Much of the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine has come and gone, with a talented group of interior defensive linemen leading the show.
Entering the 2018 NFL Combine there were a few defensive linemen we were all excited to see. Washington’s Vita Vea and Michigan’s Maurice Hurst certainly led that group, but unfortunately, for different reasons, neither was able to put their talent on full display.
Vea impressed with his bench press and 40 time before being sidelined for the remainder of the on-field drills. Hurst was found to have a heart condition before participating, and we certainly wish him the best going forward.
Let’s discuss some of the defensive linemen who did perform every drill, however, and see who may best fit the Cowboys’ offseason plan.
Taven Bryan, Florida
Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan has mostly been discussed as an early day two player throughout much of the draft process. After posting a 9’11” broad jump and a 35″ vertical at 291 pounds, however, Bryan may be jolted into first round consideration.
Maybe most importantly, Bryan’s 3 cone time (7.12 seconds) was downright elite for an interior defensive lineman, and brought about a JJ Watt comparison from NFL Network. While I didn’t see “Watt-like” play on tape, Bryan’s traits are certainly intriguing.
I see Taven Bryan as more of a 3-technique than a 1-technique in Dallas, but I wouldn’t get too worked up about which spot he’d play. Bryan proved that he has the essential athletic ability to make it in the league, and has the tape to warrant top 50 selection. He’s a guy they’ll most likely have to take 19th overall if they want to secure him a spot on the team, though.
Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
Speaking of freakishly athletic defensive tackles who killed the combine, let’s talk about Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne. Payne posted a 7.58 second 3 cone time, and ran a 4.91 40 yard dash at 311 pounds(!).
If the only tape we had on Payne was from the College Football Playoff, he’d be in consideration to be a top 10-15 pick. Yes, he was that good. And those performances coupled with his testing and measurements typically result in an elite defensive tackle at the next level.
The problem with Payne is his inconsistency. Too often he disappeared on tape for long stretches of time, and didn’t make the impact at and behind the line of scrimmage that you’d hope to see from a first round defensive tackle.
Still I am willing to bet on Payne’s traits, flashes, and upside. He has a 1-2 round grade on my board, and should be in the conversation at 19 overall.
Nathan Shepherd, Fort Hays State
After putting the entire league on notice with his superb performance at the Senior Bowl, defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd confirmed his freakishness during the NFL Combine. At 6’5″ and 315 pounds, Shepherd certainly “looks the part” of an NFL defensive lineman.
Despite being over 300 pounds, Shepherd looked extremely comfortable moving during the on-field drills. He showed very impressive athleticism when moving laterally, and posted a solid 5.09 40 yard dash time. Plus, he is built like a linebacker and looks far from sloppy.
Shepherd was being talked about as a day three pick prior to the Senior Bowl, but has been rising on draft boards ever since. I wouldn’t be surprised whatsoever if he went within the first 100 picks of the 2018 NFL Draft. And with his traits, he is certainly worth the gamble to fill the Cowboys’ 1-technique need.