Washington's Danny Shelton seems to be a lock to be the first interior defensive lineman selected in the draft, and NFL Media analysts can see why.
Shelton (6-foot-2 1/8, 339 pounds) put up huge stats for the Huskies during the 2014 season -- 93 tackles (13 more than touted Huskies LB Shaq Thompson), nine sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss. Those are "crazy numbers for a nose tackle," analyst Mike Mayock said.
Fellow analyst Daniel Jeremiah calls Shelton "a Day 1 starter" and says, "He tosses human beings for fun."
Shelton's 40 time was poor (5.64), but Jeremiah scoffed at any criticism of that time: "I don't care. ... He is so rare with his strength and his power." Shelton did stand out in some other tests, though, including a 30.5-inch vertical jump, which is eye-opening for a guy pushing 340 pounds.
Shelton was a productive three-down lineman, even at his weight, and rarely came off the field. "The guy has a motor, and he has a gas tank," Jeremiah said.
In an on-field interview with the NFL Network, Shelton said he embraces the nose tackle role, saying the position gives him "a chance to ... be a bully in the middle."
UCLA end 'a freaky athlete'
UCLA DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (pronounced Oh-wuh-MAH-bay Oh-DIGGY-zoo-wuh) certainly looks the part of a big-time player: Mayock calls him "a freaky athlete." Odighizuwa (6-3 1/2, 267) was a big-time recruit (a national top-20 player) coming out of high school. But he battled injuries and inconsistency as a Bruin. He ran a great 40 of 4.62 and had an impressive 1.62 10-yard split. Odighizuwa had a broad jump of 10 feet, 7 inches, and a great vertical jump of 39 inches. "I've got a second-round grade on him," said Mayock, who also said, "I think he's a base 4-3 end." Mayock touted Odighizuwa's "extremely strong hands" as a selling point.
Washington LB Shaq Thompson (6-0 1/8, 228) had a slightly disappointing 40, clocking a 4.64. Mayock called that "a little slower than I expected." Thompson also had a 33.5-inch vertical jump and a broad jump of 9-8; those are slightly disappointing numbers, too, for a guy with Thompson's perceived athleticism. Mayock calls him "a first-round talent," but there is concern about which position is best for Thompson. He spent most of his time as a linebacker at Washington, Mayock has him as a safety and Jeremiah said some teams told him they thought Thompson's best position was running back, which he played some as a Huskie. Mayock said he can see him as a safety who moves down to play linebacker on third downs, and two NFL teams told NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt that strong safety will be the best position for Thompson in the pros.
Sooners DT probably a first-rounder
Another defensive lineman who was a big-time recruit? Oklahoma NT Jordan Phillips, who was a national top-50 recruit. But Phillips (6-5 1/2, 329, 83 1/8-inch wingspan) started for only one season, in 2014, with the Sooners. He redshirted as a true freshman in 2011, was a backup in '12 and played in just four games in 2013 before being sidelined by a back injury that eventually required surgery. He had a solid 5.17 clocking in the 40, with a 30-inch vertical jump. "He's powerful and controls the point" of attack, Mayock said. "When he's not fatigued, he's dominant sideline to sideline." Phillips can be a three-down player, and he does have the ability to provide an interior pass rush. Mayock said Phillips "will probably go in the first round."
Texas DT shows impressive quickness
Texas DT Malcom Brown (6-2 3/8, 319) is one of the top interior linemen available in the draft and seems likely to be a first-round pick. "He's a prototype three-technique," Mayock said, meaning Brown fits best as a tackle in a 4-3 scheme. Mayock called Brown "quick and disruptive," and Brown showed off his quickness with a 5.05 clocking in the 40, with a 10-yard split of 1.75 seconds. Brown was a consensus top-10 national prospect in the 2012 signing class out of high school in Brenham, Texas, a town probably best known as the home of Blue Bell ice cream. Brown is married with two children, and Mayock said that aspect of his personal life appeals to some NFL teams. The thought is Brown's family will be a driving force in his life.
Iowa DT 'an enigma'
Iowa DT Carl Davis had the largest wingspan, 84 3/4 inches, of any defensive lineman at the combine. He measured at 6-4 1/2 and 320 pounds. Those are impressive numbers, and he was clocked in a solid 5.07 seconds in the 40, with a 1.73 10-yard split. But Jeremiah called him "an enigma" because Davis' consistency and production at Iowa didn't necessarily match up with his measurables. Iowa's scheme probably had something to do with that. Iowa's defensive tackles generally are asked to muck up things at the line of scrimmage to keep offensive linemen off the linebackers. Jeremiah noted that Davis looked good at the Senior Bowl, and Mayock called him "a first-round talent. He'll be a consideration at the end of the first round." Later, Mayock did note that Davis "needs to be much more consistent."
Arrow 'pointed up' for MSU DE
Mississippi State DE Preston Smith (6-4 7/8, 271) led the Bulldogs with nine sacks and 15 tackles for loss, and Jeremiah noted that while Smith is a base 4-3 end, he also can slide inside and play tackle when needed. Smith was impressive in the physical testing: He ran the 40 in 4.74 seconds, had a vertical jump of 34 inches and had a broad jump of 10 feet, 1 inch. "The arrow is pointed up for me," Jeremiah said.
Speed a selling point for Alexander
LSU's Kwon Alexander (6-0 3/4, 227) had the fastest 40 time among the linebackers, at 4.55 seconds. He also had a solid 36-inch vertical jump and a broad jump of 10 feet, 1 inch. "He is what today's NFL linebacker is with his ability to run," Mayock said. He said he saw Alexander, who led LSU last season with 90 tackles, as a WILL linebacker in the NFL.
A middle-round 'gem'
Miami DE Anthony Chickillo (6-3 1/8, 261) was a five-star prospect and a consensus national top-25 recruit in the 2011 recruiting class; that class also included Jadeveon Clowney, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Sammy Watkins, who were first-round picks in the 2014 draft. Chickillo was a four-year starter at Miami but never lived up to the recruiting hype. He had five sacks as a freshman in 2011, but his total dropped every season: four in 2012, 3.5 in 2013 and three this season. Chickillo was lauded for his high-revving motor and work against the run while at Miami, and he looked good at the East-West Shrine Game, where he played end in a 4-3 set. He spent a lot of time at Miami as a 3-4 end, and a 3-4 set doesn't mesh all that well with Chickillo's skill set. Chickillo ran a solid 4.77 40-yard dash Sunday and really impressed with a 10-yard split of 1.59 seconds. "He's got a better get-off than people understand," Mayock said. NFL Media's Charles Davis said, "Someone is going to get a gem in the third or fourth round."
Does upside trump scant production?
UCLA DT Ellis McCarthy (6-4 1/2, 338) is yet another defensive lineman in this draft who was an elite recruit -- he was a national top-25 player -- who didn't meet the recruiting hype. He started just eight games in his three seasons at UCLA, including none during the 2014 season, and made just 62 career tackles. From a football perspective, Mayock said, "I don't understand why this kid came out." McCarthy obviously has great size and has an upside. He ran the 40 in 5.21 seconds, with a 10-yard split of 1.82 seconds, and had an impressive vertical jump of 32 inches. But his lack of production probably scares teams.
DLs impress, LBs don't
Neither Mayock nor NFL Network analyst Willie McGinest were overly impressed by the linebacker group, though each did distinguish between the edge rushers and the other linebackers. McGinest questioned their preparation. "I don't think they were well-prepared for some of the drills today," he said. Mayock, meanwhile, said "I was a little disappointed" with the linebackers, both with their athleticism and their measurables. Conversely, McGinest said he was "highly, highly impressed with the defensive line group." McGinest also was impressed by Clemson DE Vic Beasley, who likely moves to outside 'backer in the NFL. "His change of direction, getting in and out of there, is really, really good," McGinest said.