NFL Draft

NFL Combine Day Three: What To Watch For

Rounding out the weekend at the NFL Combine with the front seven: defensive line, inside linebackers, outside linebackers. Another busy day with some top talent. Here’s what we’re looking for.

Defensive Line

– Not a huge area of need but the Pittsburgh Steelers could look for some depth late in the draft. Couple of NC State big uglies who impressed at the Senior Bowl: B.J. Hill and Justin Jones. Jones is an impressive athlete for his frame and I think will post a great ten split.

– If you haven’t heard, Maurice Hurst, one of the top DL, was sent home after flagged for a heart condition. It’s unknown what the diagnosis is and where his future is headed. Some have been cleared, some never play again. Hoping for the best.

Harrison Phillips dominated the Pac-12 at Stanford but seemed to shrink in the Senior Bowl. Put up 42 reps on the bench press, a tremendous figure, but how good of an athlete is he? Important he tests well and show he can be productive in the big leagues, too.

Nathan Shepherd is the small school prospect who everyone should know after today. Began the Senior Bowl in strong fashion before breaking his hand. I couldn’t actually find anything concrete if he’s working out today but man, I hope he is.

Vita Vea is one of those freaks like a Dontari Poe. 347 pounds, 41 reps on the bar, and he’s going to run a seriously good time today. Potentially sub-5. He does that, with what his tape shows, he could go top 20.

– And VT’s Tim Settle is a guy I’ve heard a little about but haven’t gotten a chance to watch yet. Let’s see if he has a good showing.

– Possible five tech options? Ohio State’s Jalyn Brown, Miami’s R.J. McIntosh and Chad Thomas.

– Last one. Hercules Mata’afa is an interesting case study. Played as a three tech at Washington State at 250 pounds but still put up big numbers (22.5 TFL, 10.5 sacks last season). Definitely not his ideal role. Let’s figure out what it’s supposed to be for the league.

Outside Linebacker

– Kansas’ Dorane Armstrong is a physical freak, in-line with what the Steelers look for as of late. 6’3/5 257, 34 3/4 inch arms. High production his sophomore year, 20 TFL, 10 sacks, but limited to only 9 and two last season as a junior. He can turn things around with a good workout.

– How does Marcus Davenport look in coverage? He’s tall, a little stiff, but I hope we see him drop. Is he purely a 4-3 guy or could he play in either scheme? For so many of these edge guys, or tweeners, this is a first look to see these guys going backwards. How they flip their hips, how comfortable they are, how much time it looks like they’ve repped it. Doesn’t have to be perfect for the guys who didn’t do it in college but you gotta get a baseline level. Who has the skillset to make the transition?

– Think the Steelers like Utah’s Kylie Fitts. Limited production, an injury history, but looks the part. 263 pounds. Steelers have been drafting them on the heavier side and then asking them to drop weight.

Arden Key is in a similar boat. Production really fell off this year when many thought he was going to be a top ten pick. His weight has fluctuated wildly – he told reporters he played as heavy as 280 and weight into Indy at 238 so that’s gotta get settled. I’m guessing his ideal weight is somewhere in the 250 range. He’s got great length and hand use with the rip move being his favorite way to disengage. Big day for him, for sure.

– Three cone times huge for these edge guys. Harold Landry definitely needs to put in a good time. He could be in play for Pittsburgh at 28. Garret Dooley won’t test at the top but hoping that three cone is his best figure. Good mid-round selection. Kemoko Turay (Rutgers) might lead the entire draft group.

Inside Linebacker

– Gotta disagree with Kevin Colbert. Lot of talent worth checking out. You know a lot of the names by now, several of which have met with the Steelers. Rashaan Evans, Leighton Vander Esch (how well does he run?), Malik Jefferson, Josey Jewell, and Tremaine Edmunds (who should shine with a great workout). Jefferson is the one name I don’t think getting enough love to Pittsburgh.

Whoever your “guy” is you want the Steelers to target, you gotta think athlete, athlete, athlete. You don’t have to get someone who is exactly as athletic as Ryan Shazier, that’s mission impossible, but someone has to be close.

– How about Bama’s Shaun Dion Hamilton? Lot of talent. Lot of injuries (most recently, a fractured kneecap). Steelers interviewed him, too.

Oren Burks out of Vanderbilt showed movement skills as a late Senior Bowl call-up. I think he’ll open some eyes here.

– A pair of “two-down” linebackers who aren’t regarded as great athletes: Nick DeLuca and Micah Kiser. Two guys who have a lot to prove. I like DeLuca more than Kiser but the latter has a ton of production to his name. Steelers value that on the inside.

Darius Leonard (South Carolina St) is your small school sleeper. Going to have one of the top 40s of the position.

Dorian O’Daniel was smart and got his weight back up to 223. Explosive player. Think he could run in the mid 4.5’s. But lack of size and bulk is hurting him. Indiana’s Tegray Scales is in a similar boat but a little heavier at 230. Both will impress here.

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