NFL Combine Day 5 - Winners & Losers

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Linebacker

Winners

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Telvin Smith, Florida St (6’3, 218) – One of the best linebackers I watched all year. Smith flys around the field and is a fierce hitter despite his thin frame. Smith backed up the tape with a 4.52 40-time. He’s light, but with the NFL morphing into a passing league, I expect speed and coverage skills will become more important than size for WILL linebackers. I would love Smith to end up on the Bears as an eventual replacement for Lance Briggs at the WILL position.

Kevin Pierre-Lewis, Boston College (6’0, 232) - Speaking of small linebackers, Pierre-Lewis had a great combine; He had the best 40-time among the LBs (4.51), the 3rd highest bench reps, 3rd highest vertical leap, 2nd best broad jump, and 2nd best 20-yard shuffle. He’s clearly an elite athlete and whether he ends up as a coverage WLB or a SS, Pierre-Lewis will be a stud on special teams and should have secured a late round draft slot.

Adrian Hubbard, Alabama (6’6, 257) – Measured as the tallest and heaviest LB at the combine. When you consider that he’s the biggest of the group, his 4.69 40-time is even more impressive. The better than expected speed increases his scheme versatility and probably bumps him up a round or two into the early 3rd – 4th round range.

Max Bullough, Michigan St (6’3, 249) – A throwback MLB who is a leader on the field and one of the toughest players I watched all year. He had a rough senior bowl, but led the LB group in bench reps and ran a better than expected 4.78. After Bullough’s poor senior bowl he looked like a 3-4 ILB only, but with a 4.7 I think he has the chance for a shot in the middle of a 4-3. He’s never going to be great in coverage, but at worst Bullough can be a stud run-stopper on 1st & 2nd down.

Khairi Fortt, California (6’2, 248) – He tied Bullough for the most bench reps and continues to impress with a solid 40 time (4.70). I have been saying Fortt is underrated all off-season and I think his performance this weekend puts him solidly in the 5th-7th round range. Fortt could potentially play inside or outside, which will help his draft stock.

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Khalil Mack, Buffalo (6’3, 251) – He’s got the best tape at the LB position and he backed it up today with an awesome performance. His 40 time was plenty fast enough (4.65) and he put up monster numbers in both the vertical (40″) and broad jump (128″) which were both 2nd to physical freak Ryan Shazier.

Ryan Shazier, Ohio St (6’1, 237) - I was disappointed Shazier didn’t run because there are rumors that he can break 4.40, but he dominated the two drills he did do with a 42″ vertical and a 130″ broad jump. Shazier is an off-the-charts athlete and should be a late first round pick. To give you a frame of reference, Shazier crushed 2013 1st round pick (and Bear fan favorite) Alec Ogletree’s performance in the two drills he competed in.

Losers:

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Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut (6’2, 246) - I’m a fan of his tape, but 18 bench reps, last place on the broad jump, and a 5.01 40-time isn’t good. Smallwood pulled up at the end of his 40-time with an apparent injury so maybe that added some time, but it looked like he was over the finish line before he pulled up. Smallwood took the rest of the day off after his injury. Analyst Mike Mayock commented on Smallwood’s lack of explosion and his combine numbers seem to back that up.

Jon Brown, Illinois (6’0, 238) - As an Illini alum, I was hoping for more from Brown, who was a borderline last round pick coming in. Brown having the slowest time in the 40 (5.03), shortest broad jump, slowest 3-cone, and slowest 20-yard shuttle isn’t going to help his chances.

Devon Kinnard, USC (6’3, 249) – Team captain at USC who was very productive last season (9 sacks), but there were questions about whether he had NFL level athleticism. After finishing near the bottom in every drill, it doesn’t look like it.

Twitter: @MikeFlannery_

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