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Top Rookie Defenders Shine at 2014 NFL Scouting Combine

The 2014 NFL Scouting Combine is in the books. More than 300 of college football’s top players have been put through the paces by scouts and coaches in Indianapolis. They’ve been grilled about their pasts and asked about their futures. They’ve been poked and prodded, weighed and measured, timed and scored.

For some players, things didn’t go quite as planned. Missouri defensive end
Michael Sam
one of the most heavily scrutinized players in Indianapolis given all that’s happened in the last month, struggled badly in workouts, turning in a sluggish 40 time and showing little in the agility drills to indicate the undersized end can transition to 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL.

Connecticut linebacker
Yawin Smallwood

had a similarly dismal showing. The 6-foot-2, 246-pounder pulled his hamstring during a terrible 5.01-second 40-yard dash, managed only 18 reps in the bench press and finished dead last in the broad jump in what Bleacher Report NFC East Lead Writer Brad Gagnon
called a “nightmare” combine.

With that said, most of the high-end defensive prospects on display in Indianapolis either shined or at least held their own, including this group of players who will most definitely be a factor in IDP drafts this summer.

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Jadeveon Clowney

raised a few eyebrows with a so-so 21 reps in the bench press (which really isn’t bad for a young man with 34.5-inch arms), and his work ethic was once again called into question after he surprisingly bowed out of the position drills. However, when it came to the drills Clowney actually participate in …

Great googly moogly.

A 4.47-second unofficial time in the 40-yard dash that made Johnny Manziel look like a slowpoke by comparison. A ridiculous 10-yard split time of 1.56 seconds. Great showings in the broad jump and vertical.

It was a display that only served to reinforce Clowney’s freakish speed, quickness and athleticism. It was also a showing that may actually be bad
news for IDP owners.

Many updated mock drafts, including the most recent one from Nate Davis of
USA Today

, have Clowney being selected as the first overall pick of the 2014 NFL draft by the Houston Texans.

Pairing Clowney with
J.J. Watt

might be tempting for the Texans, but would be a nightmare for IDP owners, as it would all but surely mean positional classification as an outside linebacker and a huge hit to his IDP value.

Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

If Clowney had a great showing in Indianapolis, then we may have to come up with a new adjective to describe Donald’s performance. The 6-foot-1, 285-pounder, who won a slew of hardware in 2013 including the Outland Trophy, Bednarik Award and Nagurski Award, put on quite a display at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Donald’s 4.68-second 40-yard dash was fifth-fastest among defensive linemen. His 35 reps on the bench press were second. Donald finished fifth at the position in the three-cone drill.

Whether it was power, speed or agility Donald showed plenty at the combine, and it left Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis very impressed, according to
Gerry Dulac of
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

“He’s a great prospect,” Lewis said of Donald. “He is along the lines of
Geno Atkins

in that he has the opportunity to develop into a good inside rusher. He stays on his feet and that’s how you play good defense in the NFL.”

That comparison to Atkins (another undersized but explosive three-technique) should certainly catch the attention of IDP owners in fantasy leagues that require defensive tackles, but, given the quickness Donald showed at the combine, there may also be some 3-4 clubs re-thinking the idea of Donald as a defensive end in that front.

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