Like I did last off-season, I am going to critically assess the defensive ends that got invited to the combine paying specific attention to the coveted edge-rushers that every team wants. While Q. Smith has the possibility of being another good edge rusher for the Broncos in 2014, I would not be surprised to the see the Broncos use a pick in the first three rounds on one of the guys that I am going to show here (or a late round pick on one of the small school rush DEs). I am not looking at the guys who are listed as LBs at the combine. Some of those guys (like Prince Shembo) play like DEs and are in the 250-260 lbs range, but they were classified as LBs for the combine. Howard Jones from Shepherd (D2) is listed some places as a DE and others as a LB. He is included here while Shembo is not. I find it strange Jones was grouped with the DEs, since his 235 lb weight makes him the smallest of the group by far.
First off, the defensive lineman (DE and DTs) did not do the 20-yd shuttle this year (not sure why) so I can't do my CoD (change of direction score) comparison with previous years. I will however be spending a fair amount of time talking about M10 (momentum at 10 yards in the 40 yd dash - which is a good measure of how quick a player's first step is). I am also going to leave out the guys who are not fitting what we need to draft (a pass-rush DE aka a weak-side DE). With Wolfe and Jackson we have two strong-side DEs under contract for next year, so guys like Tuitt, Pagan, Manumaeuna, Ramsey and Stinson (who are all 290+ lb DEs) are being left off the charts and out of the discussion. Unrein, Ayers and Mincey also might return if the market does not make them big offers, and they are all strong-side DEs who provide little in the way of pass-rush. We really don't need another strong-side DE.
The raw numbers
|Height||Weight||Arm Length||40 time||10-yd split||Bench||Vert||Broad||3-cone|
Clowney is fast, but so is Larry Webster. Kareem Martin has a really quick first step and some long arms. Michael Sam is weak and slow. Josh Mauro is really slow. Without the 20-yd shuttle, it's harder to compare short-area quickness, but Ealy and Jeffcoat both showed impressive quickness in their 3-cone drill (lower number is better int he 3-cone). They clearly stood out from the rest of the DEs. Not to pile on Michael Sam, but he was at or near the bottom in most drills and below average in every drill.
The Second Level Numbers
|Height||Weight||Norm Bench||Norm Vert||True EN||Effect on EN of Norm||Speed|
If you've read my previous combine analyses, you know that I don't like the bench without normalization because it rewards guys with short arms while penalizing guys with long arms. The bench press test at the combine is measuring how many times you can press 225 lbs. This is a matter of simple physics that guys with longer arms have to do more work to raise the bar 25 times than guys with shorter arms. That is why I normalize bench results (normalized by arm length). I also normalize vertical jump results for weight. Lighter guys should be able to jump higher than heavier guys since gravity is a constant. So a 260 lbs DE than can jump 35 inches is no where near as impressive as a 300 DE who can jump the same distance. Both of these normalizations are done to give you a TRUE Explosion Number - TEN (this is to compare to explosion number, which is simply bench reps + vertical (in inches) + broad (in feet).
Notice that while Clowney was above average for this group of DEs, he was not the best in terms of TEN. Chris Smith, from Arkansas, had the best TEN of the DEs this year. While 77.8 is good, it is not in the top 10 for DEs over the past decade. Chris Smith definitely helped his draft stock at the combine. I'm curious to see how far up he moves.
M10 is just another way to measure how good of a size/speed combo a player has. Momentum is velocity times mass. M10 compares how much momentum these guys have after their first ten yards of the 40 yards dash. The best 10-yd split at the combine this year was 1.46. That makes Martin's 1.53 even more impressive. The guy who ran the 1.46, Dri Archer, weigh 100 lbs less than Kareem Martin.
|Weight||10-yd split||M10 (kgm/s)|
Notice that four guys got better than 700. This is pretty darn good for edge rushers. If you look back over the past 5 drafts you can see how these four compare to some of the guys who are harassing QBs currently in the NFL.
There are some good/great players on here (Chris Long, Kendall Langford, Henry Melton, Brian Orakpo), some mid-late rounders who didn't pan out (Brain Johnston, Michael Sidbury), some guys who didn't even get drafted (Eric Martin) and some collossal busts (Vernon Gholston). The highlighted players are in the 2014 draft.
So of those four DEs with a really quick first step, Clowney will not be around when the Broncos pick so let's not even discuss him. Chris Hart has already profiled Crichton and Martin here so I am not going to rehash them. So let's take a look at the three others in more depth: Zach Moore, Chris Smith and Larry Webster.
Zach Moore - Concordia St Paul (D2 school)
Zach got an invite to the combine based upon his freakish physical talents and his status as one of the best defensive players in the country at the D2 level. His write-up prior to the combine is listed here . The bottom line is that he is raw, but talented and could blossom into a star if given time and coaching at the NFL level. His combine performance probably moved him from UDFA to late round pick. There is a precedent in the NFL for premium edge rushers to come out of small schools (Jared Allen played at Idaho St, Demarcus Ware played at Troy St). Moore might be a steal in the late rounds
Zach Moore #90 sophmore highlights (via King50deot)
Chris Smith - Arkansas
Chris played in 43 games while at Arkansas and accounted for the these "impact stats"
20 QB hurries
7 passes defended
So using my definition of impact plays - Smith got 1.84 impact plays per game in college. Playing predominantly against SEC offensive lines, that is pretty impressive. Chris' pre-combine evaluation is here. He gets knocked for only having a speed rush, but there are few NFL edge rushers who have made a career off of little more than a speed rush. Here is some video highlights of Smith playing against LSU
Chris Smith vs LSU 2012 (via JPDraftJedi)
Larry Webster III - Bloomsburg St (D2)
Larry is the son of former NFL player Larry Webster, Jr who played eleven seasons for four NFL teams. Here is his pre-combine profile at NFL.com. Much like Julius Thomas, Larry only played two season of football in college (JT only played one) where his main sport was basketball (he is 6'6"). Bloomsburg is in the same conference as Kutztown St where former Bronco, John Mobley, played. Webster, is very raw, but for a team with time to develop him, he could turn into a steal. Again, he may go undrafted, or if he does it will probably be in the 6th or 7th. Some people project him as a player who could be converted to TE - very much like JT or Antonio Gates.
Larry Webster vs Shippensburg (2012) (via Aaron Aloysius)
Outside of Clowney, who, if any, of these guys are you interested in (sound off in the comments)?