February 28, 2011

An amazing group of athletes took the field at Lucas Oil Stadium and proceeded to awe NFL decision-makers with their athleticism. Just 17 of the 42 defensive linemen who ran the 40 failed to break the 5-second mark, a ratio previously unheard of. Likewise, the majority of linebackers that ran were also fast, clocking under 4.65. Here are the risers and slides from the two positions:

Marcell Dareus/DL/Alabama: With his rivals on the defensive line missing parts of their combine workout to injury, Dareus took full advantage of his opportunity. His combined 40 times averaged 4.95 (he weighed in at 319 pounds), then Dareus looked powerful in drills. He was knocking people off the blocking bags with a violent jolt of his hands and looked incredibly athletic on the field. Dareus has entered the conversation as the top pick in April.

Robert Quinn/DE-OLB/North Carolina: Despite sitting on the sidelines with a seasonlong suspension, Quinn looked like he hadn't lost a step when he took the field. He was fast in the 40, averaging in the mid-4.6s after tipping the scales at 265. Quinn then looked tremendous in drills. In fact, the case could be made he was the most athletic defender on the field. Quinn effortlessly moved around displaying quickness, balance and a general dominance of anything he set out to accomplish.

Von Miller/OLB/Texas A&M: Miller worked exclusively at outside linebacker, and was the class of the field. He twice clocked 4.50, and was even faster on a few watches. During drills, he looked athletic and incredibly quick moving sideline-to-sideline. Miller has locked himself up as a top-12 pick.

Martez Wilson/LB/Illinois: Wilson shocked those in attendance, as the junior and his 250-pound frame posted a blazing 4.4 in the first 40. His second was slightly slower, but equally impressive at 4.50.

Ross Homan/OLB/Ohio State: After a Senior Bowl in which Homan looked small and sometimes weak, the feisty linebacker came to the combine looking to turn the tide of opinion. Homan showed up weighing 240 -- 11 more than Mobile. Homan averaged 4.6 and showed tremendous quickness in all the position drills.

Sam Acho/DL-OLB/Texas: The 262-pound Longhorn showed previously unseen athleticism to the scouts. Both 40s came in below 4.65 and displayed impressive quickness, footwork and the ability to change direction during drills. Teams will now feel comfortable using Acho at linebacker in a 3-4 alignment.

Chris Carter/DE-OLB/Fresno State: Another hybrid prospect, Carter was fast on the field and athletic in drills. He timed his 40s around 4.65, then took that speed into the practice session. Carter easily moved about the field during coverage drills, giving the impression he can make plays in reverse, as well as moving forwards.

Christian Ballard/DL/Iowa: Ballard continues his climb up draft boards and his combine workout may have cemented the former Hawkeye as a Round 1 selection. Weighing 283, he clocked under 4.8 on his first try then showcased a variety of athletic skills during the drills.

Aldon Smith/DE-OLB/Missouri: The Mizzou underclassman looks like he's back to full health after struggling with a leg injury last season. Smith ran well (low 4.7s) and showed terrific quickness and explosion at defensive line. When put through linebacker drills, Smith looked like a natural at the position.

Brooks Reed/DE-OLB/Arizona: Reed was one of the fastest players on the field, timing in the low-4.6s on both 40 attempts. He looked strong as a bull in drills and was as intense as anyone in the stadium.

Ryan Kerrigan/DE/Purdue: Kerrigan was fast, strong and athletic. He completed 31 repetitions on the bench, timed as fast as 4.72 then looked explosive and quick in all the drills. Kerrigan showed terrific footwork when put through linebacker drills and was incredibly smooth at defensive line.

Cameron Jordan/DL/California: Weighing 287, Jordan clocked under 4.8 on both 40 attempts. He was not spectacular during the drills, yet did enough to keep himself in the draft's top 10 selections.

Justin Houston/DE-OLB/Georgia: From an athletic standpoint, Houston was impressive. The 270-pounder posted 40 times in the 4.62 range. Houston also completed 30 lifts on the bench press. He was not able to transfer that speed onto the field in linebacker drills, yet may now get a lot of consideration at defensive end for a team needing a dynamic pass rusher.

Dontay Moch/DE-OLB/Nevada: Moch worked out with the defensive linemen and scorched the track in the 40, running under 4.5 both times. He was later run through linebacker drills and showed enough skill and athleticism to make scouts believe he has the ability to stand up over linebacker in a 3-4 alignment.

Marvin Austin/DL/North Carolina: Last we saw Austin, he was destroying the competition at the Shrine Game. On Monday, Austin clocked in the mid 4.8 range after tipping the scales at 309. He showed fluid movement skills and power later in drills.

Akeem Ayers/OLB/UCLA: Ayers looked good in position drills yet struggled to break 4.8, which will likely leave a bad tastes in the mouths of scouts.

Jeremy Beal/DE-OLB/Oklahoma: Beal presented himself as a solid athlete yet posted a slow 40 of 5.10 while weighing 262 pounds. He lacks the size for defensive end and the speed of an outside linebacker.

Notes: They were several other terrific results which must be mentioned: Scott Lutrus of UConn timed 4.62, Stanford's Sione Fua looked extraordinary during drills and Rice defensive end Cheta Ozougwu ran in the low 4.7s, while looking comfortable in linebacker drills.

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