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Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports


2018 NFL Combine: Day 3 Winners and Losers

Mar 4, 2018 at 9:30 PM


Day 3 of the NFL Combine saw defensive prospects take the field for the first time, and they didn't disappoint. Edge rushers in particular dominated today, and the feel-good story of yesterday continued to make news with a record-setting performance.

Winners


Shaquem Griffin - LB, Central Florida (6'0", 227)
After thrilling the crowd in the weight room (and fans across the nation) on Saturday, Griffin (who lost his left hand in childhood) took to the field on Sunday and proceeded to run a 4.38 in the 40-yard dash, setting a combine record for linebackers. In an under-reported aspect to his day, he also posted a time of 6.88 in the 3-cone drill (a test of short area quickness), which placed him in the top 5 among all linebackers this year. The only thing that seemed to slow down the 2016 AAC defensive player of the year was an apparent case of leg cramps, which noticeably impacted his ability to go full speed on many of the on-field drills. Griffin's historical and inspirational performance has, understandably, been the talk of the 2018 combine so far.

Marcus Davenport - EDGE, UTSA (6'6", 264)
Already considered one of the top edge rushers in this draft, Davenport did nothing to hurt his draft status on Sunday. In fact, the small-school defensive end, who is already thought of as a 1st-round lock in April, might have sowed up a top-15 spot with his performance by showing both long speed (running a group-best 4.58 40 time) as well as elite short-area quickness (his 1.63 10-yard split in the 40 tied for 5th overall among defensive lineman with North Carolina State's Bradley Chubb, who is widely considered the top edge rusher in this draft). With his workout today, there is no doubt that the 2017 Conference USA defensive player of the year made pass-rush needy teams in the top half of the draft stand up and take notice.

Da'Ron Payne - DT, Alabama (6'2", 311)
Payne, who was one of the heroes of Alabama's 2017 playoff/championship run, showed off his athleticism today both in the testing phase of the combine and in the on-field drills. After running a 4.95 in the 40-yard dash (which included a 10-yard split of 1.67, tied for the top spot among all interior defensive lineman), the former 5-star high school recruit took to the field for positional drills and showed incredible movement and agility skills. Payne definitely put himself in a position to challenge Washington's Vita Vea as the first interior defensive lineman to have his name called in the upcoming draft.

Ade Aruna - EDGE, Tulane (6'5", 262)
Aruna wasn't exactly a household name going into Sunday's workouts, but there is no doubt that he left his mark with a performance that rivaled (and in key areas, even surpassed) his more well-known pass-rush counterparts. Posting a 4.60 time in the 40-yard dash and a 1.60 10 yard split, he ran faster than Chubb (who ran a 4.64 40 time with a 1.63 10-yard split) and jumped considerably higher than Davenport (38.5, versus 33.5"). Though he wasn't terribly productive during his time with the Tulane Green Wave (only 11 sacks for his entire career), Aruna has the kind of physical tools and traits that could allow him to develop into a monster pass rusher at the next level.

Losers


Arden Key - EDGE, LSU (6'5", 238)
With questions swirling around him from a rough 2017 season, Key had already put himself in a hole even before arriving in Indianapolis. One of the most explosive edge rush prospects entering into last season, he unexpectedly quit his team in February only to return in June. To make matters worse, upon reporting to the team, it was revealed that he had put on over 30 pounds of weight from the previous year and was rehabbing from a recent shoulder surgery, all of which led to a very pedestrian season. With much to prove to prospective NFL employers this weekend, Key chose not to run his 40, instead deferring this key data point to his college pro day on April 4th. To his credit, there are reports that he was forthcoming with NFL executives during the face-to-face interviews regarding the "real" reason for his departure from the team last year. If teams find his explanation plausible and if he is willing to do a full workout in April, Key will have a shot at being a 1st-round selection. Unfortunately, there are still many unanswered questions about him, both on and off the field.

Josey Jewell - LB, Iowa (6'1", 234)
Jewell, a highly decorated player out of Iowa (consensus 1st-team All-American as a senior and the first 3-time captain in Hawkeye history) really struggled today in an environment where a lack of elite athleticism is sure to be exposed. His 40 time of 4.82 was 3rd worst among the linebacker group, and that lack of speed (along with some stiffness in his hips) was also evident in many of the on-field drills. He's overcome long odds before as a 2-star recruit coming out of high school and will no doubt still hear his name called in April's draft, so I wouldn't count him out in the long run. However, for someone who was projected to be a 2nd- or 3rd-round pick, today was definitely a setback.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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