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2018 NFL Combine results: 3 Winners, 3 Losers from the defensive ends

The Lions need a pass rusher, so we’ve looked at who helped and who hurt their stock at the Combine.

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

While most agree that this year’s edge class is down when compared to previous years, there was no shortage of athleticism in the group. There were a few players, some of which we’ll talk about, that many believed may not test well, but for the most part, this group is full of raw and athletic prospects that maybe need a little work.

Injury concerns also play a part of why this edge class isn’t viewed as highly, but for NFL Combine week, things like that usually get answered in some measure. So, once again, we’re going to take a look at the winners and losers from the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine, using RAS with projected splits to show how measurements stack up all time.

Winner by pure eliteness: Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State

I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that no player helped their draft stock more than Josh Sweat did. Sweat hasn’t been talked about much due to some medical issues, and one of the first things he checked off was passing medicals with a “middle of the road” grade.

Sweat came across as confident, borderline arrogant during his interviews, but he said he was going to run in the 4.5s, he did. He said he was going to jump 40 inches in the vert, he missed it by only half an inch. Said he was going to broad jump over 10 feet, and he did. It’s only arrogant if you can’t do it.

Loser by matching concerns: Dorance Armstrong, DE/OLB, Kansas

Dorance Armstrong was mentioned in my piece about players who weren’t expected to measure well coming into the combine, and, well, he didn’t measure well. Like I projected pre-Combine, he didn’t measure out terribly, but middle of the road isn’t usually acceptable for NFL clubs unless you have something special about you. Armstrong simply lacks that wow factor that would make this sort of performance good enough. With strong agility numbers, one could still sell Armstrong as a poor man’s Derek Barnett, but his stock took a big hit in Indy.

Winner by memory: Harold Landry, DE, Boston College

Another Combine performance I mentioned last week, Harold Landry had a down year in 2017 and some were considering him a fringe first rounder instead of the obviously first-round pass rusher he was on tape. The performance he put on in drills, after clearing medicals and posting elite numbers across the board athletically, put him back on the map of anyone who forgot he played before 2017 and cemented his spot in the first round.

Loser by adding questions: Arden Key, DE, LSU

Despite a lackluster RAS so far, as shown, Arden Key didn’t measure that poorly. He just skipped his 40 and posted an unexpectedly poor vertical, which is counterweighted by strong agility drills and broad. It is his weight and how he answered concerns about his character and preparation that hurt him a bit in Indy.

Key has been working with Chuck Smith to prepare for the Combine (and indeed has been training with him since high school), but has also been dealing with medical issues that plagued him throughout his college career. I didn’t hear how his medicals went, but he skipped the 40 due to both medical concerns and concerns about being ready. In a way, it’s smart, since LSU has a very favorable track for putting up a good time. Still, medical concerns persist despite claiming no lingering surgeries are needed.

More than anyone in this position group, a strong pro day and meetings will affect his draft stock. Key still hasn’t publicly answered concerns about why he left football at LSU, and his weight fluctuated from the 280s to the 230s.

Winner by potential: Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA

Marcus Davenport was projected to measure in the Ezekiel Ansah range, and while he fell short of that lofty goal—and it’s not really fair to him as a player expectation—he still managed to put up some very fine numbers athletically. Davenport was never going to hit the elite agility numbers that Ansah put up at his size, but he put up strong numbers across the board and even measured in faster than the former Lions’ first-round pick.

From what I’ve seen, his shoulders checked out medically as well. Davenport walks out of the week no better than he entered it, but he kept there from being any talk of being overrated athletically or technically, which is a big win.

Loser from sleeping too hard: Darius Jackson, DE, Jacksonville State

Darius Jackson had developed some sleeper buzz entering the Combine, but I’d be surprised if he leaves with it. He disappointed in almost every way in Indianapolis and it’s hard to go back to his tape and think he can overcome these types of limitations without significantly more tools in his box to work with. Jackson will still likely get drafted late, but it’ll be by a team that runs more three-man fronts and don’t ask for much running in space from their edge guys.

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