The tweet of the combine for me came from @RumfordJohnny. “Paul Dawson running like he hates money.” He wasn’t kidding either. Dawson’s performance was abysmal. A prototypical off-the-ball linebacker would stand about 6 feet tall, weigh about 240 pounds, run a 40 yard dash in 4.7 seconds or less and a vertical leap of at least 33″. Dawson ran an uninspiring 4.93 in the 40, had a vertical leap of only 28″. Not only did this performance make scouts question what they saw from Dawson on tape, it made them question how prepared he was for the event. For a player like Dawson with “character concerns”, that isn’t good.
Dawson wasn’t alone with his combine-related difficulties. Everyone expected former safety Shaq Thompson to run a very fast 40 time. This would have been very helpful for Shaq as he’s a little on the smaller side for an ILB. He didn’t. Thompson’s 4.64 40 was just slightly above average.
Bernardrick McKinney is another top option at the position that people assumed would test very well. He checked in just fine. He’s a very big prospect at 6’4″ 246 but performed marginally in every combine drill except for the vertical jump. His dreams of the first round might just be gone.
One player that did help himself and actually forced people to go back and check out his tape was Stephone Anthony out of Clemson. His performance on the bench press and vertical jump were more than adequate and his 40 yard dash and 20 yard shuttle were downright outstanding. He’s the type of guy that moved up boards and probably solidified himself as a day 2 prospect.
He certainly did so on my board. After the combine there are now 6 off the ball linebackers that I want at least one of on the 2015 Green Bay Packers. The only one that improved his stock at the combine (Anthony) is still probably the lowest rated option. Those players are, in order, Shaq Thompson of Washington, Eric Kendricks of UCLA, Bernardrick McKinney of Mississippi State, Paul Dawson of TCU, Denzel Perryman of Miami and Anthony.
As long as the Packers leave the 2015 selection meeting with one of those players, I don’t really care what happens other than that because Ted will take care of it. Last season all I cared about was the Packers getting one of Mosley, Shazier, Borland, Clinton-Dix or Pryor and look what happened. I also said I just didn’t want Teddy Bridgewater to end up on the Vikings. That didn’t go so well (hoping the same thing about Amari Cooper now).
As much as you think that you’d like a player that is going to end up on the Packers to do well at the combine, the overall “meh” that the ILBs put forth might have actually helped the Packers. The likelihood that the team can address a different need in the 1st round or simply take the best player available and still get one of those 6 linebackers to pair with Sam Barrington.
In fact, Todd McShay doesn’t have a single one of those 6 players going in his Mock Draft 3.0 in the first round (if you’re not an ESPN Insider you can’t read that article and you’re just going to have to believe me). I’m not saying McShay is going to be right, or even that I agree with him, but what he lays out is certainly feasible. If that scenario plays out then all 6 LBs would have to be selected between picks 33 and 62 for the Packers to miss out.
Regardless of whose mock you are reading I honestly don’t believe that all 6 players will be selected before pick 62 no matter if one or two of them slide into the first round. As much of a need as ILB is for the Packers it’s traditionally not a very highly thought of position early in the draft. QBs, OTs, Pass Rushers, and CBs all usually take precedence over off-the-ball LBs early on draft day.
I don’t really care that much about the combine numbers unless they comfirm a concern that comes up when I watch the tape. That’s not the case with most of these issues. When you watch Dawson and Thompson play they both play fast. Pro Football Focus uses one of current Raiders GM and former Packers Director of Player Personnel Reggie McKenzie’s most famous lines for one of their t-shirts: “You can never dispel what you see on tape.” I like their tape. If the combine makes them go later than they should, great.
Passing on an ILB with the 30th pick and selecting a defensive lineman (Jordan Phillips), a cornerback (Marcus Peters), or a Maxx Williams (Maxx Williams) or trading down (#teamtradedown) provides the Packers greater value than selecting the linebacker at 30 and hoping something of great value is still there at 62. To be quite honest, I have an imaginary line drawn after Thompson and Kendricks on my list. I’d prefer if the Packers didn’t take any of the ILBs that aren’t those two at 30. I have another imaginary line drawn after McKinney where if Green Bay takes Dawson or Anthony in the 1st round I’d be downright upset.
Last year, the ideal situation for me was to get either Mosley or Shazier at 21, get one of the second-tier safeties in the 2nd round and finish it off with the last of the good WRs in round 3. I was wrong about a lot of things going into that draft. I didn’t think HaHa Clinton-Dix would be available. He was. I didn’t think both Shazier and Mosley would be gone. They were. I thought that a decent safety would last until the 53rd pick and unless you believe in Tre Boston more than I do early returns would tell you that one did not.
This year I’d love to be sitting at home on Friday night, with the Packers having taken BPA with their first pick, one of those 6 linebackers second and finish things off with a pass catching running back third. Maybe that outcome is too good to come true.