Unfortunately the top name in this group and likely the highest defender taken, Chase Young of Ohio State, did not compete. The reason? According to him he didn’t want to “waste time being a Combine athlete”. I can dig it; you don’t need Young to run in shorts to see he’s a freak.
South Carolina’s defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw also sat out. Moving forward, I could see this “load management” attitude by high first round locks increase. He’ll do everything in a more comfortable setting at his pro day. Word is that teams don’t mind that Kinlaw is sitting out and are very high on him.
In Indy for the NFL Combine.. talking to some coaches & scouts here there is a lot of buzz that #SouthCarolina DL Javon Kinlaw is a legit Top-5 talent thanks to his blend of size+agility and fluidity. “That dude is huge. He’s powerful and I love how well he can move.”— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) February 26, 2020
Several from the group also skipped the mostly useless bench press portion, perhaps due to the history of injuries suffered while pumping iron. In 2018, Billy Price suffered a torn pec while benching at the Combine, followed the next year by Kendall Sheffield who suffered the same fate.
What we’ll focus on here is the athletic testing from those who did participate in Indy... here are my Winners & Losers on the day.
Isaiah Simmons, LB/DS/Alien - Clemson
Everybody knew he was a freak and the Combine just confirmed it. It’s hard to call him a winner, because you don’t want to double check boxes, but it’s too good to ignore entirely.
39” vert, 11’ broad, and a ridiculous 4.39 40-time (only the third off-ball LB to crack 4.4 in history) at 6’4”, 238 pounds. Have a day, Isaiah!
Kenneth Murray, LB - Oklahoma
It’s hard to contend with Simmons’ freakshow effort but Murray, whose stock is anywhere from late first round to the middle of the second, shouldn’t be left out here. Murray has some nice explosion with a 10’9” broad and 38” vert, plus he booked it with a very nice 4.52 40-yard dash.
As it stands now, it’s between him and LSU’s Patrick Queen to be the second linebacker off the board. Murray has more concerns, especially in coverage, but he sure looks athletic enough to make a favorable projection in that area.
Willie Gay Jr., LB - Mississippi State
Knew nothing about Gay beforehand, but he put up serious numbers. 4.46 40-yard dash, 39.5” vertical jump, 11’4” broad jump. Check, check, check. That’s a “run to the film” performance.
The Hoop Drill
A great addition to the Combine, the Hoop Drill is legit! It’s a great visual of fluidity and flexibility as the big boys try to maintain speed while cornering and picking up two towels within two separate hoops. Justin Madubuike (Texas A&M) and Khalil Davis (Nebraska) looked especially nice during the debut of the drill.
Madubuike running the hoop. Good rep pic.twitter.com/FiMPOwfFKz— Billy M (@BillyM_91) February 29, 2020
Derrick Brown, iDL - Auburn
Projected to go very high in the draft, Brown had a very disappointing day. An 8.22 3-cone is historically awful, plus he ran slow and jumped low. It’s the type of performance that sends you back to the film in a bad way. The gap between him in Kinlaw may have narrowed, and it was already smaller than many thought to begin with.
AJ Epenesa, DL - Iowa
We knew this day was coming for Epenesa and it may have been worse than I imagined. His 5.04 40-yard dash with a 1.81 10-yard split is slow, slow.
Speed isn’t Epenesa’s forte, his stone hands, technique, and counters are, but you still wanted to see a baseline level of athleticism from the 6’5”, 275-pound pass rusher. He also stumbled trying to make a tight corner in the Hoop Drill which wasn’t the only example of his stiffness (7.34 3-cone). Darn shame.
Epenesa will get a chance to improve on his time at his pro day, and I’m sure he’ll take the opportunity to try at the very least. To be fair to Epenesa, some guys just aren’t track stars and lack the required technique. That’s something he can work on before the pro day.
Credit to @GrindingTheTape for pointing this out to me on AJ Epenesa’s 40, but man that’s just a terrible start. There’s .41 off the clock before he gets that right foot off the ground. pic.twitter.com/ghw5UYa5SJ— Joe Marino (@TheJoeMarino) February 29, 2020
Bradley Anae, EDGE - Utah
Anae has all the production, polish and technique you want at the position. Coming off of a 13 sack, 14 tackle for loss season, Anae’s stock took a hit after a slow 4.93 40-yard dash and worse than that was his super stiff 7.44 3-cone. The jumps didn’t display the type of explosiveness to make up for it either. Really good player, excellent Senior Bowl week, but a marginal athlete that’s hard to project to the next level.
Both Kenneth Murray and Patrick Queen pulled up lame on their second runs, grabbing at their hamstrings. That sucks for two of the top linebackers in the class.
Before we get out of here, one last note... I listed Colorado wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. in my “Losers” for his slow 40-yard dash and possible injury during the first day of testing. I stand by that regarding the injury concerns, but now we have more clarification on why he ran slow. It makes sense considering the speed I saw from Shenault on film, but big picture it’s still not great!
Colorado WR Laviska Shenault, who has been dealing with core muscle injury and inflammation of the pubic bone, will have surgery that is expected to sideline him 4-6 weeks, per league source. Despite the injury, Shenault ran a 4.55 at the combine. But with no improvement, surgery— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 29, 2020
And that’s a wrap on day 3 of the NFL Combine!