On-the-field shots from Saturday's NFL Scouting Combine workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium (Credit: The Associated Press)
INDIANAPOLIS --In the deafening silence of a near-empty Lucas Oil Stadium, one of the most important days in the professional lives of the linebackers and defensive linemen at the National Scouting Combine saw some rise above others.
Literally, none rose higher than Tennessee-Chattanooga's Davis Tull and Clemson's Vic Beasley, whose vertical leaps of 42.5 and 41 inches didn't match the stunning 47-inch leap by Eastern Michigan's Willie Creear, but did pace the front seven players who worked out Sunday.
At 6-foot-3 and 246 pounds and with a quick first step and smooth stride, the speed and agility drills were going to favor Beasley, a 4-3 defensive end who would likely be an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
In a draft rich with edge rushers, Beasley might be the best of the lot, especially for teams seeking a 3-4 presence on the edge. The only concern is about his bulk and whether he can stand up at the point of attack against the run. That will determine his effectiveness as a three-down player, and as a likely first-rounder, he'll be expected to stay on the field.
But he will be able to chase down runners from behind, and displayed outstanding lateral speed an change of direction. In addition to his blistering 40 time of 4.53 seconds, the best for all front-seven players here, he had the best three-cone drill time among defensive linemen (6.91 seconds) and the second-best short-shuttle time (4.15 seconds).
A day earlier, Beasley supplemented his speed numbers with strength, posting 35 repetitions on the bench press to lead all defenders.
At the other end of the scale sat Central Michigan's 6-foot-5, 319-pound L.T. Walton. He wasn't going to have good numbers in the 40, three-cone and short shuttle, obviously, because of his size, but a middling bench-press tally Saturday -- 25 repetitions, only in the 40th percentile of all defensive linemen at the Combine -- ensured that the had the lowest average percentile rank among defensive linemen here who took part in six key drills: the bench press, 40, short shuttle, three-cone, vertical jump and broad jump. His average rank across the board in those categories was in the 15th percentile.
Conversely, Clemson's Grady Jarrett, a 6-foot-1, 304-pound tackle, displayed good across-the-board athleticism. He was in the top half of defensive linemen in the broad jump and the three-cone drill, and his 5.06-second time in the 40 was solid for his weight. His bench-press repetition found (30) was in the 77th percentile among all defensive linemen.
Jarrett's unofficial 10-yard split of 1.69 seconds, according to the NFL Network broadcast, was also the fastest among all defensive linemen above 300 pounds. That should move him up a few notches when the draft arrives, as teams search for quick bursts at the snap.
And USC's Leonard Williams was not the only 300-pound defensive linemen to cover 40 yards in less than five seconds. Tennessee-Chattanooga's Derrick Lott also came in below that mark, sprinting upfield in 4.99 seconds, just two-one-hundredths slower than Williams.
The 314-pound Lott was also in the 60th percentile among all defensive linemen in the short shuttle and in the 70th percentile in the three-cone drill, but struggled in the broad jump and the vertical, depressing his overall rank.
LINEBACKERS: Kentucky's 269-pound Bud Dupree did what he needed to do, blistering through the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds, a figure only surpassed by two players lighter than him -- Beasley and LSU's 227-pound linebacker Kwon Alexander, who covered the distance in 4.55 seconds.
Dupree picked his spots this weekend. He didn't take part in the bench press, and didn't run the three-cone drill because of a groin injury, which also kept him out of field drills. But that was no matter; he did enough to cement his status as a first-rounder, and he might move into the top half of the round.
The 10-yard splits are also crucial, and the best linebackers in that measurement were Texas' Jordan Hicks (1.53 seconds) and Baylor's Bryce Hager (1.56 seconds), according to NFL Network's unofficial measurements.
Do you have a question for Andrew Mason? Ask it here and you might be in this week's Mailbag!