When the linebackers took to the field at Lucas Oil Stadium, all eyes were focused on Anthony Barr and Khalil Mack and who would leave that day heading into the pro days with the lead of one over the other.
Barr ran his 40 yard dash at 4.66 at 255 pounds, while Mack went at 4.65 at 251 pounds. Where Mack was better than Barr was in the jumps, which was surprising to me. Mack was in rare air with a vertical jump of 40” and a broad jump of 10’8”. Barr only managed a vertical of 34.5” and a broad jump of 9’11”. If you would have asked me going into the Combine which player would have been better in this area, I would have said Barr but that was not the case by a clear margin.
Once the field drills opened, I thought Barr did a better job in the wave drill of handling the movement. He looked more fluid and at ease. Mack didn’t look as quick and there were times where I thought he was guessing on which direction the coach was going to send him. He didn’t look as good is when he has to drop, turn and react. Barr had a much better handle in this type of situation.
On the bags, both Barr and Mack looked smooth when it came to working their hands with their feet. Where Mack had a little bit of an advantage is when they went around the bags as pass rushers. Mack did a better job of coming around the bag tighter than Barr. There were a couple of reps where Barr actually stumbled and looked a little off balance. Once again, this was a surprise to me because when you studied Barr coming off the edge, the one thing he can do is get his shoulder past the blocker, keeping his feet and sharpen the angle. In the drills, he just didn’t look as clean.
If you are looking for MIKE linebackers that were productive on the day, Lamin Barrow and Chris Borland were your guys. Barrow doesn’t have idea strength numbers at 22 reps at 225 but he is an explosive player with a 35” vertical jump and 10’3” broad jump. His 4.64 40 was an eye opener as well. His movements in drills were not stiff or robotic. Has some smoothness to them. His foot work was not all over the place and he was able to hold things together well.
Borland is a blast to study on tape because he is all over the place when it comes to chasing the ball. If Bill Polian was still running a team, this is the type of guy that he would have selected. I know the 4.83 40 is not ideal or the height at 5-11 but this is an outstanding football player and he showed that going through the drills. He worked through the drills with the same passion and techniques that he shows on the field. His body is compact and his movement is the same way. There are not many wasted or false steps and when it comes to reacting, he manages to do it very quickly.
I don’t know what you do with Telvin Smith at 6-3, 218 other than maybe play him on the weak side and let him run to the ball. What you see on film, you saw during the workout that he is a very quick player for having such long limbs. There is not much tightness when it comes to his movements because his arms and legs are all over the place when he is moving. On film, he is a willing hitter and when in coverage, he really is nothing special so if you are thinking about playing him at safety, he is going to have to be trained because he has been a linebacker throughout his career even going back to his days in Valdosta, Georgia as a high school player.
I thought two players from the Western part of the United States showed up at this Combine and put on a nice show were, Jordan Tripp of Montana and Jordan Zumwalt of UCLA. These were players that we had a chance to see at the Senior Bowl and they came to Indianapolis with a purpose in mind. Usually when you see linebackers in that 6-3 to 6-4 range, they don’t move as well in the drills but that was not the case at all with these guys. I really liked what I saw with Tripp and Zumwalt as overall athletes. There numbers put them right there with several of the top linebackers we are talking about in this draft. While they worked there was not that stiffness or struggle to turn and move. Both players were smooth and looked comfortable, no matter what they were asked to do. What was impressive about these players that I was waiting for them to fall apart in the drills and get sloppy but that wasn’t the case at all. It was a nice showing for both.