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2018 All-Combine Team: Top-performing defensive prospects

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After the conclusion of the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine on Monday, NFL.com draft analyst Chad Reuter identified his top standouts from the event at each position for his All-Combine Team. This team goes deeper than a starting lineup would allow at certain positions like RB, defensive line and in the secondary to mirror the league's move toward the heavy use of rotations, and the nickelback, in those areas.

NOTE: Click a prospect's name for his full scouting report, including combine results.

Defensive tackles

Da'Ron Payne, Alabama
Best team fits: Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints.
Analysis: With apologies to Stanford's Harrison Phillips, who had a very good workout, I'll go with Payne to combine with Vea inside on this squad. His 4.95 40 at 311 pounds made the media and fans excited, but the 1.67 10-yard split is what makes scouts get out of their chairs. That explosion from a stance, which appears on film, and Payne's agility during on-field drills secured a fine day that teams will remember much like they will his performance against Georgia in the national championship game.

Vita Vea, Washington
Best team fits: Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders.
Analysis: Before a hamstring injury stopped him from participating in the on-field drills, scouts were excited by his 5.10 40 (and excellent 1.77 10-yard split) at 347 pounds. Putting up 41 reps of 225 on Saturday also showed off the strength that allows him to hold up vs. double-teams on the line when not chasing ball carriers. Vea is more talented than former Huskies nose tackle Danny Shelton, who was selected with the 12th pick in the 2015 draft. A top-10 spot for Vea seems more likely every day.

Defensive ends

Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State
Best team fits: Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Analysis: Chubb's the top defensive player in the draft. The 4.65 40 and 36-inch vertical confirm the explosiveness to the ball he shows on tape. His agility tests and work on the field show he could stand up at the next level, if needed. Only quarterbacks, or Saquon Barkley, can stop him from becoming the top overall pick.

Josh Sweat, Florida State
Best team fits: Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions.
Analysis: It's no surprise that Sweat put up freakish combine numbers (4.53 40, 39.5 vertical, 4.28 short shuttle), as he was once rated among the top 10 high school recruits in the country. His tape does not scream early first-round prospect, as he plays more like a 275-pound strong-side end holding the edge than a 255-pounder with the bend to attack the quarterback. That combination of speed and length (34-plus inch arms, 84-plus inch wingspan), though, will be difficult to pass up in the late first or early second round.

Five-technique

Taven Bryan, Florida
Best team fits: Chicago Bears, Houston Texans, Los Angeles Rams.
Analysis: As a Gator, Bryan mostly played inside to utilize his strength and quickness. NFL defensive coordinators probably see him as a 6-5, 291-pound 3-4 defensive end who will kick inside in sub packages. He was strong (30 reps on bench press) and ran a solid 4.98 40 to go along with a 35-inch vertical, 9-11 broad jump, and 7.12 three-cone time. Bryan's movement on the field shows teams he has the quickness to chase plays from the edge.

Edge rusher

Marcus Davenport, UTSA
Best team fits: Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Analysis: His 40-yard-dash time (4.58) made headlines, but Davenport's 33-inch vertical and movement skills on the field during workouts also stood out. The former high school tight end has blossomed into a big-time prospect who is able to play with his hand on the turf or standing up. Nothing that happened in Indy will keep teams from picking him in the top half of the first round. Honorable mention goes to Harold Landry, who ran (4.64 40) and jumped (36-inch vertical, 9-11 broad) well.

Linebackers

Lorenzo Carter, Georgia
Best team fits: Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans.
Analysis: His former teammate, Leonard Floyd, jumped up boards thanks to a strong combine performance. I don't know if Carter will go in the top half of the first round, but his ability to cover ground was confirmed with his performance this week. He didn't get big headlines across the country because, like Floyd, he played more of a stack linebacker role than a pure edge rusher. Teams looking for a scheme-versatile player to get to the ball should check out his tape.

Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
Best team fits: Green Bay Packers, Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins.
Analysis: The nimble feet he showed at the combine (4.65 40, 1.52 10, 4.15 3-cone, 6.88 short shuttle) match what he did on the field for the Broncos. On the field, he showed enough agility to allay any fears scouts and coaches had about his ability to cover tight ends in man or zone coverage.

Shaquem Griffin, UCF
Best team fits: Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints.
Analysis: Griffin, who lost his left hand when he was 4 years old, had a remarkable showing at the combine. He bench-pressed 20 reps with a prosthetic on his left arm and ran 4.38 in the 40 (the best time for a linebacker since 2003). His role on a NFL defense is to be determined, but I know he'll be a special-teams demon and will work his way onto the field on defense in same way. I already had him as a fourth-round value before the event, and his stock is rising into Round 3.

Cornerbacks

Jaire Alexander, Louisville
Best team fits: Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers.
Analysis: Alexander's junior year was a wash due to injuries, and he sat out Louisville's bowl game to prepare for the draft. That work paid off, as his testing was very good (4.38 40, 10-7 broad jump, 35-inch vertical, combine-best 3.98 short shuttle, 6.71 three-cone). Alexander's work in the position drills was the best in the class, as he looked fluid and displayed great ball skills. He cleared the 5-10 barrier on the measuring tape (also weighing a strong 196), the typical minimum for teams to consider a cornerback a first-round prospect.

Denzel Ward, Ohio State
Best team fits: Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Redskins.
Analysis: Ward did not participate in position drills due to a tweaked ankle he suffered before the combine, but his testing might have helped him hold off Alexander and Mike Hughes for the top corner spot. He jumped well (11-4 broad jump, 39-inch vertical) and cruised down the 40-yard dash corridor in 4.32 seconds. At nearly 5-11 but a slight 183 pounds, Ward needed to confirm his athleticism for scouts to consider him as a top-15 selection. Going through the drills at Ohio State's pro day on March 22 will likely cement his draft status.

Nickelback

Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Best team fits: Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers.
Analysis: The Tide's defensive leader looked the part during position drills, moving well and catching the ball effectively. His 40 time of 4.46 seconds was better than many expected, though his other tests were only average (33-inch vertical, 10-1 broad jump). There are still questions about where he will play at the next level, but I think the combine showed that he could play in the slot, potentially play outside, and definitely continue his college role of attacking plays in the backfield. A nickel safety role seems a great fit for his skill set.

Safeties

Derwin James, Florida State
Best team fits: Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Chargers, Seattle Seahawks.
Analysis: Most people project James in a strong-safety role -- and he could obviously handle those responsibilities. Some teams consider him a potential cornerback, and I think he displayed the overall skill set during his time at the combine to play deep, as well as in the box. James ran a 4.47 40 at 6-1 3/4 and 214 pounds. He recorded a vertical of 40 inches and broad jump of 11 feet. Then he went out on the field and caught everything in his positional workout, moving quite well for his size in deep-ball drills. He's an alpha dog on defense with great tackling skills, and now his proven agility will make him even more coveted.

Troy Apke, Penn State
Best team fits: Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans, New England Patriots, New York Giants.
Analysis: Apke had started just two games coming into the 2017 season, but took advantage of his opportunity as a senior, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. His athletic ability really took center stage in Indianapolis, however, as he put up some of the best results in the vertical jump (41 inches), broad jump (10-11), and 40-yard dash (4.34). His hustle and quickness were also evident on the field when running through drills, and he managed to grab nearly every ball coming his way. His 4.03 short shuttle and 6.56 three-cone placed him among the combine leaders in the events. This was a big week for Apke, and his draft stock should be on the rise.

Follow Chad Reuter on Twitter @chad_reuter.

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