NFL Scouting Combine: Separating fact from fiction for Day 3 stars

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday in Indianapolis marked the high point of the NFL Scouting Combine, as Day 3 featured the highly-touted defensive line and linebacker groups.

A number of players stood out as particularly impressive due to incredible testing numbers, but not all workout warriors will find success at the next level. With that in mind, it’s time to separate fact from fiction for the biggest stars from Day 3 of the NFL Scouting Combine.

Fact: Nick Bosa solidified himself as the top non-quarterback

First of all, clearly Bosa is fully healthy after rehabbing from the surgery on his core muscle injury last year. He had a phenomenal overall NFL Scouting Combine, showing up adequately in the 40, looking fantastic on the field and then posting the fourth-best time in the 3 cone drill. His footwork is meticulous. He has plenty of strength, speed, and quickness. And his work on the field playing for Ohio State speaks for itself. Bosa probably will not be the first player taken, but he’ll be the first non-quarterback selected in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Fiction: Rashan Gary got a huge boost

The former Michigan star tested through the roof in the 40 and the two jumps. His official time of 4.58 seconds in the 40 was best among all defensive linemen not counting EDGE players, his 38-inch vertical was also tops, and his 10-foot broad jump was second-best. These are awesome numbers. They certainly show his explosive potential. Yet that’s the rub: Gary had all that potential at Michigan but never lived up to it. Teams will be wary of drafting this workout warrior too early.

Fact: Montez Sweat is a sure-fire top-10 pick

Like D.K. Metcalf a day earlier, Sweat was the talk of the NFL Scouting Combine on Day 3. This 6-foot-6, 260-pound man ran his 40 in 4.41 seconds, which really is just mind-boggling. That’s faster than Odell Beckham Jr. and most NFL receivers. Sweat also has the type of body NFL teams look for in an edge rusher with long arms and room to grow. He’s not as fluid in space as some of the other edge rushers. But teams that want him solely for his pass-rushing prowess (30 tackles for loss and 22.5 sacks the past two years) will be itching to land him in the top-10 of the draft.

Fiction: Brian Burns is now a top-10 pick

There can be no doubt that Burns helped himself on Sunday. He ran very fast (4.53 seconds in the 40) and posted excellent numbers in the broad jump and vertical. He also looked extremely natural moving around in space on the field and posted a rock-solid 7.01-second 3 cone drill. Yet it would be foolish to suggest that his outstanding combine workout makes him a top-10 pick. Mid-to-late-first round? Sure. He has potential to grow into his lanky frame and become a tremendous outside linebacker. Yet his development will take time.

Fact: Chase Winovich boosted his stock

Coming out of Michigan, Winovich was seen as a pure-effort guy whose maniacal, never-stop motor had much to do with his production in college. He’s not considered to be as explosive off the edge as some of the other top edge rushers in this year’s draft class. Yet two numbers stand out that really will make teams rethink how he could be an effective pass rusher at the NFL level. First, his 4.59-second 40 was very good and surprised many people. Secondly, Winovich’s 6.94-second 3 cone drill was an elite number (second-best among EDGE prospects), especially for someone weighing in at 256 pounds.

Fiction: Gary Johnson is an instant-impact starter 

Devin Bush and Devin White came into the NFL Scouting Combine widely regarded as the two best linebackers, and they both had outstanding numbers on Sunday to back that up. Johnson was a third wheel in this group of elite testing linebackers on the field in Indianapolis, posting a 4.43-second 40. Yet that speed, while impressive, does not tell the whole story. Johnson will struggle to make an instant impact at the NFL level due to his lack of agility and strength, which is even more of a problem due to his lack of size (6-foot and 226 pounds).

Fact: Josh Allen is a top-five pick

On a day when Montez Sweat blew the hinges off the NFL Scouting Combine, Allen’s performance was somewhat overlooked. His 4.63-second 40 was seventh-best among EDGE defenders, and his 1.61-second 10-yard split was outstanding. Allen also showed good movement on the field and posted a decent 7.15-second 3 cone drill. He’s strong, quick, and was one of the best pass rushers in the nation last year for Kentucky (17 sacks and five forced fumbles). He’s going to be selected very early and is a lock for the top five barring a crazy run at quarterback.

Fiction: Ed Oliver hurt his stock by not running

The (ridiculous) knock on Oliver coming into the NFL Scouting Combine is that he’s not big enough to play defensive tackle at the NFL level. Oliver dispelled that by showing up with 287 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame. He then showed that the weight isn’t weighing him down by posting top-four numbers in both the vertical and broad jump.

Yet Oliver didn’t run on Sunday in Indy, prompting some to wonder if that was due to some extra weight that he’ll shed before his pro day later this month. Really, all of that speculation is lame. Oliver showed he’s strong and skilled enough to play inside during his tenure at Louisville. He’s one of the best of a strong group of defensive tackles and will be selected very early in the first round come April.

Fact: Devin White is the best linebacker in this year’s class

Before he ever took the field Sunday at the NFL Scouting Combine, White was considered by most to be the best pure linebacker in this year’s draft class. He absolutely flies from sideline to sideline, is incredibly quick to react to what he sees and was a tackling machine the past two years at LSU. Then he tore up the combine, posting one of the fastest 40 times by a linebacker in combine history (4.42 seconds), jumping out of the gym and looking like a natural on the field during drills. He’s a top-15 pick (at worst) and clearly the best inside linebacker coming out of college this year.

Fiction: Devin Bush is in Devin White’s class

The two Devins were on fire Sunday for Day 3 of the NFL Scouting Combine. Bush, the Michigan product, was barely slower in the 40 (4.43 seconds) than White, and he posted better numbers in the broad jump, vertical, and 3 cone drill. He’s clearly an elite athlete and has the tools to become a dynamic linebacker at the NFL level. Yet he’s still not in White’s class as a three-down linebacker ready to make an immediate impact as a rookie in 2019. Bush isn’t as instinctive and isn’t nearly as explosive when reading and reacting to plays in real time. He’ll almost certainly be the second inside linebacker selected, though, and has a real chance to shine in time.