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5 things we learned from combine Monday

02.24.14 at 7:47 pm ET

Five things we learned from the combine Monday:

1. Jadeveon Clowney is fast

Knowing what we already know — he wanted to run a 4.4 — it wasn’t that much of a surprise. But the sight of Clowney posting a 4.47 in his first unofficial 40 (and a 4.53 as his official time) was impressive. In a video package produced by NFL Network that had video of Clowney’€™s 40 overlaid on Johnny Manziel‘€™s 40, it was astounding to see Clowney beat Manziel down the line — and Manziel has some serious speed. The 6-foot-5, 266-pound defensive lineman out of South Carolina remains the preeminent defensive player in this draft, and regardless of what Dee Ford thinks (the fellow defensive lineman reiterated his claim Monday that Clowney plays like a “dog in a meat house”€), it’€™s becoming more and more evident that he’€™s establishing himself as the first pick in the draft.

2. Aaron Donald did a lot to bolster his stock

The undersized defensive lineman (6-foot, 285 pounds) out of Pitt had a good 2013, but he continued to impress at the combine — on Monday, he posted a 4.84 in the 40, to go along with the 32-inch vertical and 35 reps on the bench. There’€™s a little bit of Vince Wilfork in Donald’€™s game, from the body type to the versatility to something of an underdog mentality. At the start of the pre-draft process, we pegged him as someone who might be available to New England at No. 29 overall, but with his performance this week, it appears he’€™s done well enough to vault himself into at least the middle of the first round.

3. Khalil Mack will be the small-school guy who makes good this year

The University of Buffalo linebacker built on an impressive season with an excellent performance on the field on Monday. The 6-foot-2, 251-pounder now can boast of some of the most impressive measureables of any defender to this point in the combine — he was among the tops at his position in the 40 (4.65), vertical jump (40 inches), broad jump (10-foot-8) and the 20-yard shuttle (4.18). While there have been some questions about where he stacks up because of the strength of UB’€™s schedule, a look at the game film reveals a player who dominated when he was given the chance to face elite-level competition. Almost a certain Top 10 pick at this point in the pre-draft process.

4. Michael Sam still has a ways to go

The Mizzou defensive end posted decent numbers in the 40 on Monday, but did not distinguish himself from the rest of the defensive linemen and linebackers. He had a 4.91 40 time (by way of comparison, it was the exact same time posted by Princeton defensive tackle Caraun Reid of Princeton, a 302-pounder), and a 25 1/2 inch vertical leap (again, for comparisons sake,  Vince Wilfork hit the 26-inch mark when he was a college at the combine). We don’€™t know how he’€™s done with the interview portion of the combine, but from an on-field perspective, the 6-foot-2, 266-pounder — who made his bones as a pass rusher in college — might not have the skill set need to make the jump to 3-4 outside/rush linebacker at the NFL level. (Especially when measured against some of his contemporaries, who looked very good on Monday.) One school of thought is that if he could shed some weight (and perhaps develop more speed as a result), he could move inside, as well as possibly provide more special teams value.

5. Boston College linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis opened some eyes

Pierre-Louis had the fastest time of any of the linebackers on Monday, finishing the 40 in 4.51. He was also second among he linebackers in the short shuttle with a time of 4.02 and third in his position grouping with a 10-foot-8 finish in the broad jump and 39 inches in the vertical leap. The 6-foot-1, 225-pounder came into the combine as a late-round possibility (or even an undrafted free agent), but he should enjoy a post-combine bump because of his performance on Monday.

Read More: 2014 combine, Aaron Donald, Caraun Reid, Jadeveon Clowney



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