By Nick Shook
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If there were any lingering questions surrounding Myles Garrett‘s status as the favorite to go first overall to Cleveland in the 2017 draft, they were cast into oblivion on Sunday.
Garrett’s workout jumped off the charts — 4.64 40, 41-inch vertical, 33 bench reps of 225 pounds, 10-foot, 8-inch broad jump at 272 pounds — had everyone in attendance raving, including NFL Network’s Rich Eisen and Mike Mayock, and should serve as one of the final convincing pieces of evidence for Garrett to go first overall on April 27.
“Everything he did just screams ‘I want to be the first pick,'” Mayock said. “Strong, drop your hips, eyes up, pound and go. He’s a natural edge rusher. I don’t care what defense you play, if you’re Cleveland and you’re looking at No. 1, (defensive coordinator) Gregg Williams likes to hunt quarterbacks, I think that’s the guy you want.”
We’ll spend the next month or so discussing potential landing spots for Garrett, but there should be only one response: Cleveland, Cleveland and Cleveland. Sunday’s workout solidified that notion.
Seriously, just look at this vertical jump, one Eisen characterized as “insane.”
It’s hard to argue with that.
All Peppers, no salt
While Garrett’s workout left those watching slack-jawed, perhaps the best show of the day came with the linebackers, and curiously included participant Jabrill Peppers. Michigan’s Mr. Do Everything said he spent his months leading up to the combine preparing for the defensive back drills, but was notified shortly before the combine that since he was listed as a linebacker for the Wolverines, he’d have to participate with the linebackers.
Peppers ran his 40 in 4.46 seconds, best of the linebackers and defensive linemen, and while he did it at 213 pounds, a simulcam showed that speed is still one to be taken seriously, no matter the position.
Peppers’ will likely play safety, burned three top-flight NFL safeties in the 40 (per the simulcam), and showed great agility and ball skills on the field. Simply put, he really did do it all — even a backflip — and did it well.
Oh, and since he’ll likely be a safety, Peppers asked if he can participate in the defensive backs drills as well, so we’ll get to see Act Two on Monday.
“I think a team’s going to take you in the first round, and from my perspective, it’s a matchup league,” Mayock told Peppers during an interview after Sunday’s events. “They can line you up at deep middle and you can go sideline to sideline like an Earl Thomas. They can drop you down on the slot either in Nickel, or just in base defense, and on third-and-4, if they’re playing the Pittsburgh Steelers and they want you to cover Le’Veon Bell in the sub package, you can do that too.”
Peppers agreed and added he can be thrown into a few more situations: punt return, kick return, punt coverage, and on Sunday, film analyst (of his own film). We’ll see how he stacks up against fellow defensive backs Monday, but after Sunday, he’s sure to be on the radar of most, if not all 32 NFL teams.
Solomon closer to his coronation
Stanford’s Solomon Thomas took the field at 273 pounds but moved with a swiftness that’s reserved for only the planet’s top athletes. It didn’t go unnoticed.
The former Cardinal defensive lineman ran a 4.70 40, worked his way through the drills with smooth agility and footwork usually reserved for players weighing much less than him, and grabbed the attention of Mayock in the process.
“Keep checking those boxes, Solomon,” Mayock said after Thomas finished the lateral bag drill.
As for his full breakdown, Mayock left Thomas with quite a lofty projection.
“(Thomas) sets a physical edge outside, can move inside, ran an outstanding 40,” Mayock said. “The field drills blew me away when they put him into the linebacker drills at 273. Very similar to Garrett, he checked every box today.
“People want to compare him to Aaron Donald, that’s a little bit rich and he’s 12 pounds light for that, but he’s got a real quick get-off, he can beat you inside, set the edge outside. He’s made a case for being a potential top 10 pick in this draft.”
Temple standout Haason Reddick turned heads with a 4.52 40 early on Sunday, and looked even better in the field drills. Mayock was chomping at the bit to compliment the defensive end, who showed in his drills that he’s more than capable of playing without his hand in the ground.
“Look at him,” Mayock said. “I keep telling people, he was a safety in high school. He’s done some of this before. He can drop his hips and change direction and if there’s one guy who’s made money since the season ended by checking off every box, it’s Haason Reddick.”
Reddick’s 40 was the launchpad for a day that left Mayock giving the defender a very high grade moving forward.
“You’re looking at today’s first round, inside, off the ball linebacker,” Mayock said.
Ohio State’s Raekwon McMillan reached the combine with a little something to prove, coming off a season that ended with Ohio State surrendering 31 points to eventual national champion Clemson. His tape looks good, but his workout was even better.
“Looked really smooth in the field drills, his tape at Ohio State is very good, athletically what he’s trying to show is he can stay on the field for three downs, which enhances his value,” Mayock said. “I think he’s making an emphatic statement and if you’re looking for an off-the-ball linebacker who can play all day, (McMillan is) your guy.”
McMillan showed a natural ability to sink his hips in his cuts and displayed an athleticism that made scouts perk up. He was outstanding in the field drills and showed he can play in all scenarios, a sentiment NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah echoed as Sunday’s events wrapped up.
It wasn’t a surprise, considering the combine workout his older brother put together back in 2011, but T.J. Watt was a standout Sunday. Even J.J. thought so:
J.J. provided the measureables for us, so we don’t have to (thanks, Justin James). His pro comparison was Clay Matthews Jr., and yes, the pedigree was one of the strong points. It’s hard to dispute when the track record is so strong.
Notoroiously subdued Bill Belichick made his way to the NFL Network booth in the press box on Sunday, and after Eisen and Mayock twisted his arm, got on the mic. The result: campfire stories with his old pupil, former Patriots linebacker and current NFL Network analyst Willie McGinest. We’ll just let you enjoy it below.
Below is a collection of the best quick hits on participants from Mayock and fellow NFL Network analysts.
» Pittsburgh defensive tackle Ejuan Price: “The easy comparison is (Elvis) Dumervil because he’s only 5-11 3/8. Explosive kid.”
» Alabama defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson: “This kid showed up on tape for me … had one really good year at Alabama and he’s going to be a good defensive tackle in the NFL.”
» Tulane defensive tackle Tanzel Smart: “Good tape. Hard-working dude.”
» Boston College linebacker Matt Milano: “His tape’s fun to watch. He kind of played a hybrid linebacker/safety role and he is everywhere, and he’s a great special teams player. He blocked three punts. 4.67, a good time for him, and he’s going to play for somebody, starting as a special teams player and then probably as a sub-package linebacker.”
» Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham: “I’ve got two names written on the bottom of my sheet for Zach Cunningham: Daryl Washington and Alex Ogletree. Obivously both long, high-cut guys. The whole key with Zach Cunningham is if you can keep him off the big bodies, keep him clean, he makes a ton of plays. He can really run. He’s got some missed tackles too, you’d like to see him get stronger. I love the kid and the way he plays. Two questions I would have is one, why no interceptions in 36 games? And two, you’ve got to clean up some of the missed tackles.”
» Boise State linebacker Tanner Vallejo: “Nine games this year, had surgery on his right wrist in November. I watched his tape earlier in the year, he had wrist problems on both arms, he wore protection. It was hard to tell whether he could run or not. I think those 40s helped clean things up in people’s minds.”
» Northwestern linebacker Anthony Walker Jr.: “Walker opens it up better than I thought he could. Two really solid runs for him. Thought he was outstanding in the tackle box.”
» Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware: “First time I put the tape on him, I’m writing down how fast he is, all the measurements, then you just notice how often he gets to the football. And finally, my final note on the whole thing was he’ll be a late draftable or priority free agent, will make a team, will play special teams and ultimately start. He’s just that kind of kid. He grows on you. … That son of a gun is energized.”
“The one thing a lot of people say is his energy, bringing guys together, he’s a natural leader,” NFL Network analyst Willie McGinest said. “And he does have a nose for the football. He may not always be in great position but he finds the football and he sticks his nose in piles and he makes tackles.”
» UCLA linebacker Jayon Brown: “He kind of reminds me of a Su’a Cravens,” McGinest said.
» Kansas State linebacker Jordan Phillips: “Helped himself as much as any of the linebackers,” NFL Network analyst Charles Davis said.
» “Ooh, I look pretty big on TV.” –Jabrill Peppers on Jabrill Peppers