It was the Goldilocks day of the Combine, with the position groups going biggest to smallest on Saturday. It was also our first look at any of the defensive prospects, with the defensive linemen up first.
The major trend we saw on offense has major effects on what kind of players will excel on defense. All around, this means speed. The faster offensive players and systems become, the faster defenders need to be to keep up – and boy, did they.
It's worth noting that NFL.com does not differentiate between interior defensive linemen, defensive ends, edge or outside linebackers. They're kind of all grouped into one. Keep that in mind as you look at the stats.
Here are some major takeaways from each of the groups and notable performances.
TWENTY-FIVE defensive linemen ran sub-5.0 40-yard dashes. Compare that to the players they'll be facing on the other side of the line of scrimmage – only three offensive linemen accomplished the same thing. Granted, offensive linemen are usually still bigger than the biggest on the defensive side, but 25 guys that generally weigh over 260 pounds running 40 yards in under five seconds is insane.
The biggest story out of the defensive linemen group was probably the rise of the Davis brothers from Nebraska. Khalil and Carlos are twin defensive tackles, running very similar 40 times with Khalil edging his brother out at 4.75 while weighing in at 308 pounds. A guy who really helped his stock coming in as a relative unknown was UNC-Charlotte's Alex Highsmith. He ran a 4.70 40-yard dash but looked great in on-field drills in his change of direction and athleticism.
Guys like Auburn's Derrick Brown and TCU's Ross Blacklock had solid performances as you'd expect from two of the best interior prospects coming into the Combine. Brown especially looks like an NFL player already. South Carolina's Javon Kinlaw elected not to participate in the on-field workouts after having a strong Senior Bowl performance and participating in media and interviews this week.
See below for more notable big-men performances.
-James Smith-Williams, NC State: 4.60 (1)
-Alex Highsmith, Charlotte: 4.70
-Khalil Davis, Nebraska: 4.75
-Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma: 4.79
-Carlos Davis, Nebraska: 4.82
-DaVon Hamilton, Ohio State: 33 (1)
-Khalil Davis, Nebraska: 32
-Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M: 31
-Derrick Brown, Auburn: 28
-Bradlee Anae, Utah: 25
-Jonathan Garvin, Miami: 36.0 (1)
-Derrek Tuszka, North Dakota St: 33.5
-Alex Highsmith, Charlotte: 33.0
-Ross Blacklock, TCU: 29.0
-Derrick Brown, Auburn: 27.0
-Jabari Zuniga, Florida: 127.0 (1)
-Alex Highsmith, Charlotte: 125.0
-Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State: 120.0
-A.J. Epenesa, Iowa: 117.0
-Derrick Brown, Auburn: 108.0
-Derrek Tuszka, North Dakota St: 6.87 (1)
-Jonathan Greenard, Florida: 7.13
-Alex Highsmith, Charlotte: 7.32
-A.J. Epenesa, Iowa: 7.34
-Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M: 7.37
Some of the EDGE guys from the previous group were asked to do some of the linebacker drills on the field, but their results don't show up against the linebackers, many of which are off-ball inside backers that will obviously be speedier given their size.
The speediest of them was freak of nature Isaiah Simmons from Clemson. Coaches had to vote which group they wanted him to work out in because the guy played five different positions in college. According to NFL Network, the vote was close between linebackers and defensive backs as a safety, but the former won out. Simmons did not disappoint. He became just the third linebacker ever to run a sub 4.4 40-yard dash when he ran a 4.39 – which was as fast as running back Jonathan Taylor from Wisconsin the night before, who nabbed the top spot in his group. It means that Simmons can keep up with this year's fastest running back and can flat out outrun a lot of them. He tested well everywhere else too and is a true chess piece for the defense that is lucky enough to grab him.
Here are some more notable performances from the linebacker group on Saturday night:
-Isaiah Simmons, Clemson: 4.39 (1)
-Willie Gay Jr., Miss. St: 4.46
-Patrick Queen, LSU: 4.50
-Zack Baun, Wisconsin: 4.65
-Malik Harrison, Ohio State: 4.66
-Khaleke Hudson, Michigan: 30 (1)
-Zack Baun, Wisconsin: 26
-Shaquille Quarterman, Miami: 23
-Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma: 21
-Josh Uche, Michigan: 18
-Dante Olson, Montana: 42.0 (1)
-Willie Gay Jr., Miss. St: 39.5
-Isaiah Simmons, Clemson: 39.0
-Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma: 38.0
-Patrick Queen, LSU: 35.0
-Willie Gay Jr., Miss. St: 136.0 (1)
-Isaiah Simmons, Clemson: 132.0
-Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma: 129.0
-Casey Toohill, Stanford: 126.0
-Patrick Queen, LSU: 125.0
-Malik Harrison, Ohio State: 6.83 (1)
-Zack Baun, Wisconsin: 7.00
-Dante Olson, Montana: 7.00
-Evan Weaver, Cal: 7.02
-Willie Gay Jr., Miss. St: 7.08