Despite an injury robbing the Combine of one of its most impressive (if untraditional) athletes, the dominant defensive line class that has NFL teams so eagerly looking forward to the 2019 draft proved every bit as gifted as projected Sunday during athletic testing.
Projected top five picks Quinnen Williams and Nick Bosa did everything they needed to do (athletically-speaking) but the day belonged to Mississippi State 6-6, 260 pound edge rusher Montez Sweat, who stole the spotlight in precisely 4.41 seconds – and followed that up with a 4.46 approximately thirty minutes later.
Turning in a 40-yard dash time faster than all but seven of the 48 wide receivers invited to Indianapolis this year made Sweat the obvious headliner of the day.
The bigger story was how many phenomenal workouts were recorded Sunday, adding numerical evidence to back up what two-time NFL general manager Scot McCloughan and I characterized over the fall as the best defensive line class either of us have ever seen.
Consider this, there were seven edge rushers who posted as good or better times than the staggering 4.65 forty-yard dash turned in by Bradley Chubb at this time a year ago – and, of course, he went on to be the first pass rusher drafted a year ago and wound up recording 12 sacks for the Denver Broncos, leading all rookies.
Among them was Michigan’s Rashan Gary, who was every bit as impressive Sunday as Sweat, recording a 4.59 second 40-yard dash at 6-4, 277 pounds and excelling during his position workout, as did his teammate Chase Winovich, who slayed suggestions that he was just a try-hard player by running a 4.59 at 6-3, 256 pounds.
It wasn't just speed that should catch scouts' attention. After weighing in heavier than expected (287 pounds), Houston's Ed Oliver showed off his remarkable explosiveness, registering an eye-popping 36" vertical jump.
Florida State’s Brian Burns also changed his narrative, looking like greased lightning personified in running a 4.53 at 6-5, 249 pounds – over 20 pounds heavier than he played just three months ago for the Seminoles.
It wasn’t just the college football bluebloods seizing the spotlight on the big stage, however.
Eastern Michigan’s Maxx Crosby (4.66 at 6-5, 255!) and Charleson’s John Cominsky (4.69 at 6-5, 286!) turned in eye-popping 40-yard dash times that guarantee each will get a closer look from every team’s top brass.