Combine Review – The Front Seven


Dontari Poe – Wow. I wrote over the last couple of months that I thought Poe had rare movement skills. Even I didn’t see him running a 4.98 40 or looking the way he did in the drills. Star of stars. Great performance. You get a DT/NT that is half Ted Washington and half Dwight Freeney. Massive player. Great agility and athleticism. An absolute freak. I’ll write up a full post on him later. Poe does have significant concerns. Any team taking him in the 1st round has to acknowledge that he could be a colossal bust. Poe wasn’t a dominant player and he faced C-USA blockers. There were guys blocking him last fall that will be working for Jimmy’s Plumbing Company this fall. That has to scare you a bit.

Quinton Coples – Didn’t stand out. Ran a good 40 and certainly looks the part, but failed to impress in the athletic tests and positional dills. Coples isn’t a top athlete. He’s more of a football player. Remember that his best days came at DT, not DE. Still, I was hoping for more coming off a good showing at the Senior Bowl.

Fletcher Cox – I was happy when he measured in at 6’4, 298 and then ecstatic when he ran a 4.79. Had a split of 1.63 (not sure if that was confirmed). He’s fast and explosive. That’s important because he showed that on his game tape and it was good to see it confirmed in an athletic setting. Looked good in the drills. Showed good body control and agility for a big man. Only concern was a VJ of 26 inches. That’s not good for a 298-pound DT. Needs to work on leg strength. I think he’s got a strong chance to be a Top 20 pick.

Kendall Reyes – Very good in the athletic tests and positional drills. Ran 4.95 and had a vertical of 34.5. Did 36 reps. Good combination of size and strength. Played a lot of NT at UConn, but has agility and athleticism to play the under tackle (3-technique) in the NFL.

Melvin Ingram – Very impressive. Great feet. Moves so naturally that it blows you away. Powerful upper body and showed that in the drills. He was killing the bags in the pass rush drills. You could see how his 28 bench press reps translated onto the field as functional football strength. Didn’t run a lights out 40, but speed isn’t his deal. Just a natural athlete. Can play LB or DE.   

Bruce Irvin – Only 6’3, 245, but plays like it. Very fast. Ran 4.50. Looked fast in the drills. One concern is that he’s just a straight line speed guy. Didn’t stand out in the movement or LB drills. Doesn’t have great feet. Also, isn’t a physical guy. Watching him after Ingram, there was no pop to the bag. Might just be a situational rusher. Can fill that role in some 4-3 schemes.

Cam Johnson – Good workout. If you watched his season tape or Senior Bowl showing you knew he could rush the passer. I was impressed by his footwork and agility. 3-4 teams can consider him a LB target. Did look good in the pass rush drills. He’s not just a speed guy and you could see that. Ran a 4.81 and had a VJ of 35 inches.

Chandler Jones – Awkward day. I like Jones a lot, but he was exposed in some ways. He’s got long legs and struggled in some of the movement drills. Good athlete, but his build keeps him from being smooth and fluid. He does bend well for such a tall guy and you could see that. Did show good agility with a 3-cone time of 7.07. Ran 4.87 and had 35-inch vert. Solid 2nd round pick.

Jaye Howard – Tease. The poor man’s Fletcher Cox. Put up similar numbers. Looked good in the positional drills. That makes it all the more frustrating that he was such an inconsistent player. He has good potential, but teams have to figure out why he didn’t play like it more often.

Jamie Blatnick – Played DE/LB for Oklahoma State this year. Never impressed me as a DE, but I thought he looked good when playing in space. That was confirmed in his workout. Looked natural out in space and on the move. Isn’t a special athlete, but can be a good OLB for some 3-4 team. Good showing.

Mike Martin – Surprised me with his athletic ability. Ran 4.88. 36 reps. 33.5 VJ. 7.19 in the 3-cone. Problem is that I don’t see that stuff on tape. Good player. Body is in phenomenal shape. His muscles have muscles. 6’1, 306. I see a guy on tape that looks like a tough guy and overachiever, not a rocked out athlete. And he’s got a wresting background. Not sure how to value Mike.

Shea McClellin – Bulked up for the Combine (245 to 260), but it didn’t hurt him at all. Ran a 4.63, almost had a 10-foot broad jump, and was 7.07 in the 3-cone. That’s speed, explosion and agility. Looked pretty good in the positional drills. 3-4 teams will like him as an OLB. Could go in the 2nd round. 4-3 teams will split on if he’s a SAM or DE. Probably more of an early 3rd to them.

Whitney Mercilus – Good showing. Got my attention with 27 BP reps. Impressive for a guy with long arms. Ran 4.68, which shows good speed. Looked impressive in the positional drills. I’m not sure he showed the agility that 3-4 teams were hoping for, but 4-3 teams looking for a pass rusher should have come away happy.

Nick Perry – Strong workout. Came in at 271 pounds. Ran 4.64. Did 35 reps. Had a 38.5 VJ. That shows speed and good upper/lower body strength. Didn’t post good numbers in the SS or 3-cone, which confirms the game tape. Isn’t overly agile. More of a straight line guy.

Devon Still – Up and down. Ran a 5.08, which sounds fine for a big DT, but it isn’t when you compare it to the guys he’s fighting for draft position with. They were sub-5.00 and as big or bigger. Had a VJ of 29.5, which is good. Didn’t do the 3-cone or SS. That bugs me. Very mixed in the positional drills. Poor effort and technique in one bag drill. Again, that bugs me. Not a bad player by any stretch. Problem is I’m trying to compare him to guys who had good days. He didn’t. He’s not helping himself.

Olivier Vernon – Strange player and a strange workout. Put on the tape and you don’t see a natural edge rusher. Looked more at home when moved to DT in Nickel/Dime situations. Showed his strength with 31 reps, 34.5 VJ. Only ran 4.80. Was awkward in the drills. Shined in some, looked stiff in others. I really don’t know what to make of him. Could you bulk him up from 261 to 275 and make him a DT? Talented player. Just odd.

Derek Wolfe – Good workout. Check out the numbers: 5.01, 33 reps, 33.5 VJ, 7.26 3-cone. Is he the poor man’s JJ Watt? Similar build and athleticism. Won’t be picked super early, but I think he’s a solid 3rd round pick. Great production this season to go with the athletic ability. And he’s 6’5, 295. He can play DT or 3-4 DE.

Jerel Worthy – Interesting player. Great burst and upfield speed. Ran 5.08 in the 40 to confirm that. Moves well laterally, which you could see in the positional drills. Struggles with changing directions. Confirmed that with 7.6 3-cone and 4.56 SS. I did like his rip move in the pass rush drills. Showed some bend as well. Just has poor COD.


Luke Kuechly – Next to Poe, was the story of the day. Only needed to run a 4.65 to have a good day. Ran a 4.58 and then blew people away with his other numbers: 38 VJ, 10’3 BJ, 27 reps, 6.92 3-cone. Turned out he wasn’t just an instinctive guy. Can actually move around. Good showing in the drills, but you did see some limitations. Looked awkward in the pass rush drills. Luke is meant to be in space, chasing the ball. Top 20 pick. Great showing.

Courtney Upshaw – Disappointing. I didn’t expect him to be overly quick or athletic because that’s not his game, but he looked stiff in the movement drills. Upshaw is a pass rusher, but you do need to be able to drop back effectively as a 3-4 OLB. I don’t think he has the burst to be a 4-3 DE. In his defense, Upshaw is a power player and the Combine isn’t a place to show that off.

Mychal Kendricks – Actually had the best LB workout of the day: 4.47, 24 reps, 39.5 VJ, 10’7 BJ, 4.19 SS. I knew he was athletic, but didn’t expect that. Solid in the positional drills. You could see his pass rush experience. Should go in the 2nd or 3rd round with that workout and his game tape.

Zach Brown – Expectations were sky high for him, but the results were merely good. Didn’t finish first in any event. Thought he might run right around 4.40, but “only” did 4.50. Certainly didn’t hurt himself because the numbers were good. Just failed to give us a “wow” performance that we hoped for.

Dont’a Hightower – Up and down. Ran better than I expected. 4.68 in the 40. The problem is that you could see his issues in the movement drills. Hightower is a N-S LB. He can’t move E-W. Isn’t smooth laterally or with his COD. Must attack downhill. Perfect for 3-4 ILB, but will only appeal to a handful of 4-3 teams.

Vontaze Burfict – Could things have gone worse? I’m not sure he would have hurt himself any more if he had run the 40 with a beer in one hand and firing a gun into the air with the other. Ran a disastrous 5.09. Didn’t bench, which in theory should be something he’s good at as a powerful ILB. Only did some of the athletic tests. Reportedly was terrible in interviews with the teams. Got up at the podium to speak with the media and blamed ASU coaches for his poor 2011 season. The highlight of his trip was the minute he got on the plane to fly home. Not good.

Tank Carder – Good showing. Posted good numbers in the athletic tests. Looked good in the positional drills. Caught the ball well when that was part of the drills. Quality mid-round target.

James-Michael Johnson – Lost 8 pounds from the Senior Bowl, but still plenty big at 241. Ran 4.68 in the 40. Did 23 reps and had a VJ of 37 inches. Again, that shows good upper and lower body strength. You see that on hie game tape as well. Can be explosive on the field.

Keenan Robinson – Disappointing. Did well on the bench and VJ, but ran slower than I expected (4.79). Didn’t do the agility tests. Looked awkward in the positional drills. Didn’t show good agility there. Long legs. Didn’t come across as a natural athlete. 3rd to 4th round type of target.

Sean Spence – Came in at 231 which was good, but then only did 12 reps. I don’t like that. Sean is a football player and not an athlete. That showed in Indy. Didn’t post good numbers. Was solid in the drills, but he’s much better playing in traffic and fighting to get to the ball than moving around in space. Struggled with catching the ball in drills. Pure LB. Value is hurt by his size and lack of athleticism/playmaking skills.

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24 Responses to Combine Review – The Front Seven

  1. kammich says:

    I just spit my coffee everywhere after reading that Burfict anecdote. Too funny.

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  2. andre says:

    The Burfict write up is absolutely hilarious! How far do you think he slid due to his performance?

    • Tommy Lawlor says:

      There is a realistic chance he won’t be picked at all.

      I think the earliest he goes is the 4th round and that is unlikely. Didn’t play well. Fought with his coaches privately and publicly. Doesn’t accept blame for problems. Showed a poor work ethic with his Combine prep. And didn’t show anything good at the Combine.

      What the hell are we drafting him based on? A handful of highlight plays?

      I’m about to pay him $300 K per year, give or take. Do I trust him as a person? As a player?

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  3. Yesares says:

    And what about Andre Branch?

    No love for him?

    • Tommy Lawlor says:

      Branch was solid. Ran very well. Great 10-yd split. Was good in the drills, but didn’t blow me away. He was basically what I expected to see. Quality, athletic pass rusher.

      • Yesares says:

        Do you envision him as a 3-4 OLB or a 4-3 DE in NFL?

        • Tommy Lawlor says:

          I like Branch better as a DE, but I’m biased because I’m a 4-3 guy.

          There was a play earlier in the year when Branch dropped into coverage and then made an impressive open field tackle of a RB after a short pass. He can be a 3-4 OLB. Quality player.

  4. Neill Stark says:

    Tommy has Luke Kuechly or Fletcher Cox moved themselves up higher than the 15th pick with these combine results? Will the Eagles have to trade up to get one of them if they want them?

    • Tommy Lawlor says:

      It is possible that Cox and Kuechly could go before pick 15, but I don’t see that as likely.

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  5. GottaKnow says:

    Derek Wolfe having similar athleticism as JJ Watt is so far from true it’s not even funny.

    Both are WHITE. That has NOTHING to do with comparing them as athletes.

    Look up their respective combine results and get back to me about having “similar athleticism”.

    • Tommy Lawlor says:

      JJ Watt

      6’5, 290
      4.81 in the 40
      34 reps
      37 inch VJ
      4.21 SS
      10 Ft BJ
      6.88 3-cone

      Derek Wolfe
      6’5, 295
      5.01 in the 40
      33 reps
      33 1/2 VJ
      4.44 SS
      9 Ft-BJ
      7.26 3-cone

      Watt unquestionably is the better athlete. That’s why I called Wolfe “a poor man’s JJ Watt”…meaning he’s a lesser version.

      Watt posted great numbers across the board. Wolfe posted a couple of very good numbers, but others that were just solid. I call them similar because both guys are big, can run, can jump, and have good strength. The clear difference is that Watt is special while Wolfe is above average.

  6. GottaKnow says:

    simply lazy racist stereotyping

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