dontari Poe (6-4/346), Memphis - Poe is a freak of nature and turned in a workout for the ages. His results show 44 bench reps, a 4.87 forty with a 1.68 ten-yard split, 29.5" vertical, and an 8'8" broad jump. I entered the week with Poe as my third defensive tackle and top nose prospect, but the Haloti Ngata comparisons are reaching. I suppose I see it with the footwork and position versatility, but Poe does not have Ngata production. After starting almost every game in three seasons of C-USA competition, Poe had five sacks and 21.5 tackles for a loss. For a freak athlete, that is very poor. Maybe it is a technique or effort issue, but I cannot warrant giving higher than a late first-round grade considering how often Poe ends up on the ground. Poe will likely be drafted higher than that because it's so difficult to find a player of his size and athleticism. I like him, but maybe just not as much as others reacting to his workout only.

Michael Brockers (6-5/322), LSU - I wrote about Brockers in my Overrated Prospects piece two weeks ago, explaining that his lack of technique covered up his publicized athleticism and resulted in scant production. Since the college season, endless reports have suggested Brockers is a freak athlete that just needs to be refined, even comparing him to Jason Pierre-Paul. I bought into the athlete part, but never saw it on the field. After Brockers' workout it all makes sense; the idea that Brockers is an elite athlete was an absolute myth. He shows little explosion during games and in tests (5.33 forty, 1.77 ten-yard split, 19 bench press reps, 26.5" vertical, 7.46 3-cone, 4.81 shuttle). So now we are left with a player that possesses little to no technique or natural athletic ability, whose lone selling points are length and a thick lower body that produces a solid anchor versus the run. If Brockers is taken in the first 20 picks by a team that runs a 4-3 defense, he'll be the biggest reach in the 2012 draft.

Melvin Ingram (6-2/264), South Carolina - Somewhat quietly, Ingram had one of the best overall workouts of the 2012 Combine. I still contend his best position is 4-3 defensive end, but limiting Ingram to one position would be selling him short. He looked very fluid in his hips when drop-stepping, and many movements looked effortless. In my Combine preview, I singled out the 3-cone drill as a test that puts speed and power rushers on an equal playing field and seemingly best predicts career success. Ingram's 6.83 time is the third best since 2006. I find it tough to believe he gets past the 12th pick since his on-field success equals his stellar testing.

Nick Perry (6-3/271), USC - Perry has bulked up almost 20 pounds since declaring for the draft and carried it very well in Indy (4.50 forty, 1.56 ten-yard split, 38.5" vertical, 10'4" broad jump). There has been plenty of talk of Perry playing as a strong-side 3-4 outside 'backer, and at that size it would be amazing. However, I still see stiffness in his game in tight spaces and when bending around the edge. Perry's 3-cone (7.25 seconds) and 20-yard shuttle (4.66 seconds) confirmed that stiffness, with neither time cracking the top-15 defensive linemen. Perry can be a solid top-20 pick as a 4-3 end, but he will struggle changing directions in space as a 3-4 OLB.


Mychal Kendricks (5-11/239), California - Kendricks made my Underrated Prospects feature a few weeks ago, and was easily the most impressive linebacker in Indianapolis. Some will question Kendricks because of his short stature, but he plays with an edge and ability to knife through blocks while delivering thumping hits at the line. Kendricks plays close to the same explosiveness of his 4.41 forty, 24 bench press reps, 39.5" vertical, 10'7" broad jump, and 4.19 short shuttle. I said in the article that Kendricks will be an instant starter after being selected on the second day. Now the only question is whether it is at weak-side or inside linebacker. Kendricks has quite a bit of Jon Beason to him.

Luke Kuechly (6-3/242), Boston College - Skeptics doubted Kuechly's athleticism entering the Combine, but he answered every question by landing in the top-five linebackers on almost every possible test (4.50 forty, 38" vertical, 10'3" broad jump, 6.92 3-cone, 4.12 20-yard shuttle, 11.43 60-yard shuttle). Kuechly makes quick decisions and is a missile at the second level. Part of me believes he can play both weak-side and inside linebacker, but how valuable is that to an NFL team? Lately, Patrick Willis and Jerod Mayo seem to be the only non-pass rushing linebackers that have produced to their top-12 draft status.

Vontaze Burfict (6-1/248), Arizona State - Burfict was another prospect listed in my Overrated piece. After running an embarrassing 5.09 forty, Burfict predictably took to the trainers table, ending his day. Burfict is the poster boy for how highlight-reel and YouTube "scouting" is a dangerous thing. He never improved in college, blamed coaches for his poor play during team interviews, and worst of all cannot read or react. Throughout this process I have had Burfict as my fifth inside linebacker with an early fourth-round grade. I think his best NFL position is 4-3 strong-side 'backer, where he has less responsibility and is allowed to make contact on every snap.

Defensive Backs

Stephon Gilmore (6-0/190), South Carolina - Gilmore was overshadowed by fellow SEC corners Morris Claiborne and Dre Kirkpatrick during his college career. However, Gilmore plays at a high level in his own right and is a natural on his outside island. He's best suited for a press scheme and stays in the receiver's hip after jamming at the line. Gilmore is balanced, but his reaction timing is not quite where it should be in off-coverage. After showing positive fluidity in his drops and running 4.40 in Indy, Gilmore's workouts back up his top-25 tape.

Josh Robinson (5-10/199), UCF - A surprise early entry into the draft, Robinson’s best traits are his ball-attacking attitude in midair by undercutting routes, fighting through a big-bodied receiver, and leaving his area to play lofted passes. Robinson frequently high points the ball better than the receivers he's covering, and showed that vertical leap at the combine (38.5”, second among CBs). He is effective after the interception with breakaway speed (4.29 forty) and explosive burst (11’1” broad jump, first among CBs). Robinson best projects in a zone scheme and thrives in underneath coverage. He shadows receivers well but is not a very physical player until the catch point. Robinson’s ability to fluidly switch from receivers that enter his zone and close quickly shows in tests (3.97 20-yard shuttle, 6.55 3-cone). Because of his scheme limitations, Robinson is a later second-day to early third-day prospect.

Josh Norris is an NFL Draft Analyst for Rotoworld and contributed to the Rams scouting department during training camp of 2010 and the 2011 NFL Draft. He can be found on Twitter .
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