Who To Watch For At The NFL Combine: Defense


What defensive prospects are going to stand out later this week at the NFL Combine?

What defensive prospects are going to stand out later this week at the NFL Combine?

NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken

The other day I gave you a few names I was interested in seeing at the Combine from the offensive positions. Today, I go to the other side of the ball and give you some names that I want to watch on the defensive side of the ball. Now, as you can imagine, these are not the only guys I will be watching. In fact, I know there will be other guys who peak my interest at every position as the testing is happening. The names listed below have either peaked my interest or raised some questions while I have been scouting them and I think this week should help to answer some of them, or create more, who knows.

Defensive Tackle:

Dalvin Tomlinson: I haven’t found “my guy” yet from the DT class, but I am intrigued by Tomlinson. I want to see what his explosion numbers look like (10 yard split, broad jump, and vertical.) If he tests well in that area, my opinion of him will change.

Davon Godchaux: For Godchaux, I am interested in all his numbers really. I think the LSU program tends to hold back their Defensive Lineman because of scheme and responsibilities. It looks like Godchaux could be more of an athlete than he is given credit for, I just want to confirm my suspicions.

Malik McDowell: The good tape of McDowell would put him high in the first round for me. The bad tape, that looks him look more like a Day 2 guy. I know he is going to test well, but I am hoping to hear if he addresses the off field issues and the motor issues on the tape.


Defensive End/OLB:

Taco Charlton: Charlton is a guy I like for the Patriots if he happens to make it to them, but I am interested to see how he tests from an explosion standpoint.

Derek Rivers and Tarell Basham: The tape I have on these two is limited, but from what I have seen they are intriguing. I want to see how they test athletically as well as in the drills.

Jordan Willis: Tape is good, but I worry about explosion and bend with him. I will be very intrigued to see how he does in these two areas.

Al-Quadin Muhammed: Remember him? 2 years ago he looked like a potential first round pass rusher, but then got kicked off Miami because of illegal benefits. I am interested to see if he has stayed in shape and can rectify his reputation.

Fadol Brown and Joe Mathis: I have a good idea of what Mathis will do, but I want to see how Brown does compared to him since I think there games are similar. If Brown can test similarly to Mathis, it gives me a change to get a similar player later in the draft.

Tanoh Passagnoh: A freakish athlete for sure, but I want to see how he does in the strength and agility drills.



Kendall Beckwith: Beckwith is a guy who isn’t just under the radar, he seems off it. His name just doesn’t generate any buzz anymore. I want to see how he tests to see if he can regenerate some of the draft chatter that surrounded his name before the season started.

Conner Harris: Small school kid that does everything you want both on and off the field. The problem; he is listed at 5’11.” At that size, I am going to need to see some athletic traits that make me say “wow” if I am going to draft him anywhere before late Day 3.

Hassan Reddick: He showed at the Senior Bowl that making the transition to LB should be fairly smooth, but I still want to watch him in the drills to feel comfortable giving him a late first round grade.

Devonte Fields: Remember him? Fields was once a highly touted prospect, now he is an afterthought. He is another guy I want to watch and see if he can bring back some of the buzz he once had.

Ben Boulware: I know Boulware will not test great this week, but I am hoping that he does  better than expected, because I think he is just a solid football player. If he can outperform his projections, he has a chance to be taken somewhere on Day 3.



Gareon Conley: My big concern with Conley is his change of direction, so testing well in the agility drills would go along ways for me.

Kevin King and Rasul Douglas: Like most of you, I get very intrigued by big corners, and these guys are huge. What I need them to show me though is how well they move in the drills and how they test from an agility standpoint.

Desmond King: I want to think King can still play Corner, but he is going to have to show he has the speed and change of direction skills to stay there in the NFL.

Quincy Wilson: I might be on an island by myself here, but I am not as high on Wilson as others. He needs to prove it to me athletically that he can stay at Corner because I think like Desmond King, he may need to make a move to Safety.



I have done very little work on the safety class, so I go into the Combine with no expectations. I am looking forward to watching them and seeing who catches my eye. I am intrigued by Obi Melinfonwu because of his size and I like what I saw from Eddie Jackson this season before he got hurt. I love Budda Baker’s game, but I am interested to see what he comes in at size wise.


Again, let me know who you are going to keep a close eye on. I look forward to recapping the Combine with you all next week.










64 Responses to “Who To Watch For At The NFL Combine: Defense”

  1. Tristan says:

    First NFL mock draft

    7 Round patriots Mock

    Round 1 (32) Jaleel Johnson DT Iowa
    Round 2 (64) Carroll Philips DE/OLB Illinois
    Round 3 (96) Jake Butt TE Michigan
    Round 3 Comp Tanoh Kpassagnon DE Villanova
    Round 4 Fabian Moreau CB UCLA
    Round 5 Conor McDermott OT UCLA
    Round 5 Comp Brian Hill RB Wyoming
    Round 7 Marquel Lee ILB Wake Forest

  2. John says:

    Sorry, I was taking about DE being the most pressing need.

  3. John says:

    While I agree that is probably the most pressing need, I think BB drafts off of grade/fit/need/potential. I think it’s really circumstantial. I used Fanspeak. I have a feeling there is going to be a run on DE’s. Plus, I think that Bill believes he can recycle players at that position.

    I really like Adoree to the Pats, the more I think of it. He’s a lot like Jonathan Joseph (who they’ve shown they really like/multiple trade attempts), with a ridiculous return game. I think that is the most likely pick, and wouldn’t even be surprised if it happened at 32.

  4. Russell says:

    Patriots are to sign DE Jared Odrick today, contract unknown.

    • steve earle says:

      Ah geez, looks like your right Stephen. Kids can’t seem to deal with pressures or problems any more, or is it just me?

    • EdgeX says:

      Yeah Godchaux hasn’t been on my radar since I heard about his off the field issues – doubt he’s even been on the Pat’s board.

  5. John says:

    Doesn’t look like Jimmy G. is going to be moved. I can 100 percent live with that, particularly if he is THEIR NEXT guy. Brady is a machine, but a seamless transition at the QB spot is definitely important (obviously).

    So much for mock drafters throwing in the 2nd overall pick.

    • John says:

      1. David Njoku TE
      2. Adoree Jackson CB
      3. Tyus Bowser EDGE
      3. Larry Ogunjobi DL

      That’s my updated mock!

      • steve earle says:

        Looking at the draft now with Chris Long not coming back and JG likely staying I’d think A DE moves up to most needy at #32. It of course depends on who is available there but it’s a pretty deep position and a very good prospect could be available.

      • carlo strada says:

        given that you like Bowser, how do you envision him as a Pat, being kicked off from the line to a LB role, or as an edge defeder?

        • John says:

          Developmental End. I think he is undersized, but he’s young and new to the sport. If he can gain a healthy 20 pounds, he has the same measurables as someone like Long. Really explosive, good dipper, speed. Give him a year as a backup, could be a real player.

    • John says:

      Also, if Hightower isn’t returning..

      Wouldn’t be surprised if they looked at Kevin Minter. They scouted him, I’m fairly certain, prior to 2013 draft.

      Would totally love Calais Campbell, by the way. I think that’s an outstanding fit waiting to happen.

    • steve earle says:

      Agree, keeping JG is fine by me too but that could change if some team came with a huge offer. Don’t think they will, but.

    • Ryan says:

      Well, if I wanted to jack up the price for Garoppolo I’d certainly spread rumors that he wasn’t on the trading block anymore. An announcement like this probably doesn’t mean anything unless we hear that Tom Brady will be retiring within the next two years (which he almost certainly won’t do). I think that Belicheck is just trying to bring interest in Garoppolo to a fever pitch, and while I may be wrong there is no guarantee that any of this information means anything.

  6. Stephen J says:

    Chris Longs 6’3″ 270 replacement

    Meet Trey Hendrickson 6’4″ 270


    and this from ProFootballFocus

    I’ve been meaning to highlight Hendrickson for weeks, as his 91.2 overall grade ranks second in the nation. While he may not have the same pure athleticism of some of the nation’s top pass-rushers, Hendrickson uses good pad level to overpower offensive tackles while using his hands well to make plays both in the passing game and against the run.

    While he’s taken his game to a new level this year, Hendrickson is no one-year wonder, as he had 15 sacks, 13 QB hits, and 24 hurries last season. This year, he’s registered nine sacks, nine QB hits, and 47 hurries on his 269 rushes — that’s pressure being created on 24 percent of his rushes, well above the NCAA average of 10 percent for an edge defender.

    • steve earle says:

      Watched your youtube highlights of Hendrickson but saw little matching the description by Profootballfocus.

      • Stephen J says:

        I used that as more of an informative thing like team captain blocked kicks 2 time defensive player of the year.
        As I watched him in the Shrine Game a step up in competition he seemed to start off slow and build momentum. Has a decent motor better than average but not great. The other thing I noticed about him was that he needs to be more aware of what’s going on around him at times more so when the play is extended. He also uses his athletic ability more than I’d like. He does diagnosis plays but that could use improvement. He could develop his hand usage due to the step up in competition. Overall not to bad with time he can be molded.

        • steve earle says:

          Agree he could use improvement though we have a hard time guessing where his ceiling is from the video. The OT’s he was matched against seemed to have little trouble with him. Doesn’t bode well for him as an NFL player.

    • matt says:

      He seems ok . Whats your opinion of Bryan Cox JR?

      • Stephen J says:

        This is what I’ve seen from Bryan Cox Jr. He plays on the line and not off. He does play all over the line both sides and occasionally on the inside as well. Has two moves a bull rush and a nice spin move. He uses his physicality/athleticism to win. Doesn’t seem to diagnosis plays well for example in one play he used his spin move on the OL just as the play was coming towards him and took himself out of the play. His hand usage seems to be average not great but not overly bad either.

  7. Stephen J says:

    Here is an interesting chart featuring the top QB’s in this class by PFF


  8. Stephen J says:

    Here you go Mike

    From Josh Norris

    Update: Toledo RB Kareem Hunt

    5’10/216 lbs
    31 3/8″ arms
    9 5/8″ hands

    Gained 8 lbs since the Senior Bowl

  9. EdgeX says:

    Listed to a radio interview today on 98.5 The Sports Hub with Scott Zolak interviewing Michael Lombardi – who made a good point about Jimmy G trade:

    If the Patriots get, say a high pick like 12th overall, is the value of the player they pick at that spot going to be better than keeping a really good young quarterback on the roster?

    And my answer is no.

    Which means for the Patriot’s Jimmy G’s value is probably higher to them than we’ve been estimating and if some team wants to pry him away from them it will probably cost at least 2 x 1st round picks or the deal won’t happen.

    • Russell says:

      I agree, if you draft a QB, if you draft another position not so much. It sounds more like the Patriots would rather keep Garoppolo, Unless they get the right deal.
      IF the Patriots want to keep Garoppolo, they will need to extend his contract, before the end of 2017.
      If Garoppolo gets to free agency, He will cost to much for the Patriots to keep, and all they will get is a 3d round compensatory pick, 2019.
      Garoppolo’s value is very high now, for the Patriots. It’s very hard to see them not trade him, but he looks to be quite costly.

      • td says:

        I don’t know about that. Rethinking Jimmy, the Pat’s will have almost $70 million cap space although they need to replace/resign a slew of good players especially on defense. They could sign/extend Jimmy G with expectation of Brady leaving/forced to leave by 2019. It would be hard to fathom Brady hanging them up after last year on the other hand, but he is nearing his expiration date.

        They could be just playing possum with Jimmy G trying to drive up the price.

  10. rob says:

    How about an all DEFENSE mock draft-

    1. Derek Bennet DE Tenn. ( if they trade jimmy g. for the # 12 pick)
    1.Sidney Jones CB Wash.
    2. Ryan Andersen OLB Bama
    3.Montae Nicholson S Mich St.
    3.Carol Phillips OLB Ill.
    4.Des Lawrence CB N.C.
    5. Richie Brown ILB Miss. St.
    5.Troy Hendricksen DE Florida Atl.
    7. Leon Mcquay III S USC

  11. td says:

    Funny I turned on NFL channel yesterday to see if they had any combine coverage and viola, the DB’s from 2016 were running the 40. Jonathan Jones ran a 4.33 and Cyrus a 4.49.

    I’m looking for Peppers from Mich. and Eddie Jackson from ‘Bama to see what in-line speed is as they both could be a targets as they also are top punt returners if Cyrus cannot get over his ball security problems.

  12. Dan Sullivan says:

    Patriots Draft and Predictions. 7.0
    Jimmy G. gets traded to Cincinnati for their 1st round pick.

    Patriots Signed.
    LaGarrette Blount RB
    Alan Branch DT
    Logan Ryan CB

    NFL Free Agents Signed.
    Johnny Manziel QB Browns
    Luke Joeckel OT/G Jaguars
    Chris Baker DT/DE Redskins
    John Simon DE Texans
    Zach Brown ILB Bills

    Patriots Mock Draft.
    1 (Possible trade from Cincinnati) Reuben Foster ILB Alabama
    1 Gareon Conley CB Ohio State
    2 Dawuane Smoot DE Illinois
    3 Travis Rudolph WR Florida St.
    3 Chris Wormley DT/DE Michigan
    4 Conor McDermott OT UCLA
    5 Cole Hikutini TE Louisiville
    5 Danny Isadora G Miami
    7 Nate Gerry S Nebraska
    7 Sam Rogers FB Virginia Tech

    • Matt says:

      Your saying the Pats should sign Manziel? Did I read that right?

      • Dan Sullivan says:

        I guess you never seen him play college football. Anything else all these guys go thru
        the partying stage in college. We all make mistakes and learn from them. I know I have.

      • Dan Sullivan says:

        When the Patriots got Bennett from Chicago a lot of people wrote he was a problem.
        He bought into the system and had a very solid year. Several people wanted to get rid of Marcus Cannon he bought into new coach and played at Pro Bowl level. It’s all about if a player wants to buy into system.

      • Dan Sullivan says:

        If Jimmy G. gets traded yes I would sign Manziel.

    • steve earle says:

      Manziel????????????????????????????? NO!
      Cinci Is looking for a QB ? Okay how do you rationalize that trade?

    • EdgeX says:

      You’ve got to be joking about Manziel!

      Pat’s wouldn’t touch him with a 1000 ft pole. I can guarantee that. Nor should they – he’s a complete waste of any teams time.

  13. Stephen J says:

    Fadol Brown and Joe Mathis: I have a good idea of what Mathis will do, but I want to see how Brown does compared to him since I think there games are similar.
    Since I was unfamiliar with Fadol Brown and was excited to see what ways he was similar to Mathis I just watched Fadol Brown vs Memphis(2015) and Joe Mathis vs Az

    This is what I saw Fadol Brown not once dropped back was stopped by a RB when pressuring the QB didn’t shed his blockers did create pressure did get a sack was penalized roughing the QB was pushed around due to being over aggressive also took plays off. Used mainly power to get pressure. Lined up on both sides of the field.

    Joe Mathis contained the run/set the edge was able to shred his blockers seem to read the offense well he dropped back in coverage several times. Stripped the ball from the rb. Non stop motor. Was caught out of position twice either misdiagnosis or miscommunication. Sacked QB. Pressure in back field. Used both speed and power to get pressure. Lined up on both sides of the field on and off the line also pressured up the middle when initially lined up outside.

    Although there body types seem to be similar (Brown looks bigger and stronger) and their power games are some what similar that is about all I saw from that small sample. To me Joe Mathis was the smarter more versitile player with a higher motor and more rounded game. Yes Brown has a better power game but he seems to rely on his power to win the match ups. Joe Mathis may not be elite in any one area but he is well rounded and maybe he just needs more experience to become elite. I much rather have Mathis than Brown from that one sample even if Mathis is drafted much higher.

    Thanks Mike for helping me to take a closer look and start to see the differences in players and how they play.

    • Mike Gerken says:

      Great assessment Stephen,
      As I wrote in my Mathis report, I really like him and think he should be a 2nd/3rd round pick. Fadol is more of a 4th/5th round guy for me.
      I think they would fill the same role on this team, but Mathis would clearly do it better earlier. Fadol could have a role, but not the same impact early on and probably ever. Fadol is a backup plan if the team misses out on Mathis.

  14. D. Martin says:

    Can the Pats get Jamaal Charles for a decent price tag?

    • steve earle says:

      Thinking about it Charles has something like 9 years in NFL, a lot for a RB. So cost is just one factor and last thing we need is to get in to a bidding game with other teams. He was cut for a reason after all, how much has he got left? I’m not sure it was all about the cap. Bring him in for a tryout if he’s willing with no promise if not “Best of luck”.

  15. D. Martin says:

    A lot of people were recently mocking Jabril peppers to the Pats. A CBS draft prospect review compared him to Troy Polomalu, which is the type of safety I would love for the team to pick up. The review raved about his ability to be a play maker as a linebacker, corner, safety, punt/kick returner and even a running back. But my question is this: would any competitive team like the Pats ever really use a player in so many different capacities? I mean, he might be able to do all those things well, but surely the team has better safeties, faster running backs and larger, stronger linebackers. He might see extensive action on special teams, but could he really impact the team in those other areas barring an unforeseen injury by various skill players.

    • EdgeX says:

      Comparison to Troy Polomalu is a bit of a stretch.

      What made Polomalu great was his instincts and ball skills – which for Peppers might just be average. Dude is athletic, but not sure he can convert that into actual production.

      Bottom line is the dude doesn’t have a natural position and is going to take time to develop. And I’m not sure he’d be the best pick at #32.

  16. EdgeX says:

    If you want some Safety Prospects to watch, that you didn’t mention, I’d look at:

    1. Marcus Williams
    2. John Johnson
    3. Tony Conner

  17. Stephen J says:

    A couple mid to late rounders I was looking forward to seeing is but have to wait for Pro Days

    Jordan Herdman is described as a physical freak of nature. He is a very solid linebacker who has a knack for being around the ball per NFL Draft Diamonds Showed up some in the Senior Bowl

    COLLIN BEVINS, DE, Northwest Missouri State University 6’6″ 285
    Russell’s guy was interested in seeing more from him

  18. Stephen J says:

    Here are some I will be looking at

    Corn Elder CB Miami looking at 3 cone 40 High Jump Long Jump and measurements

    Tyus Bowser LB Houston

    Nate Gerry S Nebraska

    Eddie Jackson CB Alabama 3 cone long and high jump

    Cameron Sutton CB Tenn

    Marcus Williams S Utah

  19. macspak says:

    Lot’s of players being hit with the franchise tag. I think the original intent of the tag was to give the team leverage in retaining that player. However, the worm has turned. That high average number now gives the player all the leverage. That and the Commissioner’s powers very well could be traded off against each other in future CBA talks.

    As for Mixon and others not being invited to the Combine for “bad behavior” – very shortsighted. What better place where multiple teams can explore character and character issues? Who is that rule really helping or hurting? Does the NFL even know?

  20. Russell says:

    S Tedric Thompson 6′ 205 lbs. A very strong tackler on tape. This guy starts on Special teams for BB!! Smart prospect, I like at SS.
    CB Fabian Moreau 40 time is reported 4.40-4.36 we will see.

  21. Turbo says:

    I only want to add a few more guys, cause Mike as always did a great job gathering all these interesting prospects.

    Safety: John Johnson, Josh Jones
    LB: Tyus Bowser
    DE: Daeshon Hall

    I’m kind of sad that Elijah Lee’s not going to participate.

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