By Chance Bond
Of the linebackers some surprised others disappointed….how did yours do?
Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Luke Kuechly was thought to run closer to a 4.8 or 4.9. The Boston College tackling machine hushed the doubthers posting a 4.50 and 4.59 on two attempts. He also showcased his great explosion with a 10-3 broad jump and a 38-inch vertical leap.
Kuechly, who was as good as advertised during the drills, won’t get out of the top 20 picks. Unless the Eagles sign Stephen Tulloch, I don’t know how they’ll be able to pass on Kuechly at No. 15
Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina
Zach Brown nearly crashed Twitter when he ran a 4.44 despite pulling up twice. His 10-yard split of 1.52 was also impressive. Brown was a fringe first-round prospect heading into the Combine, but he definitely strengthened his case to be chosen on Thursday. He still has technique issues on the field, and could be labled a “workout warrior”.
Mychal Kendricks, ILB, California
Mychal Kendricks was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year this past season, but the scouting community didn’t expect much of him heading into this weekend. That certainly isn’t the case anymore, as Kendricks stood out as one of the top linebackers in Indianapolis.
Kendricks ran the fastest 40 (4.41) of any linebacker since 2000 and his broad jump (10-7) and vertical leap (39.5) were also outstanding. Kendricks finished as one of the top performers in the drills as well. The production is obviously there, given how dominant he was at Cal, so he’s moved himself into second-round consideration.
Tank Carder, LB, TCU
Looked prepared and confident during drills. Mike Mayock repeatedly praised him as well. This is not a surprise, as Carder’s stock slipped during the fall because he was playing hurt. He’s healthy now, making him a sleeper in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Carder’s measurables held up as well. He ran a 4.56 40 and notched a 10-1 broad jump to go with a 34.5-inch vertical leap. His arms are a bit short (31 1/2), but he remains a strong Day 2 prospect.
With few doing well, the loser list is, well, longer.
Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State
Remember when Vontaze Burfict was a top-15 prospect? It might seem crazy but there’s a chance that he could go undrafted depending on how things go at his pro day. That’s how bad his Combine was.
It all started when Burfict blamed others for his struggles this past season during Sunday’s press conference. When asked about his terrible 2011 campaign, Burfict called out his coaches for not putting him in a better position. Burfict would later reportedly bomb during the team interviews.
It got even worse when he hit the field. Burfict ran 4.93 and 5.10 in his two 40 attempts with an awful 10-yard split of 1.70. He simply looked like he was out of shape. His broad jump (8-8) and vertical leap (30 inches) also indicated that he has no burst.
I’m not done…. Burfict had some of the shortest arms of any linebacker in Indianapolis (31 1/4). You’d think this would help his bench press, but he elected not to participate in the weight room.
It’s amazing how far he’s fallen in six months.
Audie Cole, ILB, N.C. State
Audie Cole did not look good in the drills. He was stiff and this was after he ran a 4.72 in the 40. He’ll be limited to two downs in the NFL.
Dont’a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
Dont’a Hightower is a big player (6-2, 265) so he wasn’t going to look as smooth as some of the other smaller linebackers. Still, the fact remains that he struggled a bit in the drills. On the bright side, he ran a 4.62 40 with a 1.65 10-yard split which are solid numbers for a player of his size.
Sean Spence, OLB, Miami
Sean Spence ran well at the Combine, posting a 4.56 40 with a 1.59 10-yard split. However, his bench performance (12 reps) was surprising; even Mike Mayock expressed serious concern over it. Spence’s arm length (31 1/2) was shorter then desired at his position but that should have been an advantage at the bench press.
Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
Courtney Upshaw did not look like a linebacker during the Combine. He was terrible during the drills, showing very limited hip flexibility and slow feet. Teams may want to move him to 4-3 defensive end because of this, but that’ll be an issue as well because of his height (6-1). Melvin Ingram has the same problem, but he is a really explosive player who can drop into coverage. Upshaw can’t do that, and he’s also stricken with limited explosion. Upshaw essentially has no natural position, which could really hurt him on Draft Day.