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Big men show unheard of speed in defensive line workouts


The defensive linemen again turned heads with some outstanding workouts at the combine. Players who weigh in excess of 300 pounds were regularly running times under 5.0 seconds in the 40, an inconceivable thought just a few years ago. Several star players improved their draft stock, while a few lesser-known prospects also jumped out with solid performances today.

Melvin Ingram, South Carolina: Ingram continues to impress NFL teams, and his combine workout will push him further north on draft boards. He ran under 4.7 seconds on his first attempt in the 40, which included a quick 10-yard split of 1.65 seconds. Ingram was near flawless in position drills. He displayed great lateral movement skills, lost almost no momentum changing direction and was always on balance. His hands violently struck the bags in defensive line drills and Ingram looked incredibly athletic during linebacker drills. Don't be surprised if Ingram breaks into the draft's first 12 picks.

Nick Perry, USC: Perry turned in a workout for the ages. He was fast, posting 40 times in the low 4.6-second range at 271 pounds. He was strong, completing 35 repetitions on the bench press. Perry was also explosive and touched 38.5 inches in the vertical jump. He later looked incredibly athletic in all position drills. Perry solidified himself as a first round pick. The question is how early will he be selected during the first 32 choices?

Dontari Poe, Memphis: Poe was impressive from start to finish. He posted 44 reps on the bench, leading all participants in this year's combine. He later motored his 346-pound frame for a 40 time under 5.0 seconds, which included an impressive 1.71-second 10-yard split. During position drills, Poe moved more like a linebacker than a big-bodied defensive lineman. He was quick, explosive and has scouts excited about his upside potential.

Whitney Mercilus, Illinois: Mercilus was fast, timing his 40s between 4.65 and 4.68 seconds. He looked very athletic in drills, displaying a lot of quickness and the ability to swiftly move in any direction of the field. Mercilus showed a terrific burst of speed and the ability to turn it on in one quick step, which has scouts thinking he can line up at defensive end or stand up over tackle as a rush linebacker.

Kendall Reyes, UConn: Reyes turned in a complete combine workout and leaves Indianapolis with an elevated draft grade. His 4.88-second 40 time was solid. His 36 repetitions on the bench should quell concerns about his strength at the point of attack. During the practice session Reyes looked incredibly quick-footed and smooth moving around the field.

Andre Branch, Clemson: Branch averaged 4.7 seconds on his 40 times to start off the day, including one of the quickest 10-yard splits of 1.61 seconds. He practiced to that speed during drills, displaying the ability to immediately change direction and quickly move laterally in bag drills. Branch also looked athletic when run through a battery of linebacker drills. He got depth on pass drops and showed the ability to run fast laterally as well as in a straight line.

Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State: Cox turned in a terrific workout as advertised. He tipped the scales at 298, pounds, then ran a 40 time that some stopwatches clocked at 4.78 seconds. During position drills Cox looked very athletic displaying balance and movement skills as he easily changed direction. Scouts were impressed by his ability to keep his knees bent and practice with good pad level. Expect the Mississippi State junior to charge into the top half of round one after his performance today.

Tyrone Crawford, Boise State: Crawford could be the sleeper at the defensive line position. He clocked 4.85 seconds in the 40 at 275 pounds, more impressively posting a 1.65 10-yard split on his initial try. Crawford was fluid and natural in all his movement skills and looked very good in position drills. He showed terrific hand punch in bag drills and his 28 bench press reps was better than expected. Look for Crawford to be selected before the second day of the draft ends.

Mike Martin, Michigan: The former Wolverine looked good in every aspect of his combine workout. Martin started off by completing 36 reps on the bench press, then posted surprisingly quick 40 times in the low- to mid-4.8-second area. During drills he moved well, bending his knees and easily changing direction. Martin has established himself as a top-75 selection in April's draft.

Devon Still, Penn State: Still struggled throughout his entire workout. His 5.05-second 40 time paled when compared to many of the top defensive tackles at the combine. Still looked stiff in drills and struggled with his balance throughout the session.

Vinny Curry, Marshall: Curry, one of the best pass rushers in the nation the past two years, struggled to run faster than 5.0 seconds in the 40.

Derrick Shelby, Utah: Shelby is another solid college pass rusher who teams were considering as a multi-purpose defensive end/outside linebacker. His 4.95-second 40 time will raise red flags.