With the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine arriving this week, it is time to start previewing some of the participants that are worth keeping an eye on for the Jaguars are 5 key positions of need: Defensive Line, Edge Rusher, Linebacker, Secondary, and Running Back.
Why is the combine important for Defensive Lineman?
There are a lot of people who can explain the important of the combine for front 7 players a lot better than I can. If you are looking for the go-to guy for Combine analysis and its importance, you should talk to my friend Justis Mosqueda (@Jumosq)
But essentially, when you are evaluating prospects there are 3 major proponents that play into it; On-field performance, career production, and physical metrics.
Over the next week, you will likely hear a thousand times that the combine is inferior to what the player puts on the field and should be taken with a grain of salt, but that isn't true. The combine is a huge part of the evaluation process.
One obvious reason is because of how much athleticism factors into the success of most NFL players. Some players can have poor combine performances and still succeed, but it is unlikely to be a top tier player in the NFL without being a top tier athlete. Look at Julio Jones, Von Miller, Cam Newton, and Ndamukong Suh. All of them are elite football players for a number of reasons but one of the biggest reasons is because they are elite athletes.
This athleticism is maybe most important in the trenches. NFL Defensive Lineman are pound for pound the best athletes in the league and their position group is the most impactful on the defensive side of the ball. If you are looking for game changers on the defensive line then you are looking for premier athletes.
And that is why the Jaguars need to pay special attention to the defensive line group this weekend. No matter what avenue they take, they need to add more athletes to their trenches. The reason the Jaguars have been up to the task of defending the run for stretches but have been completely anemic against the pass is because they have let lesser athletes and more run oriented players play big snaps. with the only true impact defender being Sen'Derrik Marks who is now also a question mark.
With that said, here are some Defensive Lineman whose combine performances are worth tracking.
If there is anyone who is likely to walk out of mobile with the most buzz around his performance, it is Ole Miss Defensive Tackle Robert Nkemdiche.
There is a multitude of questions surrounding Nkemdiche on and off the field, but the one takeaway that everyone who has ever laid eyes on him is that he is an elite athlete.
2 of the most explosive Defensive Tackles at the combine in recent years are Ndamakong Suh and Ra'Shede Hageman. Suh had a 35 1/2" vertical jump at 6'4", 307 lbs. Hageman had the same broad jump but at 2" taller and 3 lbs heavier.
Nkemdiche is likely to measure in at a lighter weight than Suh and Hageman, but he has the potential to put up similarly impressive results in the explosion drills.
Bucker is a wildcard of an athlete. The role he played in Oregon's Defense didn't really do anyone favors when it came to getting a good grasp for just how athletic Buckner is.
And this is why the combine is so important for some players stocks. Bucker is already being talked about as a top 10 pick with his athleticism largely unknown, but if he is able to test well at 6'7" and 290+ lbs, you will not stop hearing his name for the next several months,
Compared to Nkemdiche, Jones is the lesser known freak athlete Defensive Lineman in the SEC, but at times, he is still every bit as impressive on the field. He displays rare agility and explosion for a lineman his size and has shown the athletic ability to beat both Interior Lineman and Offensive Tackles.
But, his play is wildly inconsistent. And unlike Nkemdiche he has not had every one of his moves followed since he was in high school, so he is still flying a bit under the radar.
The combine is huge for players like Jones. If he can test well, he can make some teams feel more comfortable with the inconsistent play because his upside will be massive.
With Nose Tackle size (6'4", 325 lbs), Butler's on-field athleticism is eye-popping. He has the agility and fluidity of a player 40 lbs lighter.
Butler has on field production and on-field performance. The only piece of the puzzle missing with Butler is his athletic testing, but he is expected to do very, very well in this regard. And when he does, expect to start hearing top 35 pick buzz more and more.
A lesser known player compared to others on this list, Maddy has maybe the most to gain at the combine.
There are players like Maddy in every draft class. Huge unknowns because of their situation on their college teams, the combine can be the deciding factor when it comes to them going undrafted or hopping onto NFL teams radars.
Maddy is a good example of that type of player this year. He was used in unconventional ways by Virginia Tech and because of this both his on-field play and his production suffered, but he was still able to display some impressive NFL traits and athleticism.
But still, when there is a lack of on-field impact for whatever reasons it is going to be hard to pull the trigger on drafting a player. This problem can be absolved to a degree though with an impressive combine performance. Within the context of Maddy's situation, there is no event bigger for his future as a prospect than the NFL combine.