Analysis

2019 NFL Scouting Combine Team: Top defensive prospects

We've been hearing plenty about the excellent defensive line talent that will be available in the 2019 NFL Draft -- and this year's group did not disappoint when putting on gold track shoes at the NFL Scouting Combine.

For my 2019 All-Combine Team, I selected the defensive players based both on their performances in the athletic tests and on-field positional workouts. I'm fortunate enough to be able to view the workouts from the Lucas Oil Stadium floor, so I give more weight to those drills than others who are putting together similar lists. The depth and varied use of the defensive linemen in this year's class caused me to break them into three categories: edge rushers, 3-4 defensive ends and defensive tackles.

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

Edge rushers

Ben Banogu, Texas Christian
Best team fits:Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Rams, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers.
Analysis: TCU posted the second-highest sack total in the Big 12 in 2018 thanks to Banogu's team-high 8.5 quarterback takedowns. The 6-foot-3, 250-pound defender started his workout Sunday with a solid 4.62-second 40-yard dash. He finished among the top edge rushers in the three-cone (7.02 seconds) and short shuttle (4.27 seconds), translating those marks to nice movement in the field drills. Banogu's explosiveness as a rusher came through in his 40-inch vertical and 11-foot-2 broad jump, which ranked among the best in the entire combine. Scouts were pleased to see that he could push the 225-pound bar up 23 times even while possessing good length (33 5/8-inch arms). This performance makes him one of the top second-tier pass rushers in the draft.

Montez Sweat, Mississippi State
Best team fits:Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Analysis: Sweat is a tough edge defender who was considered a potential top-15 pick coming into the combine. He cemented that status by running a 4.41 40, the best by a defensive lineman in recent history, after measuring nearly 6-6, 260 pounds and possessing yardsticks for arms (35 3/4 inches). He also excelled in the jumps (36-inch vertical, 10-5 broad) and short-area quickness tests (7.00 three-cone, 4.29 short shuttle). Lifting 21 reps of 225 pounds on the bench with that sort of length isn't bad, either.

Honorable mention:Josh Allen, Kentucky; Porter Gustin, USC; Chase Winovich, Michigan.

3-4 defensive ends

John Cominsky, Charleston
Best team fits:Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, New York Giants.
Analysis: The Division II product performed well at the Senior Bowl, then wowed scouts even more with an outstanding show of athleticism in Indy. At 6-5, 286 pounds, Cominsky proved he could be a very good 5-technique in a three-man front (or possibly a base end for a 4-3 scheme) by running a 4.69 40 (with an excellent 1.61-second 10-yard split) and outperforming linebackers in the three-cone (7.03) and short shuttle (4.38), even though they tend to weigh 40 pounds less. Small school or no small school, those numbers will help him rise up draft boards.

Rashan Gary, Michigan
Best team fits:Carolina Panthers, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders.
Analysis: Gary's lack of big-play production in 2018 (3.5 sacks in nine games) brings him criticism in some corners of the league. However, in Indianapolis, he confirmed scouts' belief that he is a fantastic athlete by running a 4.58 40, jumping 38 inches in the vertical and 10 feet in the broad, and moving quickly in agility tests (4.29 short shuttle, 7.26 three-cone), even while checking in at over 6-4 and 277 pounds. His quickness could allow a team to use him on a four-man front, as Michigan did, but teams looking for a 5-technique may value him even more. His 26 reps on the bench also showed he has the brute strength to control the edge against veteran offensive linemen.

Honorable mention:Zach Allen, Boston College; Kingsley Keke, Texas A&M.

Defensive tackles

Renell Wren, Arizona State
Best team fits:Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Chargers, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks.
Analysis: Clemson's Dexter Lawrence might have claimed this spot if not for a leg injury suffered during his impressive first 40-yard dash, which kept him out of further testing. His misfortunate paved the way for Wren's big break, as the player with whom West Coast scouts fell in love during the season showed off his exceptional size/speed combination. He measured nearly 6-5, 318 pounds and ran a 5.01 40, jumped quite well for his size (32-inch vertical, 9-10 broad) and proved more agile than I had expected coming into the event (4.53 short shuttle, 7.65 three-cone, which are both excellent marks, given his large frame). I had considered putting him in the first round of my previous mock drafts and will re-visit that possibility in my next version.

Quinnen Williams, Alabama
Best team fits:New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers.
Analysis: Williams led all 300-pounders (on either the defensive or offensive lines) with a blazing 4.83 40. Even though he did not participate in the bench press or the agility drills, I'm including Williams on this list, because he really impressed in the positional workouts. His extreme explosiveness off the snap was evident when coaches had players go down in a three-point stance. The thump you heard when Williams used his hands to pound pads during drills was just stronger and more decisive than what you heard with other players -- and he did not have to slow down to make that happen. I'm not sure how he'll perform on the bench or in agility drills at Alabama's pro day on March 19 -- but I don't think those results will stop teams from considering Williams an elite prospect.

Honorable mention:Kevin Givens, Penn State; Trysten Hill, UCF; Dexter Lawrence, Clemson; Khalen Saunders, Western Illinois.

Linebackers

Devin Bush, Michigan
Best team fits:Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers.
Analysis: When a school lists a linebacker at 5-11, teams are never sure if he's really 5-11, or possibly 5-9 1/2 or 5-10. Bush hit the 5-11 mark on the tape measure in Indy this weekend, allaying scouts' fears about his true height. He then flew down the 40-yard landing strip in Lucas Oil Stadium, pushing himself stride by stride to run a 4.43 40 (with a 1.50 10-yard split). Add in phenomenal jumps (40.5-inch vertical, 10-4 broad), good agility marks (4.23 short shuttle, 6.93 three-cone) and good movement during position drills, and it seems clear the son of a former NFL first-round pick will likely match the accomplishment of his father.

Justin Hollins, Oregon
Best team fits:Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Analysis: Some teams will project Hollins as an edge player, but I included him with the linebackers because he proved he was athletic enough to handle coverage responsibilities at the next level. His movement on the turf during drills reminded scouts of the range shown during his time in Eugene. His testing? Hollins (6-5, 248 pounds) ran as well as any defender pound-for-pound, posting a 4.50 40. His combination of speed, agility (7.06 three-cone) and length (33 3/8-inch arms, 79 1/3-inch wingspan) gives him a great chance at succeeding off the ball. Between that length and his upper-body strength (25 reps on the bench press), he also has potential playing near the line, so there will be interest in his services come Friday night of draft weekend.

Devin White, LSU
Best team fits:Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Analysis: The Day of Devins continued Sunday, with White blazing a 4.42 40. He leapt out of the building with a 39.5-inch vertical and met expectations with his other tests (9-10 broad, 4.17 short shuttle, 7.07 three-cone). During positional workouts, it was easy to picture him back in his LSU garb chasing down ball carriers. While others may have performed better than White in various drills, his cumulative effort gave him the boost he needed to compete for a top-10 spot in the draft.

Honorable mention:Cody Barton, Utah; Ben Burr-Kirven, Washington; Gary Johnson, Texas; Bobby Okereke, Stanford; Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame

Cornerbacks

Corey Ballentine, Washburn
Best team fits: Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs.
Analysis: Ballentine helped himself in Mobile a few weeks ago and confirmed his athleticism in front of scouts Monday in Indianapolis. He was one of the best performers in on-field drills, displaying a nice transition and catching nearly everything thrown his way -- something lots of other participants could not say. His jumps (39.5-inch vertical, 11-3 broad) were excellent, and his 40 speed (4.47 seconds), strength (15 reps on the bench press) and performance in the agility drills (6.82 three-cone, 4.14 short shuttle) were good enough to keep him in the conversation as a second- or third-round pick.

Byron Murphy, Washington
Best team fits:Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Redskins.
Analysis: While his jumps (36.5-inch vertical, 10-0 broad) and 40 time (4.55 seconds) were pedestrian, Murphy was clearly the best corner on the field during drills; in fact, Ballentine was the only other guy in Murphy's area code. Murphy was a smooth mover in all position workouts and high-pointed or snatched the ball from the air like a receiver.

Honorable mention:Sean Bunting, Central Michigan; Mike Jackson, Miami; Justin Layne, Michigan State; Amani Oruwariye, Penn State.

Safeties

Darnell Savage, Maryland
Best team fits:Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers.
Analysis: Scouts reviewing this Terrapin's film believe he is aptly named. His testing on Monday confirmed that he has the agility and speed to be a nickel defender in the NFL. His 4.36 40 got things off to a fast start, and his 39.5-inch vertical and 10-6 broad jump stood out. There were no issues with his ability to change directions in coverage drills (his 7.03 three-cone ranked seventh among safeties, and his 4.14 short shuttle ranked sixth) or create turnovers when asked to attack the ball in the air.

Juan Thornhill, Virginia
Best team fits:Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins.
Analysis: An underappreciated defender on a mediocre Cavaliers squad, Thornhill made a name for himself at the combine. His 6-0, 205-pound frame is impressive; he pushed the bar 21 times, second-most among defensive backs. Thornhill blazed the sideline track in the stadium with a 4.42 40, then jumped out of the place when given the chance (44-inch vertical, 11-9 broad). He looked like a corner in drills, displaying fluid hips and catching the ball well.

Honorable mention:Johnathan Abram, Mississippi State; Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Florida; Will Harris, Boston College, Zedrick Woods, Ole Miss.

Follow Chad Reuter on Twitter @chad_reuter.

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