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13 things I think I think about Day 6 at the Combine

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The unicorn has arrived.

College Football Playoff National Championship - Clemson v LSU
Everyone expected Isaiah Simmons to blow them away. He did that and more.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Another day of the underwear Olympics with some pretty remarkable performances. We’ve already seen the receivers, offensive line, and running backs workout. The weekend is all about the defense, and there is little doubt the defensive linemen turned heads today.

1. Agility drills are the unsung story of the night.

This interior line class has been headlined by two players all year. but it’s the second tier that really blew people away early, with Neville Gallimore, Ross Blacklock, and Justin Madubuike all ran well in the 40-yard Dash and looked fluid in the position drills.

Things went awry for a bunch of them once the 3-Cone Drill and 20-yard Shuttle were brought into the equation, which continues something that’s seemed to crop up all week. It sure seems that either this year’s draft class lacks lateral movement skills or testing the agility numbers so late in the workouts is screwing up most of their results.

It will be very interesting to see Pro Day numbers this year for comparison’s sake.

2. Big bad Derrick Brown.

The stage was set for Derrick Brown to really cement his status as the top wardaddy in this NFL Draft class. Coming into the week I’d heard a high profile NFL Draft analyst compare him to Ndamukong Suh. Partway through his workouts, Daniel Jeremiah was throwing his numbers up next to Haloti Ngata’s.

By the end of the night, people were wondering if he’d slide.

3. Broncos meet the chicken.

Before the workouts kicked off 9News’ Mike Klis reported that Elway had a formal meeting with South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw. Since the Senior Bowl he’s been garnering top 10 kind of talk, but some concerns over a balky knee and what’s shaping up to be a really loaded top of the draft may push him into reach.

Let’s hope so. He’s a hand in glove kind of fit with the length, heavy hands, burst, and upside to grow into a dominant force in the Fangio defense.

Kinlaw would give Fangio a large presence to step in for a departing Shelby Harris or Derek Wolfe.

4. The Iowa Turtle?

Another guy who caused a bit of a stir early on was A.J. Epenesa. There was a time last summer when people debated whether he or Chase Young were ED1 in this class. It’s weird to think about because Young went on to become what most consider a generational prospect while talk out of Indianapolis is Epenesa is sliding on team’s boards.

One big reason for this is the idea that he’s a slow burn pass rusher. With that in mind, he did himself little favors running a 5.10 and 5.05 40-yard dash time.

Over the next couple of months you’ll probably see me write this a few times: it’s important to keep in mind that players have a career after they’re drafted. Epenesa was never considered a twitchy lineman. Pro Football Focus compared him to Trey Flowers, and I saw some Derek Wolfe in his game. He has heavy hands and some nice moves. He also played almost 100 snaps inside for the Hawkeyes last season and it wouldn’t surprise me if he bulked up from his current 275 to play as a Flowers/Wolfe like role in the NFL.

5. One of the Broncos’ “guys” had a nice day.

It was a bit of a head turning moment for me when I saw that Elway used one of his 30 formal visits to meet with North Dakota State’s Derrek Tuszka. After all, Fangio has the edge position on lockdown with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb set to return with Malik Reed and Justin Hollins behind them. There’s also been reports that Denver may bring back Jeremiah Attaochu.

Still, it’s noteworthy that Tuszka ran well. His arms are a little short and he’d be making the jump from D2 to the NFL, but Fangio was ahead of the curve on him and he clearly has some tools to work with.

6. Isaiah Simmons: confirmed unicorn.

If you’re looking for the biggest national takeaway from the night, it’ll be this. What’s funny is that there was talk this morning that Jerry Jeudy or Simmons could potentially slide with a run on quarterbacks and tackles.

I wouldn’t bet on the Tiger making it past 8.

7. Mike Mayock was right.

During the broadcast on Friday the Las Vegas Raiders General Manager said that he believed this linebacker class was deeper than it was getting credit for. Workouts aren’t everything, but they definitely suggested he may be on to something. Ohio State’s Malik Harrison, Temple’s Shaun Bradley, Texas Tech’s Jordan Brooks, and Wyoming’s Logan Wilson all helped themselves with better than expected showings.

There’s been a lot of talk about how the Broncos could upgrade their linebacker position in free agency (see #10), but there’s a decent chance Fangio scoops up a prospect to groom as well.

8. The DB class should make for a Sunday funday.

Jeff Gladney makes me happy. If you’ve spent any time studying the Fangio defense, you’ll like him too. He’s fast, strong, and versatile. He’s also bigger than given credit for and came through on the bench today. He was hardly the only defensive back who had a good week so far, and so it should be fun to see how they run tomorrow.

9. Laviska Shenault will have surgery.

While fans see the workouts the most important part of the Combine is in fact the medicals and interviews. The Colorado Buffalo’s star receiver played through pain last year and tried to grit out the 40-yard dash on Thursday. Now it looks like he’ll need to have surgery next week to repair a core muscle injury.

Prior to the Combine I had Shenault as my WR5 and considered him the 20th player on my initial first round big board. He’s a bit of a high upside/low floor prospect because he is raw as gas station sushi when it comes to route running but is a beast with the ball in his hands. The medical history only adds to the risk though, and I’d be surprised if he goes in the first round now.

10. Joe Schobert is heading to the market.

News broke during the day that Cleveland’s stack linebacker Joe Schobert will not resign with Cleveland because they will not meet his $10 million+ asking price. Broncos’ Insider Benjamin Allbright linked the Broncos to Schobert a few months ago. Personally, I’d rather stick with Todd Davis and Alexander Johnson than lock up that kind of cap space on the 26-year old

11. The Browns are looking like prime trade down target.

If a team is hoping to move up above the Broncos (and there’s been rumors the Eagles hope to do just that) it’s looking like Cleveland could help them do that.

2020 NFL Scouting Combine: Latest news & rumors around the NFL | PFN

Tristan Wirfs was the offensive tackle most coveted by the Cleveland Browns but he is assuredly out of their reach in round one now after his sensational workout on Friday night. So where do they look?

It’s still very early but a source today further confirmed what I posted on Friday – the Browns likes Ezra Cleveland so trading down 8-to-10 slots in round one and then selecting the Boise State junior would be a contingency option.

I’ve said for a long time now that I do not expect Henry Ruggs to be on the board when Denver selects at 15. He combines legit 4.2 speed with a ready made game, while the rest of the burners in this class are a hair slower and have farther to go. Someone’s going to make him a top 10 pick.

12. Byron Jones says goodbye to Dallas.

If you’re like me, you’ve been waiting for this news for a few weeks now. Since Jerry Jones overpaid Ezekiel Elliot it looked likely that Byron Jones would be the odd man out. It’s getting closer to official.

Last Tuesday Jeff Essary and I debated Jones vs Slay for Cover 2 Broncos, in case you missed it.

13. Jets are chasing veteran linemen?

Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline reported Saturday:

On Thursday, when I initially reported the New York Jets’ interest in Jack Conklin, I also mentioned Halapoulivaati Vaitai as an option if the Jets don’t land their top guy. I’ve confirmed both names with numerous sources over the past two days.

I can also say the Jets are looking at Seattle Seahawks tackle George Fant as another contingency if the Conklin plans don’t shake out. Fant, a former basketball player, is the best athlete of the three yet has started just 24 games the three years he’s been on the field. His athleticism would be a perfect fit for Adam Gase’s offense, which will include wide splits between offensive linemen this season.

If you’re holding out hope that one of the top tier tackles will slide to the Broncos, this is welcome news. If the Jets sign a premier right tackle, they’re less likely to take someone like Jedrick Wills. It doesn’t completely rule it out because both of their projected bookends leave something to be desired, but Sam Darnold needs weapons as bad as he needs protection.

If you’re scoring at home, these other teams look like the biggest competitors for linemen:

4. New York Giants - Tons of needs, but Nate Soldier was brutal in 2019.

6. Los Angeles Chargers - If they don’t go for Justin Herbert the smart money is on OL.

8. Arizona Cardinals - Even after D.J. Humphries extension, they’re starting Justin Murray.

10. Cleveland Browns - There’s a reason they’re reportedly panicked about the loss of Wirfs.

13. Indianapolis Colts - I expect receiver, but Anthony Castonzo almost retired.

Still Grazin’? An updated Broncos’ visit list.

  • WR Laviska Shenault
  • WR Jerry Jeudy
  • WR Brandon Aiyuk
  • WR Henry Ruggs III
  • WR CeeDee Lamb
  • WR Jalen Reagor
  • WR Gabriel Davis
  • OT Jedrick Wills
  • OT Tristan Wirfs
  • OT Ezra Cleveland
  • OT Austin Jackson
  • OL Robert Hunt
  • OL Cesar Ruiz
  • OL Shane Lemieux
  • RB J.K. Dobbins
  • RB Cam Akers
  • RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn
  • RB A.J. Dillon
  • DL Ross Blacklock
  • DL Josiah Coatney
  • DL Javon Kinlaw
  • ED Derreck Tuszka

That’s 22 of the Broncos’ 30 formal meetings that we know about. Let’s hope the last eight are revealed over the next day or so.