The dust has settled in Indianapolis. The stopwatches and measuring tapes have been set aside. And another edition of the NFL Scouting Combine, where incoming rookies are put through the paces by scouts and coaches from around the NFL, is in the books.
Frankly, for the most part the best word to describe this year’s incarnation might actually be “uneventful.” Outside of the single most unfortunate wardrobe malfunction in the history of wardrobe malfunctions (that’s all I’m saying about it – poor kid), it was a relatively quiet week. There weren’t any jaw-dropping performances (well, outside that…um, well….) or full-on faceplants.
Of course, this isn’t to say there weren’t any players who helped (or hurt) their draft stock a bit, including the defensive stars who took to the field at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday and Monday.
With that in mind, here’s a look at a few young defenders whose arrow is trending up (or down) now that the combine is in the rearview mirror.
UP THE LADDER
Shaq Lawson – DE, Clemson
As Jordan Ranaan of NJ.com reports, Lawson was one of the stars on the defensive front Sunday. “Lawson tested very well,” Ranaan said. “He ran a 4.70 in the 40-yard dash, which was fourth-best among defensive linemen. He ran an impressive 20-yard shuttle (4.21 seconds). This is the kind of explosiveness scouts wanted to see from the 270-pounder. The kicker was that Lawson showed this explosion during drills as well.”
Lawson told ESPN’s Vaughn McClure he hopes the workout will help dispel criticisms that he doesn’t have the athleticism of fellow Clemson alum Vic Beasley, who the Atlanta Falcons drafted one year ago. “A lot of people say they don’t think I’m very athletic,” Lawson said. “I’m here to show them [athleticism] this week and just work on getting better.”
No, Lawson may not have Beasley’s quickness. He’s also a fair bit bigger and more of a natural fit as a 4-3 defensive end. Many mock drafts actually have Lawson following Beasley to Atlanta, where he would be a very interesting fit in Dan Quinn’s “under” front.
Darron Lee – OLB, Ohio State
In today’s NFL, linebackers more than ever are counted on to be able to both cover and pursue from sideline to sideline. As Lee told Doug Lesmerises of Cleveland.com, he thinks that suits his game to a tee. “I don’t really know why the game is getting a lot faster,” the 6’1”, 232-pounder said. “It’s more of a passing league and the quarterback is getting the ball out quicker and making linebackers run. That’s all I know. That’s all I’ve been seeing on Sundays.”
Lee backed up that assertion with a 4.43-second 40-time that caught the eye of at least one NFL GM. “That’s one of the reasons we evaluated Ryan Shazier as highly as we did, his ability to play lateral football was very impressive,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said. “He could make plays that maybe a traditional run-stopping style of linebacker wasn’t able to make.”
Lee’s quickness (which is backed up by game tape in case you wondering) also belies something else—something of particular interest to IDP owners. The ability to stay on the field in subpackages manning the weak side for a 4-3 team, or possibly even at the WILB spot in the 3-4.
Jalen Ramsey – DB, Florida State
There may be some disparity among draftniks and NFL scouts regarding the best fit for Ramsey at the professional level. However, as Bucky Brooks of NFL.com wrote, there’s little doubt after his performance on Monday that Ramsey won’t have to wait long to hear his name called on April 28.
“The top-rated defensive back in the draft confirmed his status as a world-class athlete with spectacular football skills at the combine on Monday,” Brooks stated. “Ramsey posted impressive measurements (a 4.41-second 40-yard dash, a 41.5” vertical jump and a 135” broad jump) for a big-bodied safety (Ramsey checks in at 6-foot-1 and 209 pounds) with long arms. In addition, the Florida State standout displayed outstanding quickness and fluidity in a variety of position drills designed to showcase his footwork and movement skills. With Ramsey’s résumé full of splash plays and knockout hits, he cemented his reputation as a top-five talent with his strong performance.”
We just saw Tyrann Mathieu of the Cardinals post top-five IDP production as a Swiss Army knife in the Arizona secondary. This isn’t to say that Ramsey’s the next Mathieu. But after what he did in Indy, it’s a safe bet that more than a few NFL teams are wondering if he just might be.