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Combine Analysis: The Defense


As expected, Clemson DE Gaines Adams and Michigan DT Alan Branch were the class of the defensive line group here in Indianapolis. But there were several players who helped their cause with strong performances and may have raised their draft stock.

Adams, who measures 6-5, 258, could stand to add some bulk, but his athleticism really showed through in his 4.6 time in the 40, and a 35-inch vertical jump, and just under 10 feet in the broad jump showcased his great explosiveness. Helping his cause was the fact that Arkansas' Jamaal Anderson, who is considered by many to be the 2nd best DE in the draft, didn't work out, further distancing Adams from the pack. At this point it seems safe to say that he will be the top pass rusher off the board.

Branch is a house at 324 pounds, and that's less than he weighed when he took the field in Ann Arbor this fall. But this is no ordinary 300-pounder. Branch clocked just over 5.0 in the 40, and his 33 reps on the bench ranked 3rd among the d-line group. He's an intriguing prospect for the Jets, who could move Dwayne Robertson to DE in their 3-4 alignment.

Another player who could be there for the taking at the Jets #25 pick is Nebraska's Adam Carriker. A very productive player for the Huskers, Carriker put up 33 reps on the bench and showed great change of direction skills with a 4.2 in the short shuttle. The best part is he's also big, weighing almost 20 pounds more than the next heaviest defense in this draft at 6-6, 296. That combination of size and strength would be a great fit for the 3-4 defense, and with the franchise tagging of three defensive ends so far, players like Carriker who align somewhere behind the elite d-linemen will drop. Atlanta also won't retain Patrick Kerney, which will put more downward pressure on the defensive end group. Carriker could fall to the Jets at 25 and would be a perfect fit, especially with the release this week of Kimo von Oelhoffen.

Some other top performers among the defensive linemen included Louisville's Amobi Okoye, who bulked up to more than 300 pounds and showed well in the bench press with 29 reps. Baraka Atkins of Miami answered concerns about his speed with a solid 4.6 in the 40, and Georgia's Charles Johnson and Texas' Tim Crowder both put up more than 30 reps on the bench.

The most surprising performance came from Texas DE Brian Robison, who at 6-3, 259 was among the position leaders in the 40, the 3-cone drill, the vertical, and the broad jump. Despite his lack of size, his obvious athletic ability will remind many NFL scouts of Chicago's Mark Anderson, who recorded 12 sacks as a rookie in 2006. Look for his stock to rise in the coming weeks if he continues to work out well.

Robison is a versatile player who also worked out as a linebacker and could be considered a good fit as a stand up pass rusher in a 3-4 scheme. Others in that group include Florida's Jarvis Moss, who lacks strength and bulk, but is a very productive football player, Purdue's Anthony Spencer, Georgia's Charles Johnson, and his teammate Quentin Moses, who was once considered a top prospect, but has dropped on many boards due to a lack of size and strength. He hurt himself further with a poor showing in Indy that could challenge his ability to stay in the first round.

When the linebackers took the field, the standout performer was Patrick Willis, who has added about 10 pounds to his frame and still performed very well in the position and agility drills, and ran a 4.5 in the 40. He's already a very instinctive football player who makes plays on the ball. His show of athleticism in Indy should now give some teams enough good info to make him the top inside LB in this draft.

Penn State's Paul Posluszny performed well also, but he was outshone by teammate Tim Shaw, who had one of the strongest showings in this group. He's undersized at 6-1, 238, but he ran in the 4.4's and was among the leaders in the bench press.

The biggest disappointment among the LB's had to be Florida State's Lawrence Timmons. A phenom in the Seminoles defense in recent seasons, he seemed to have all the skills to be considered the top outside 'backer in this draft. However, his lack of speed (4.6) will be a concern at the next level.

If one thing is clear about this year's top corners, it's that they won't suffer from Timmons' lack of speed. As expected, Arkansas' Chris Houston ran extremely well, posting a 4.32, the second fastest time in the entire draft! Michigan's Leon Hall (4.38) and Texas corner Aaron Ross (4.46) also ran well. Hall's time contradicts his performance against Ted Ginn Jr., when he had trouble turning and running with the speedy receiver. Scouts and coaches will have to determine if that raw speed will translate to speed in full pads.

Hall will maintain his position as one of the top corners in the draft, and Houston's outstanding performance will push him up the boards. He was at the top of the CB list in the 40 (4.32) and the bench (27). He's undersized at 5'9", but showing that kind of strength can only help his cause.

Cal's Daymeion Hughes took a tumble in the 40, running a very pedestrian 4.6…twice. In a class that had nearly a dozen or more players running sub-4.5's, 4.6 will have a staggering effect on his draft status and will really limit him to teams that play a Cover Two defense. His inability to turn and run with receivers will negate a lot of his positive attributes.

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