Saturday, March 3, 2012

Combine Losers: Pass Rushers

Great pass rushers are a scarce commodity. All year long their game tape, hype and production piles up, but it can be hard to project dominance to the next level. The scouting combine offers some hints and glimpses, though I would argue that far too many cases of combine-induced stock rises are fraudulent. This year's list of defensive end and outside linebacker candidates' performances weren't spectacular so teams shouldn't be climbing the draft boards to land them. In fact, I would argue that teams should be downright weary of this group.

A past post examined the measurables that almost all future Pro Bowl pass rushers had in common. Let's take a look at this year's top prospects (per Mel Kiper's top 5 at each position)through the same perspective. The following table highlights 40 yard dash, vertical and broad jump results. I've highlighted each value in green, yellow or red to indicate if the value meets guidelines, misses but has precedent for success, or no player with this measurable has become a Pro Bowler, respectively. 10 yard splits were not yet available but are also an important indicator. I'll try to update the table when those become available.

NamePosition40 dashBroad jumpVertical
Quinton CoplesDE4.789'131.5
Melvin IngramDE4.799'134.5
Vinny CurryDE4.989'232
Andre BranchDE4.7010'032.5
Whitney MercilusDE4.689'1032
Coutrney UpshawOLB--- ------
Terrell ManningOLB4.799'632.5
Zach BrownOLB4.509'833.5
Lavonte DavidOLB4.659'1136.5
Bruce IrvinOLB4.5010'333.5
Nick PerryDE4.6410'438.5

In short, most of the top prospects failed the combine. All but two players have at least one measurable that is worse than that of any Pro Bowler in the last decade. Nick Perry from USC is the only prospect with a green light across the board, and he's not in Mel's Top 5 (though other draftniks consider him a fringe 1st rounder). The case is similar for outside linebacker prospects: Demario Davis, Ark St (4.61, 10'4, 38.5) is the only player posting elite measurables in all 3 categories. He is not regarded as a great pro prospect though, so teams should regard him as an athlete who is unlikely to be a good football player.

Interestingly, two highly regarded inside linebackers posted elite scores in all 3 drills: Mychal Kendricks, Cal (4.47, 10'7, 39.5) and Luke Kuechly (4.58, 10'3, 38) are both on par with Von Miller, last year's 2nd overall pick.

Teams looking for an upgrade need to skip Coples (whose poor numbers combined with poor effort on the field paint a bad picture) and Ingram, instead taking a chance on Nick Perry, Whitney Mercilus or Bruce Irvin. Upshaw gets an incomplete but is not expected to have good measurables. His lone hope is comparisons to Terrell Suggs (who also didn't test very well), but that seems off-base as Upshaw is more of a pure power player. Teams in the top half of the draft looking for a pass rusher should trade down if possible and use their extra draft ammo to take a chance on players with upside.