2015 NFL Combine Day 3: Leonard Williams makes case for No. 1 pick
The 2015 NFL Scouting Combine rolled along Sunday with workouts for defensive linemen and linebackers. Each of the nine Pac-12 schools with a player in Indianapolis was represented on Day 3, including some of the conference's biggest and baddest players like Leonard Williams and Danny Shelton.
Most pundits expect the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to select a quarterback (that Marcus Mariota guy is pretty good) with the No. 1 overall pick, but the Bucs might want to take a long look at Leonard Williams.
The former USC defensive lineman, who measured in at 6-foot-4, 302 pounds, drew rave reviews after running his 40-yard dash in 4.97 seconds. NFL Network analyst and former head coach Steve Mariucci said Williams was "probably the best player in this draft." With his size and athleticism, many see Williams as a versatile and disuptive force at the next level who can play as a pass-rusher or interior lineman. Williams spoke to Akbar Gbaja-Biamila of NFL Networks following his impressive day on the turf.
Hayes Pullard (4.78 seconds) beat out his fellow former USC linebacker J.R. Tavai (4.91 seconds) in the 40-yard dash on Sunday, but both players figure to be mid-round picks with the chance to be solid inside linebackers in the NFL.
Nobody had more fun at Sunday's combine session than hulking defensive tackle Danny Shelton. Not only did he keep unsuspecting ballboys on their toes, but Shelton put up 34 reps on the bench press, the second-highest total for any d-lineman on the day, earning praise as an instant impact NFL player. Oh, and he showed off his skills as a camerman.
After running a 4.69-second, 40-yard dash, Shaq Thompson might be best suited as a linebacker, per Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. But that's fine with Thompson, who told reporters earlier this week that he'd prefer to play as an outside linebacker. According to Ross Jones of FOX Sports, former UW defensive lineman Hau'oli Kikaha sat out the physical workout after recovering from illness last week.
Eric Kendricks only ran one 40-yard dash, but the Butkus Award-winner made the most of it. The former UCLA star posted an impressive 4.66-second time while also notching 38 inches in the vertical leap. Listed at 6-foot, 230 pounds, Kendricks has the makings of a productive NFL outside 'backer.
Defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa may have taken the title as this year's "Combine Freak" (it's a good thing) with the most impressive measurables. The potential first-round pick checked in at 6-foot-3, 267 pounds, ran the 40 in 4.62 seconds and posted a 39-inch vertical leap.
"He's one of the most fun players to watch in this draft," NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. "His hands are so explosive, plays hard."
Arik Armstead's athleticism is well known in Eugene, where he played for both Oregon's football and basketball teams during his college career. Armstead is a physical force at 6-foot-7, 292 pounds, and he ran the 40 in 5.10 seconds. Tony Washington posted a 5.02 in the 40-yard dash, But Armstead figures to be drafted higher because of his big, imposing frame, as he was the tallest defensive lineman invited to the combine.
Stanford's defensive front has been responsible for the #PartyInTheBackfield movement by Cardinal football fans over the past few seasons. Two more of its key members from recent history -- Henry Anderson and David Parry -- are headed to the NFL.
Anderson opened a lot of eyes with his agility in the 20-yard shuttle drill, where his 4.19-second mark was the second-best of all defensive linemen, and he's hoping to sneak into the early rounds of the draft. Meanwhile, Parry tied for second in bench press reps with 34, but he's still viewed as an outside shot to get selected.
When you're getting compared to DeMarcus Ware, you're doing something right. Pac-12 quarterbacks have to be happy that Nate Orchard is on to the NFL after his past two productive seasons for the Utes. Orchard also impressed observers at the combine, as NFL Networks listed him as the fourth-best defensive end available.
"He's not twitchy, but he has a good get off and he's powerful," NFL Networks' Mike Mayock said. "Real powerful kid with his punch."
Don't sleep on Obum Gwacham. The unheralded pass-rusher from Oregon State posted impressive numbers in Indianapolis on Sunday, as detailed by Gina Mizell of the Oregonian. The 6-foot-5, 246-pound Gwacham's day was highilghted by his 4.72-second mark in the 40-yard dash.
Xavier Cooper can move for a big fella. Like many other observers, Doug Kyed of NESN was impressed with Cooper's 4.87-second time in the 40-yard dash. Why? Because Cooper is listed at 6-foot-3, 293 pounds. The former soccer player also showed off his quick feet during other drills, as part of his impressive overall day.
Former ASU defensive lineman Marcus Hardison didn't take part in the on-field drills Sunday. But he made 27 bench press reps on Saturday after measuring in at 6-foot-3, 307 pounds.