Mar 7, 2011
In this series of articles related to the 2011 NFL Draft, we’ll take a look at the effects that the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine had–either positively or negatively–on well-known and lesser known draft prospects on both sides of the ball. These players demonstrated that they have the skills needed to potentially make an impact at the professional level. To be clear, the results of Combine tests and drills only go so far in determining future success. All we have to do is look at the professional careers of former top-five picks like Vince Young, JaMarcus Russell, Courtney Brown and Alex Smith to see that there’s no guarantee of future success. All these guys displayed drool-inducing abilities at the Scouting Combine, only to achieve very limited success or rather differing degrees of failure in their respective NFL careers. So while running the 40-yard dash in 4.35 seconds or recording a 44-inch vertical leap undoubtedly indicates the type of athleticism that would play well at the next level, the Combine is only the beginning. This article discusses the defensive prospects whose stock is on the rise after impressive showings at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine.
Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama Crimson Tide
Dareus made a name for himself on the national stage when he was named Defensive MVP in Alabama’s 2010 BCS National Championship game against Texas. He showed up at the Combine in great shape and made his case for being the No. 1 defensive tackle in this year’s Draft class. He posted a 4.92 second time in the 40-yard dash and a 10-yard split of 1.66 seconds–a tenth of a second faster than his chief competitor, Auburn’s Nick Fairley. Dareus also produced a three-cone drill time of 7.83 seconds and managed 24 reps of 225 pounds at the bench press. When you consider that Dareus stands just over 6’3” and weighs a hefty 319 pounds, these numbers are particularly impressive. Dareus is one of an increasing number of defensive linemen who possess the girth and power to excel at tackle, but also have the requisite athleticism to play end. What makes Dareus an even more attractive draft prospect is that he played in Nick Saban’s pro-style defense and has the potential to emerge as a starter as soon as he enters the league.
Dareus’ NFL Comparison: Tommy Harris, Chicago Bears
Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State Beavers
Massive defensive tackle Paea etched his name into the Combine history books last week when he took to the bench press and lifted 225 pounds a record 49 times. The Tongan native put on quite a show for onlookers and his remarkable display of strength no doubt opened the eyes of teams in need of a nose tackle. Though he only started playing football six years ago, Paea effectively uses his short, wide body to occupy space and swallow up ball carriers. Although he is a bit raw, with a few years to develop in the right system, Paea has a chance to develop into one of the better run-stuffers in the league.
Paea’s NFL Comparison: Kelly Gregg, Baltimore Ravens
Sam Acho, DE, Texas Longhorns
Acho undoubtedly jumped up draft boards thanks to an excellent showing at the Combine. His 6’1 5’8” 262-pound frame will likely keep him from being a first-round pick, but after putting up impressive measurable including 4.68 seconds in the 40, 4.32 seconds in the shuttle and a three-cone drill time of 6.69 seconds, Acho proved that he’s got the tools to become an elite pass-rusher in the NFL. In addition to working out as a defensive end, Acho also participated in linebacker drills, where he exhibited the type of burst needed to make the switch. It’s open for debate as to whether Acho has what it takes to hold up against the run, but he has the potential to be a quarterback’s worst nightmare. This was certainly the case during his junior and senior years at Texas, when he totaled 115 tackles and 16 sacks.
Acho’s NFL Comparison: Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts
Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M Aggies
Miller affirmed the notion that he’s a surefire top-five talent in the 2011 Draft class when he flashed the speed of a running back or a receiver in his linebacker body. While Miller measured an above average height (6’2 5/8”) and weight (246 pounds), he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds, the 20-yard shuttle in 4.06 seconds, the 60-yard shuttle in 11.15 seconds and the three-cone drill in 6.70 seconds. All four times were first among linebackers. For good measure, Miller also finished first in the broad jump (10 feet, 6 inches), and in second in the broad jump (37 inches). Anyone who watched a Texas A&M game during the past two years knows Miller is a freak, but he absolutely put the rest of the linebacker corps to shame with his remarkable effort at the Combine. Miller is a natural born pass-rusher who should immediately step in as a force for the franchise that is lucky enough to draft him in April.
Miller’s NFL Comparison: Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens
Colin McCarthy, LB, Miami Hurricanes
McCarthy made himself some extra dough with a strong all-around performance at the Scouting Combine. The 6’1 3/8” 238-pound linebacker turned in the top 40-time of 4.65 seconds, along with a 20-yard shuttle time of 4.20 seconds. He also recorded a 9-foot, 11-inch broad jump and a vertical leap of 36.5 inches. McCarthy racked up a team-high 119 tackles for the Hurricanes during his senior year. He’s considered an excellent tackler with good instincts who is also good at defending the pass. McCarthy received glowing reviews for his performance at the 2011 Senior Bowl, where he picked up three tackles. It’s an open question as to whether McCarthy’s college acumen, particularly his ability to shed bigger, stronger blockers, will translate to the NFL. For now at least, McCarthy demonstrated that he owns the tools necessary to make that transition.
McCarthy’s NFL Comparison: Chris Gocong, Cleveland Browns
Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU Tigers
Other than completely imploding during his media session or team interviews, there was little that Peterson could have done, good or bad, to change the overwhelming consensus that he’s the best defensive back in the 2011 NFL Draft. Nonetheless that doesn’t take away from what was an outstanding Combine for the reigning SEC Defensive and Special Teams MVP. Peterson, who measured in at 6’0 1’4” and 219 pounds, tied with Maryland running back DaRel Scott for the second-fastest time in the 40-yard dash, posting a blazing time of 4.34 seconds. He finished eighth overall in the three-cone drill (6.58 seconds) and his vertical jump of 38 inches and 10-foot, 6-inch broad jump also impressed. . Peterson also put on quite a performance during positional drills, demonstrating the athleticism, skills and fluidity that make him one of the elite defensive prospects in his class. There’s no doubt that his Combine performance further secured his position as the top defensive back in his class. Now the question becomes: Is Peterson the best player in the 2011 NFL Draft class? Only time will tell.
Peterson’s NFL Comparison: Nnamdi Asomugha, Oakland Raiders
Chris Culliver, DB, South Carolina Gamecocks
Culliver needed a strong performance at the Combine to prove that he’s fully recovered from a torn pectoral muscle that sidelined him for the second half of his senior season. He did that and more–much more. Culliver really turned some heads when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.40 seconds, good enough for third among defensive backs. He followed that with a 38.5-inch vertical jump, second-best at his position. Culliver is one of the more versatile players in the 2011 NFL Draft. He possesses the speed, acceleration, instincts and ball-hawking skills to make it as either a corner or a safety in the NFL. In addition to his skills as a defender, Culliver is an excellent kick return man. Not only is he South Carolina’s s all-time leader with 2,476 return yards , he’s also third in SEC history in kick returns and kick return yards. While he isn’t great in run support and is still developing awareness in coverage, Culliver has the tools to become an above-average defender in the NFL. His Combine showing probably boosted his stock to a mid-round selection.
Culliver’s NFL Comparison: Vincent Fuller, Tennessee Titans
DeMarcus Van Dyke, CB, Miami Hurricanes
An article about defensive prospects whose draft stock was on the rise would be incomplete if it didn’t include DeMarcus Van Dyke. g The former Miami Hurricane ran the 40-yard dash in a blistering 4.28 seconds, tops among all Combine participants. While Van Dyke is more ”track star” than Darrelle Revis at this point in his career, he has the one thing that even the greatest of coaches can’t teach–speed. Van Dyke started just 21 games in his college career as a nickel cornerback at Miami and he’s far from a finished product. In fact, he’s the prototypical developmental corner who won’t be a reliable defender for at least a couple of years. On the positive side, his ceiling is quite high and the team that selects Van Dyke can probably wait until Round 6 to grab him.
Van Dyke’s NFL Comparison: Orlando Scandrick, CB, Dallas Cowboys