The first major event of the 2019 offseason is in the books as the NFL combine came to a close on Monday. We took a look at the offensive winners, and now it is a time to turn our attention to the defense.
The Bears, as we stand before free agency, could conceivably have needs at three positions on defense: edge rusher, cornerback and safety. Because of that, I focused on those positions.
I also concentrated on mid-round players, so while Montez Sweat dominated the combine, I did not include him since the Bears never had a realistic chance of drafting him.
In case you missed it,I compiled all of the measurements, times and scores from the combine into a helpful Google Doc. I encourage you to peruse that and choose some of your own winners and losers.
Winner: Ben Banogu, TCU
Banogu’s teammate, L.J. Collier, was getting all the hype going into the weekend, and while Collier might be better right now, Banogu proved he has a higher ceiling. Banogu was a top performer in the vertical jump, broad jump and short shuttle, showing off his lower body explosiveness. He also ran a 4.62 40-yard dash with a position best 1.47 10-yard split.
However, the most effective way to identify the best pass rushers from the group is in the 3-cone drill. The best edge rushers in the league all have times below or around seven seconds. Banogu, while not a top score at the position, posted an above average time of 7.02 seconds. That shows he has the necessary flexibility to bend around opposing offensive tackles.
His tape may be inconsistent, and he doesn’t always display the athleticism he showcased this weekend. Still, he is firmly on the Day 2 bubble right now. He could potentially be the Bears’ first pick in the third round.
Winner: Maxx Crosby, Eastern Michigan
Crosby was a top performer for edge rushers in the broad jump, short shuttle and 60-yard shuttle, but most importantly he was the top performer in the 3-cone drill with a time of 6.89 seconds. He was one of only two edge rushers to time below seven seconds.
His arms were shorter than you want from an edge at only 32 ⅞ inches, but his advanced hand skills and placement allows him to succeed despite this.
In my first mock draft of the season, I had the Bears selecting Crosby in the seventh round. His tape is fantastic, and with his performance at the combine, that is no longer a possibility. I still have real concerns about his functional strength, and him not doing the bench press at the combine did nothing to alleviate those concerns. He should be available if the Bears want him in the fourth round.
Loser: Jalen Jelks, Oregon
Jelks was getting some hype pre-combine and looked good at the weigh-ins. At the end of the day, however, he was a bottom five performer in the 40-yard dash, bench press, broad jump, and short shuttle.
Sleeper: Jamal Davis, Akron
Davis is undersized but super athletic with a great first step. He needs a year or two to develop, but he would be a good practice round candidate that could be there at the end of the draft.
Winner: Isaiah Johnson, Houston
This is a bad corner class all around, and the combine didn’t really do much to change my mind. The corners with good tape are slow, and the corners with bad tape are superb athletes. Johnson’s tape might not be great, but he is far from the worst, which means his combine performance could see him skyrocket up boards.
He was a top performer in the 40-yard dash (4.4), 3-cone and short shuttle while also being above average in pretty much every other event. Considering he was also one of the biggest corners at the combine only makes it more impressive.
He also looked good in the on-field drills. I have to watch more of his tape, but from what I’ve seen and read so far coupled with his combine performance, he is looking like an easy Day 2 pick.
WInner: David Long, Michigan
Long looked very impressive in the on-field drills while also putting up some solid numbers including a 4.45-second 40-yard dash. What impressed me the most were his agility drills, where he posted the top scores for corners in both the 3-cone drill (6.45) and short shuttle (3.97).
Long is undersized and will have to play in the slot at the next level, and those agility drills are exactly what teams will be looking at for slot corners. Coincidentally, the Bears might have a huge need at slot corner if they decide to let Bryce Callahan walk.
I haven’t watched Long’s tape yet, but you better believe I will be doing that soon. He was a mid-to-late Day 3 prospect before the combine and will probably come off the board in round four if the tape matches his athletic profile.
Loser: Joejuan Williams, Vanderbilt
Williams has decent tape, but his 4.64-second 40-yard dash is very concerning. Not many corners have succeeded with a time that bad.
The best corners to ever (recorded history) run 4.6 flat or slower at the Combine per @mockdraftable database:
Levi Wallace, maybe, if he sticks in Buffalo?
— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) March 6, 2019
A move to safety might be in the cards but even then his time was slow. If he were a safety, he still would have had the 6th slowest time. I don’t think this ends his career, but he likely drops to Day 3 after getting some late round one hype.
Sleeper: Mark Fields, Clemson
Fields didn’t do much at the combine, electing only to run the 40 and bench press. Yet, his performance in those drills, 4.37 seconds and 18 reps respectively, put him on my radar. He is undersized and has only managed 39 tackles and one interception in a four-year career at Clemson, so it is hard to see him going before the fifth round at best.
Winner: Juan Thornhill, Virginia
Thornhill’s 4.42-second 40-yard dash and 21 bench reps were impressive, but his 44-inch vertical and 141-inch broad jump were truly jaw-dropping numbers.
My main concern for Thornhill is he seems to play a bit stiff. He elected not to run the 3-cone drill or shuttle drills. Usually, when a player skips drills without injury it is because he knows he won’t perform well.
However, Thornhill excelled in every event he participated in, so he might have been the big winner from the combine. In a draft class that doesn’t feature a top-tier safety, he might have even moved up into first round consideration.
Winner: Darnell Savage, Maryland
While Savage was a big winner at the combine, the big loser might be the Chicago Bears. Savage was a player I really liked and thought would be a perfect fit alongside Eddie Jackson. With his combine performance, it would shock me if he got out of the second round.
Savage is undersized, but you wouldn’t guess that by the way he plays. He’s tough and physical in the run game and flashes enough in the passing game, where he could be a future Pro Bowler.
He blew away the combine with a 4.36 40-yard dash, a 39.5-inch vertical and a 126-inch broad jump. He was a top-five performer in all three. He posted only average numbers in the agility drills, which is still a concern of mine. But I still like him a lot as a prospect.
Loser: Mike Bell, Fresno State
The Bears might be missing out on Savage, but they will now have a chance to draft Bell if they still want to. Bell was a solid Day 2 prospect entering the combine. His tape showed an instinctive safety with great size and ball skills.
But he might have had the worst combine performance at any position. He posted bottom five scores in five of the six drills he competed. His 4.83 40-yard dash is borderline undraftable.
But if the combine causes him to drop too far, I wouldn’t mind the Bears drafting him with a late pick.
Sleeper: Will Harris, Boston College
Harris was a top performer in the 40-yard dash, bench press, 3-cone and short shuttle. He is another player that I am excited to dive into his film more.
What about you?
Who were some of your combine winners and losers? Comment below with who you think the Bears should draft.