The lovely festivity that is the NFL Combine turns it’s attention from the offensive stars to the individuals who are trying to knock their block off.
Defensive linemen and linebackers will take the field look to improve their individual draft stock. Headlines were already made at the linebacker position with former Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster making his presence known in Indianapolis on Friday.
While there are two groups of defenders participating in the on-field drills, we will focus on the rugged linebacker position. Here are some key names to keep a close eye on.
Ryan Anderson, Alabama - The pass rusher from the Crimson Tide has some work to do to improve his draft stock, which has taken a hit lately. Anderson posted 18.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks this past season. He has been criticized for his movement in space being stiff at times. Watch Anderson closely in the 3-cone drill as well as his explosion in the broad jump drill to see if he ease those concerns.
Anthony Walker Jr., Northwestern - A treat to watch on film, Walker is lacking a little in terms of NFL size, but he does not play like it. His 23 reps on the bench was not bad for a guy weighing 238 pounds. Scouts want to see Walker in space also. He has a real good chance of solidifying his draft stock as a second rounder.
Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State - A throwback linebacker from the Big Ten, McMillan is an interesting prospect. The aggressive defender racked up 275 tackles in just three seasons in Columbus. The 40-yard dash may not be his moment to shine but McMillan has tools to be a solid 2nd-3rd rounder and progress into a starter eventually.
Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt - Cunningham has quietly built a reputation as a stellar linebacker. Gaining 16.5 tackles in loss last season in the SEC is a small dose of evidence as to how productive he was. His athleticism should shine during the on-field drills will likely help him lock his stock in as a top 20 selection.
Jabrill Peppers, Michigan - I know what you’re thinking. He’s a safety. However, Peppers proclaimed that he will participate with the linebacker and safety group. Some see him has a weak side linebacker down the line. Others (including myself) feel he’s a better fit at strong safety. Peppers has an opportunity to create interesting buzz if he proves to test well (which many are expecting).
Devonte Fields, Louisville - Fields has plenty of question marks pertaining to his draft status. Off-the-field issues still follow Fields and how he smooth things out may fall in line with more of his interaction with coaches and staffs as well as on-field drills. Fields is a nice pass-rusher and will need a polished Combine to make things go smoothly for him in the mid-rounds.