The offensive players in Indianapolis have shown off their athleticism, or lack thereof in the case of Orlando Brown Jr., but the final two days belong to the defense. With the defense taking the field at the NFL Combine, there comes major storylines of massive men with supreme strength and movement skills. Even more important, the fastest players are usually the defensive backs and LSU’s Donte Jackson even believes he’ll break the 40-yard dash record. Like my NFL Combine offensive guide, the positions are split up the same way they are in Indianapolis. Each group will have a few picks for different categories followed by my current rankings of the those combine participants. Checkout the Armchair NFL Draft podcast, Seven Rounds in Heaven and my most recent NFL mock draft.

On-Field Dates

Friday- Running backs, offensive linemen, and specialists

Saturday- Quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends

Sunday- Defensive linemen, edge rushers, and linebackers

Monday- Cornerbacks and safeties

Defensive Linemen

Overall Winner: Vita Vea, Washington

Most Intriguing: Marcus Davenport, UTSA

Most Physically Imposing: Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State

Who Gets on the Radar: Tim Settle, Virginia Tech

Who Falls off the Radar: Rasheem Green, USC

Who Makes the Most Money: Taven Bryan, Florida

Keep an Eye on: Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest

Needs a Big Week: Da’Shawn Hand, Alabama

Trust the Tape, Not the Testing: Harrison Phillips, Stanford

Biggest Combine Snub: Poona Ford, Texas

  1. Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State
  2. Vita Vea, Washington
  3. Marcus Davenport, UTSA
  4. Harrison Phillips, Stanford
  5. Maurice Hurst, Michigan
  6. Taven Bryan, Florida
  7. Sam Hubbard, Ohio State
  8. Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
  9. Tim Settle, Virginia Tech
  10. Nathan Shepherd, Fort Hays State
  11. Da’Shawn Hand, Alabama
  12. Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest
  13. Chad Thomas, Miami
  14. Andrew Brown, Virginia
  15. B.J. Hill, North Carolina State
  16. Justin Jones, North Carolina State
  17. Deadrin Senat, ID, South Florida
  18. Derrick Nnadi, Florida State
  19. R.J. McIntosh, Miami
  20. Kentavius Street, North Carolina State
  21. Rasheem Green, USC
  22. Breeland Speaks, Ole Miss
  23. Jalyn Holmes, Ohio State
  24. Trenton Thompson, Georgia
  25. Khalil McKenzie, Tennessee
  26. Kendrick Norton, Miami
  27. Foley Fatukasi, UCONN
  28. James Looney, California
  29. Eddy Wilson, Purdue
  30. Ade Aruna, Tulane
  31. JoJo Wicker, Arizona State
  32. Lowell Lotulelei, Utah
  33. Bilal Nichols, Delaware
  34. Zaycoven Henderson, Texas A&M
  35. Taylor Stallworth, South Carolina
  36. Joshua Frazier, Alabama
  37. John Atkins, Georgia
  38. Matt Dickerson, UCLA
  39. John Franklin-Myers, Stephen F. Austin
  40. Rotimi Olubunmi, Old Dominion
  • It feels as if NC State edge rusher Bradley Chubb is the defenses version of Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson. He’s a mean, NFL-ready, and a top five player in the class. As long as he tests even average athletically, he should be fine. His tape is too dominant and his game too well rounded to slide from a poor showing in Indianapolis, tape above all else.
  • With the defensive line group all eyes will be on the mountain that happens to be a man, Vita Vea. The Washington product is the biggest defensive player in Indianapolis and might be pound for pound the most athletic. Vea is expected to run a sub 5.0 40-yard dash at 347-pounds. Mix in that he can play anywhere from 5-tech to 0-tech and he could end up a top 12 pick.
  • The men that are listed under the defensive line category that are true edge rushers will draw a lot of interest. Marcus Davenport is the classic raw edge that has the talent, but not the technique to go top 10. Sam Hubbard is another edge who has the size and production to get into the first-round if he tests well.
  • There’s a four-way battle to be the second best interior defensive lineman, behind Vea. Maurice Hurst is the undersized pass rushing 3-tech teams love lately, he should test well enough to be a first-round pick. Harrison Phillips is the classic safe pick at 1-tech that eats space, but poor testing will probably push him to the second-round. Taven Bryan is the freaky raw athlete that needs a ton of technique work. Da’Ron Payne can play either 3-tech or 1-tech and could be the strongest player in Indianapolis. If he tests well top 20 is real for him.

Edge Rushers

Overall Winner: Lorenzo Carter, Georgia

Most Intriguing: Arden Key, LSU

Most Physically Imposing: Lorenzo Carter, Georgia

Who Gets on the Radar: Hercules Mata’afa, Washington State

Who Falls off the Radar: Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State

Who Makes the Most Money: Harold Landry, Boston College

Keep an Eye on: Darius Jackson, Jacksonville State

Needs a Big Week: Josh Sweat, Florida State

Trust the Tape, Not the Testing: Jeff Holland, Auburn

Biggest Combine Snub: Justin Lawler, SMU

  1. Harold Landry, Boston College
  2. Arden Key, LSU
  3. Hercules Mata’afa, Washington State
  4. Dorance Armstrong Jr., Kansas
  5. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma
  6. Uchenna Nwosu, USC
  7. Josh Sweat, Florida State
  8. Lorenzo Carter, Georgia
  9. Jeff Holland, Auburn
  10. Kemoko Turay, Rutgers
  11. Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss
  12. Kylie Fitts, Utah
  13. Davin Bellamy, Georgia
  14. Leon Jacobs, Wisconsin
  15. Garret Dooley, Wisconsin
  16. Darius Jackson, Jacksonville State
  17. Ola Adeniyi, Toledo
  18. Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State
  19. Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, Arkansas State
  20. Peter Kalambayi, Stanford
  21. Anthony Winbush, Ball State
  22. Trevon Young, Louisville
  23. James Hearns, Louisville
  • Before the 2017 season Harold Landry was a sure-fire top 10 player in the class, but injuries derailed his stock. He’s still the best edge bending pass rusher, and although he doesn’t have a ton of moves, his speed rush is the best in the class. If the athleticism he’s shown on tape holds up at the combine he’ll be a top 15 player.
  • There’s a lot of long freak athletes on the edge this year. The type of guys who blow away scouts with their 40-yard dashes, vertical and broad jumps, and most importantly their three-cone drill. Arden Key is the most well-known and a potential first-rounder. Off-field issues could hurt him meaning the interview process will have a major effect on his stock, but he has the quickest first step in the class. Lorenzo Carter is a sleeper right now, but not for long. Everyone is expecting Carter to “win” the combine and end up a top 60 pick. Dorance Armstrong Jr. and Josh Sweat are big names that have quieted recently, but both could be top 50 with big combines.
  • Personally, I’m most excited for Hercules Mata’afa. He spent his career at Washington State dominating as an interior defender despite being 254-pounds. The tape shows a non-stop motor and violent hands, but testing will be the difference between him going day two or day three of the draft.
  • Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Uchenna Nwosu, Jeff Holland, Kemoko Turay, and Marquis Haynes are the wildcards. All of them have at least one flaw that will keep them out of the first-round, but all have the potential to lock themselves into day two picks at the combine.

Linebackers

Overall Winner: Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech

Most Intriguing: Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State

Most Physically Imposing: Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech

Who Gets on the Radar: Darius Leonard, South Carolina State

Who Falls off the Radar: Micah Kiser, Virginia

Who Makes the Most Money: Malik Jefferson, Texas

Keep an Eye on: Jack Cichy, Wisconsin

Needs a Big Week: Matthew Thomas, Florida State

Trust the Tape, Not the Testing: Josey Jewell, Iowa

Biggest Combine Snub: Tre’ Williams, Auburn

  1. Roquan Smith, Georgia
  2. Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
  3. Rashaan Evans, Alabama
  4. Malik Jefferson, Texas
  5. Josey Jewell, Iowa
  6. Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
  7. Jerome Baker, Ohio State
  8. Matthew Thomas, Florida State
  9. Tegray Scales, Indiana
  10. Shaun Dion Hamilton, Alabama
  11. Jack Cichy, Wisconsin
  12. Fred Warner, BYU
  13. Dorian O’Daniel, Clemson
  14. Shaquem Griffin, UCF
  15. Darius Leonard, South Carolina State
  16. Nick DeLuca, North Dakota State
  17. Andre Smith, North Carolina
  18. Skai Moore, South Carolina
  19. Jason Cabinda, Penn State
  20. Azeem Victor, Washington
  21. Genard Avery, Memphis
  22. Micah Kiser, Virginia
  23. Oren Burks, Vanderbilt
  24. Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Western Kentucky
  25. Christian Sam, Arizona State
  26. Chris Worley, Ohio State
  27. Chris Covington, Indiana
  28. Kenny Young, UCLA
  29. Jacob Pugh, Florida State
  30. Keishawn Bierria, Washington
  31. Mike McCray, Michigan
  • The combine is likely where scouts will separate Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds. Both are top 15 players with the potential to be top 10 picks. Both should test near the top of their position group and both should blow everyone away. Edmunds has the edge due to his size, upside, and freakiness. It feels all but guaranteed he’ll be the most impressive linebacker in Indy. Roquan is no slouch though and both could run sub 4.6 40-yard dashes.
  • After those two tier one linebackers, Rashaan Evans sits alone in tier two. He’s a first-round pick, but not quite a freak like Edmunds nor the prototype new wave linebacker like Smith. He’s got a bit of both to him with impressive athleticism that allows him to drop into coverage or rush the passer. Evans likely solidifies himself as a top 20 player.
  • The third tier of linebackers is where it gets interesting. Leighton Vander Esch has size, athleticism, and a mean streak. If all goes right for him he could find his way into the end of the first-round. Malik Jefferson might be the best athlete at linebacker, but never put it all together at Texas. If his athletic traits are elite, like some expect, he has a chance at being a top 50 pick. Unlike Vander Esch and Jefferson, Josey Jewell isn’t a freak athlete with great size. He’s more of the high floor, low ceiling type of guy. His instincts are incredible and he produces more than most of these linebackers. If he tests well he’ll be a second-round lock, but if he doesn’t he’ll be a fourth-round steal.

Cornerbacks

Overall Winner: Denzel Ward, Ohio State

Most Intriguing: Donte Jackson, LSU

Most Physically Imposing: Carlton Davis, Auburn

Who Gets on the Radar: Rashaan Gaulden, Tennessee

Who Falls off the Radar: Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State

Who Makes the Most Money: Jaire Alexander, Louisville

Keep an Eye on: Parry Nickerson, Tulane

Needs a Big Week: Holton Hill, Texas

Trust the Tape, Not the Testing: Quenton Meeks, Stanford

Biggest Combine Snub: Jalen Davis, Utah State

  1. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
  2. Denzel Ward, Ohio State
  3. Josh Jackson, Iowa
  4. Jaire Alexander, Louisville
  5. Carlton Davis, Auburn
  6. Mike Hughes, UCF
  7. Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
  8. Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State
  9. Donte Jackson, LSU
  10. Holton Hill, Texas
  11. Nick Nelson, Wisconsin
  12. Quenton Meeks, Stanford
  13. Rashaan Gaulden, Tennessee
  14. D.J. Reed, Kansas State
  15. Darius Phillips, Western Michigan
  16. Kevin Toliver, LSU
  17. M.J. Stewart, North Carolina
  18. Anthony Averett, Alabama
  19. Levi Wallace, Alabama
  20. JaMarcus King, South Carolina
  21. Tony Brown, Alabama
  22. Jordan Thomas, Oklahoma
  23. Dee Delaney, Miami
  24. Avonte Maddox, Pittsburgh
  25. Parry Nickerson, Tulane
  26. Brandon Facyson, Virginia Tech
  27. Duke Dawson, Florida
  28. Greg Stroman, Virginia Tech
  29. Isaac Yiadom, Boston College
  30. J.C. Jackson, Maryland
  31. Michael Joseph, Dubuque
  32. Christian Campbell, Penn State
  33. Chandon Sullivan, Georgia State
  34. Kamrin Moore, Boston College
  35. Taron Johnson, Weber State
  36. Danny Johnson, Southern
  37. D’Montre Wade, Murray State
  38. Andre Chachere, San Jose State
  39. Rashard Fant, Indiana
  40. Grant Haley, Penn State
  41. Davontae Harris, Illinois State
  42. Chris Jones, Nebraska
  43. Henre’ Toliver, Arkansas
  • There doesn’t seem to be a ton of hype around Minkah Fitzpatrick entering the combine. It’s probably because he’s so much more NFL-ready on tape than every other defensive back. When he kills the combine it won’t effect much. He’s a top five player.
  • It’s a battle for the second best cornerback spot between Denzel Ward and Josh Jackson. They’re probably two of the most fluid athletes you’ll see at cornerback. Both have great hips and footwork, but Ward will likely come out on top due to his long speed. Ward could run sub 4.4 in the 40.
  • Jaire Alexander, Mike Hughes, and Donte Jackson are all on the brink of being first-round picks, but the combine can put them over the top. Alexander has the best tape, but fought injuries this year. Hughes has off-field questions, but is terrific in press with nice athleticism. Jackson could run the fastest 40-yard dash this year and the raw ability and potential will have team’s mouths watering.
  • Unlike the other guys, Carlton Davis, Isaiah Oliver, Tarvarus McFadden, and Holton Hill are bigger cornerbacks. For them, running 4.55 or faster is a must and anything worse could kill their stock. Davis is the most physical press corner in the class, but lacks ball skills and his athleticism is iffy. Oliver is a tall, lean, physical corner that fits the mould the Seahawks have made famous. McFadden is the big name, but a brutal 2017 season has his stock floundering. For Hill interviews are important, he was suspended for the final three games at Texas, but has intriguing tools.

Safeties

Overall Winner: Derwin James, Florida State

Most Intriguing: Kyzir White, West Virginia

Most Physically Imposing: Derwin James, Florida State

Who Gets on the Radar: Jessie Bates, Wake Forest

Who Falls off the Radar: Marcus Allen, Penn State

Who Makes the Most Money: Justin Reid, Stanford

Keep an Eye on: Siran Neal, Jacksonville State

Needs a Big Week: Jordan Whitehead, Pittsburgh

Trust the Tape, Not the Testing: DeShon Elliott, Texas

Biggest Combine Snub: Jeremy Reaves, South Alabama

  1. Derwin James, Florida State
  2. Kyzir White, West Virginia
  3. Ronnie Harrison, Alabama
  4. Justin Reid, Stanford
  5. Armani Watts, Texas A&M
  6. Jordan Whitehead, Pittsburgh
  7. DeShon Elliott, Texas
  8. Jessie Bates, Wake Forest
  9. Van Smith, Clemson
  10. Kameron Kelly, San Diego State
  11. Terrell Edmunds, Virginia Tech
  12. Marcus Allen, Penn State
  13. Siran Neal, Jacksonville State
  14. Quin Blanding, Virginia
  15. Stephen Roberts, Auburn
  16. Tre Flowers, Oklahoma State
  17. Marcell Harris, Florida
  18. Trey Walker, Louisiana-Lafayette
  19. Godwin Igwebuike, Northwestern
  20. Domincik Sanders, Georgia
  21. Dane Cruikshank, Arizona
  22. Joshua Kalu, Nebraska
  23. Damon Webb, Ohio State
  24. Sean Chandler, Temple
  25. Natrell Jamerson, Wisconsin
  26. Troy Apke, Penn State
  27. Max Redfield, Indiana (PA)
  • It seems as if Derwin James has lost some luster, but he’s the best safety at the combine, assuming Fitzpatrick is a cornerback. James is the definition of a height-weight-speed guy and will most likely remind people why his stock was so high before the season.
  • Safeties get a little murky after James. There’s three guys in contention for the second best safety, Kyzir White, Ronnie Harrison, and Justin Reid. White is big, but has some athleticism questions and doesn’t have a true positon. Harrison is a class strong safety that has the highest floor and is plug-and-play. Reid could end up a first-round pick if everything goes his way. He’s the most athletic and versatile of the three.
  • After those guys it’s pretty much pick your poison for the third tier and the combine will separate them. Armani Watts is a centerfielder that needs to show fluidity and speed. Jordan Whitehead will have to deal with interviews about his suspensions at Pitt, but he’s great vs the run. DeShon Elliott is somewhat of the jack of all trades, master of none at safety. Jessie Bates is the dark horse that should test the best and end up a day two pick.

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Author Details
Vice President of Media | The Armchair All-Americans, LLC
I’m Canadian as can be, other than the fact that I don’t care about hockey. I love football. The NFL is my life. I consider myself a football guy and I’d rather watch tape than anything else. I’m the Armchair NFL Draft analyst here. You can read my Armchair Scout columns and call me out for my draft misses. I’m also part of two podcasts at Armchair. Our NFL Draft podcast, 7 Rounds in Heaven, and the main NFL pod, Resting the Starters. I cheer for the Steelers, Raptors, Blue Jays, Oregon, and I guess the Leafs.
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Vice President of Media | The Armchair All-Americans, LLC
I’m Canadian as can be, other than the fact that I don’t care about hockey. I love football. The NFL is my life. I consider myself a football guy and I’d rather watch tape than anything else. I’m the Armchair NFL Draft analyst here. You can read my Armchair Scout columns and call me out for my draft misses. I’m also part of two podcasts at Armchair. Our NFL Draft podcast, 7 Rounds in Heaven, and the main NFL pod, Resting the Starters. I cheer for the Steelers, Raptors, Blue Jays, Oregon, and I guess the Leafs.

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