Today's NFL Scouting Combine drills featured defensive linemen and linebackers, including a lot of pass rushers the Bucs could be interested in. Before we delve into the different performances, keep in mind that these are all drills without pads in a controlled environment. The only thing being measured here is athleticism, not playing skills. Game tape overrides any workout performance in my opinion. You can be the best athlete in the world, but if you can't play football you won't get on the field. And skill and instincts can make up for some athletic deficiencies. Also keep in mind that the differences in performance between players we're talking about are often very small. With all that said, let's delve into some of the defensive ends that performed today that I can see being Buccaneers come May.
If you don't see a particular drill time listed for a player, it means he wasn't one of the top 15 players within his position for that drill. And that means I couldn't find his performance at the NFL Combine website. Note that the player simply could have declined to participate in the drill.
DE Dontay Moch: 40-yard dash: 4.44s, Vertical Jump: 42.0", Broad Jump: 10'8", 3-cone drill: 7.09s, 20-yard shuttle: 4.38s
This Defensive End out of Nevada blew up the combine with the top performance among defensive linemen in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump and broad jump all by significant margins. He added a top 15 performance in the 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. Moch is very fast and explosive, and had a productive career at Nevada with 26 sacks over his last 3 seasons. His explosion clearly shows up in the broad jump and vertical jump, but a lack of short-area quickness may have shown up in the 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. But it's hard to deny that Moch is a phenomenal athlete - the problem is that for a defensive end he's also a small athlete at 6'1" 248 lbs. That could be too small to play defensive end, but he could still fit well as a linebacker in the Bucs defense. Right now he isn't much more than a tremendous athlete with some intriguing potential. But he is definitely someone to keep an eye on, he could be drafted in the third or even second round. Of course, if a team falls in love with his athleticism and speed he could go a lot higher too.
DE Sam Acho: 40-yard dash: 4.68s, Vertical Jump: 33.5", 3-cone drill: 6.69s, 20-yard shuttle: 4.32s
Acho is a Defensive End out of Texas and a former teammate of Bucs DT Roy Miller. Unlike Roy Miller, he is a pass rusher, gathering 16 sacks over his last 2 seasons. Like Moch, he is a tremendous athlete, though not as undersized. Although he's still on the small side for the position, at 262 lbs. there's no need to move him to outside linebacker and he could function well as a right end - if he can translate his athleticism to pass rushing skills in the NFL. His 4.68s 40-yard dash is very good for the position, but the fact that he didn't do nearly as well in the broad and vertical jump suggests that he lacks some explosion and burst. But his excellent performance in the 3 cone drill - a combine record for D-linemen - and 20-yard shuttle show his excellent short-area quickness, a very useful trait for any defensive lineman. The lack of an explosive burst and average production as a pass rusher move him down and I don't see him going anywhere in the first two rounds of the draft, and I think he rates behind Dontay Moch. Some draft analysts do see him as a second-round pick, though, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.
DE Ryan Kerrigan: 40-yard dash: 4.71s, Vertical Jump: 33.5", Broad Jump: 10'2", 3-cone drill: 7.18s, Bench Press: 31
Kerrigan definitely surprised me with his combine performance, as I thought he would start to slip due to his limited athleticism. But it looks like I was wrong to some extent. he posted good numbers in the 40-yard dash and vertical jump, and his Broad Jump was second only to Sam Acho - signifying some impressive explosive burst. He also had one of the best bench presses among defensive ends, who mostly didn't make it to the top 15 performers among defensive linemen at that drill. Still, he didn't do well in the 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle, which shows me he lacks some short-area quickness. Before the combine I thought of Kerrigan as a second-round guy who would be a solid defensive end but never excel at anything. Now I think he has a shot at being an impact pass rusher, though I still think that the Bucs can do better than Kerrigan at the #20 pick. But despite my misgivings, Kerrigan has been a very consistent producer over the past years for Purdue and the Bucs could fall in love with his production and work ethic.
DE Aldon Smith: 40-yard dash: 4.78s, Vertical Jump: 33.5", Broad Jump: 9'10"
Coming into the combine I was very high on Aldon Smith, and I still am. But the fact that he didn't put up any top-15 times in the 3-cone drill or 20-yard shuttle (I don't know if he actually performed in these), and the good but not great performance in the other 3 drills disappointed me a little bit. I expected him to do well and raise his stock, but instead he didn't do much of anything at the combine. But looking at the performance of the player I keep coming back to when I watch him play, I guess this performance shouldn't surprise me: it was no worse than Jason Pierre-Paul's last year. Like the Giants DE, Smith is big, athletic, powerful and raw. What stands out about both players is their huge arms, and although Smith is a less talented than Pierre-Paul he's also not quite as raw. I'm really high on Smith, although I doubt he makes it to #20. I wouldn't mind it if Mark Dominik traded up a couple spots to secure the Missouri DE's services.