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NFL Combine - Day 5

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Projecting the Packers’ 2020 NFL Draft board at linebacker

Off-ball linebacker is finally a position where there is some decent data to project out the Packers’ ideal fits in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Each year, those of us who cover the Green Bay Packers like to use the team’s seemingly established thresholds or benchmarks for agility testing to project that players will be on the team’s radar. This year is no different, as we at Acme Packing Company have tried to do just that at the wide receiver, cornerback, and safety positions already.

Today, it’s time to break down the off-ball linebackers. For this exercise, I decided to start from scratch to try to redefine the team’s benchmarks by looking at past Ted Thompson and Brian Gutekunst draft picks at linebacker. To do so, I examined 12 draft picks from 2006 through 2019, a group that includes seven players who were drafted as off-ball linebackers and four who ended up moving from outside linebacker to the inside at some point in their Packers career. The groups include the following:

Pure off-ball LBs: Oren Burks (2018), Blake Martinez (2016), Jake Ryan (2015), Sam Barrington (2013), Terrell Manning (2012), D.J. Smith (2011), Desmond Bishop (2007), A.J. Hawk (2006)

EDGE to off-ball LB: Vince Biegel (2017), Carl Bradford (2014), Nate Palmer (2013), Brad Jones (2009)

Here’s a look at the testing numbers for those players. Pro Day numbers are shown with an asterisk, and EDGE converts are shown in italics.

Packers LB Draft Picks

Name Year College Height Weight Hand Arm Bench 40 (official) 10-yd Vert Broad 3-cone 20 Shuttle
Name Year College Height Weight Hand Arm Bench 40 (official) 10-yd Vert Broad 3-cone 20 Shuttle
Oren Burks 2018 Vanderbilt 6031 233 9 1/8 33 3/8 18 4.59 1.59 39.5 131 6.82 4.15
Blake Martinez 2016 Stanford 6020 237 10 7/8 31 5/8 22 4.71 1.61 28.5 113 6.98 4.20
Jake Ryan 2015 Michigan 6020 240 9 3/8 31 20 4.65 1.62 34.5 120 7.11 4.20
Sam Barrington 2013 USF 6007 246 10 2/8 32 2/8 22 4.69* 1.60* 32.5 117 ND 4.25*
Terrell Manning 2012 NC State 6021 237 9 2/8 32 2/8 22 4.79 (4.71*) 1.70 (1.65*) 32 114 7.18 4.43
D.J. Smith 2011 App. State 5105 239 9 6/8 32 20 4.88 1.77 31 104 7.35 4.45
Desmond Bishop 2007 California 6017 239 ND ND 33 4.80 1.61 (1.60*) 32.5* 112* ND 4.65*
A.J. Hawk 2006 Ohio State 6010 248 9 6/8 31 1/8 24 4.64 1.59 40 115 6.82 3.96
Vince Biegel 2017 Wisconsin 6030 246 9 1/8 32 3/8 21 4.67 1.64 33.5 118 6.92 4.21
Carl Bradford 2014 Arizona State 6010 250 9 4/8 30 2/8 23 4.76 1.66 37.5 122 7.25 4.30
Nate Palmer 2013 Illinois State 6021 248 ND ND ND 4.70* 1.58* 35.5* 125* ND 4.37*
Brad Jones 2009 Colorado 6027 232 ND ND ND 4.54* 1.59* 33* 119* ND 4.21*

In examining these players, a few trends emerge. Let’s look at these one by one. First, the Packers have not drafted a linebacker weighing less than 230 pounds, with Oren Burks being the lightest at 230. However, that should not be a sticking point for this team, given that they frequently play safeties at their hybrid linebacker spot and seemed prepared to line Curtis Bolton (228 pounds) up there last season. So we’ll ignore height here.

In fact, all of the size measurements seem pretty varied here. Height is distributed from just under 5-foot-11 to over 6-foot-3, with hand sizes all over the map as well. Arm length does seem to show a cutoff at 31 inches, but there was only one off-ball linebacker at the 2020 Combine with a measurement below that mark.

Where we start to see some commonalities is in speed and agility numbers. All but two players on this list ran faster than 4.80 seconds in the 40, with nine of the 12 being at 4.71 or faster. Even more pronounced is the 10-yard split, with ten of 12 being at 1.65 seconds or faster. For that reason, we’ll set the ideal maximum times at 4.71 for the full 40 and 1.65 in the 10-yard split.

Note that D.J. Smith is the one variant on both of these numbers among off-ball LBs — in fact, he will be an outlier on all of the testing — with Carl Bradford also narrowly missing among the EDGE converts. The vertical and broad jumps show a wide variation as well, so let’s focus on agility numbers.

Here, we see the team prioritizing good three-cone times. For the eight with data, six ran at 7.18 or faster, with just two (Smith and Bradford again) outside of that range. Therefore, let’s set the ideal benchmark at 7.20. Finally, the shuttle times see four players running slower than 4.25 seconds: Smith, Bradford, Terrell Manning, and Desmond Bishop. There I’ll use 4.25 as the ideal, but will allow for much more wiggle room and will consider some players who fit all the other cutoffs but miss the shuttle.

  • 40-yard dash: 4.71 or faster
  • 10-yard split: 1.65 or faster
  • 3-cone: 7.20 or faster
  • Shuttle: 4.25 or faster (ideal, but more flexible)

Looking back at these cutoffs shows very good results. Smith is a total outlier, who fits none of the benchmarks, but he was a sixth-round draft pick who put up huge numbers for Appalachian State. Bishop is probably the other biggest outlier, falling short on the 40 and well back in the shuttle; however, he also was a late pick (round five) and had a big senior year for Cal. The final oddity is Bradford, an EDGE convert who got plenty of chances to make it as a pass-rusher before a last-gasp effort to move him inside — plus, he was right on the borderline for basically all of the testing.

Other than those players, every other draft pick swept the 40 and 10 numbers, and all who had tests hit the 7.20 cone time. As mentioned earlier, the shuttle is the area where the team seems to have a bit more wiggle room, having drafted Manning and Bishop well outside of the ideal range; as such, we’ll treat that time as a soft benchmark.

2020 Draft Board

In 2020, getting reliable agility times has been difficult. Many of the players who are atop the draft boards at the position did not run the cone or shuttle drills due to injury or the Combine schedule. For those players, no Pro Day times are coming, thanks to the coronavirus.

With that said, there are five players who hit every benchmark with the testing numbers that we do have, plus six who are borderline on the shuttle drill only and still more who likely would have hit the ideal numbers had they tested in Indianapolis. Here’s the board to watch for the Packers at linebacker. (Note: projected draft ranges are from Dane Brugler at The Athletic.)

Hit every benchmark

  • Zack Baun, Wisconsin (R1-2): 6023, 238; 4.65 40, 1.65 10; 7.00 3-cone, 4.31 shuttle (4.20 shuttle at Pro Day)
  • Tanner Muse, Clemson (R4-5): 6020, 227; 4.41 40, 1.56 10; 6.84 cone (Pro Day), 4.12 shuttle (Pro Day)
  • Casey Toohill, Stanford (R6-7); 6043, 250; 4.62 40, 1.59 10; 7.08 cone, 4.21 shuttle
  • Mykal Walker, Fresno State (R7): 6030, 230; 4.65 40, 1.62 10; 7.09 cone, 4.25 shuttle
  • Shaun Bradley, Temple (R7-FA): 6005, 235; 4.51 40, 1.59 10; 7.07 cone, 4.24 shuttle

Hit all benchmarks except shuttle

  • Willie Gay, Jr., Mississippi State (R2): 6011, 243; 4.46 40, 1.55 10; 7.08 cone, 4.30 shuttle
  • Malik Harrison, Ohio State (R2-3): 6025, 247; 4.66 40, 1.64 10; 6.83 cone, 4.32 shuttle
  • Logan Wilson, Wyoming (R3): 6021, 241; 4.63 40, 1.60 10; 7.07 cone, 4.27 shuttle
  • Davion Taylor, Colorado (R4): 6004, 228; 4.49 40, 1.55 10; 6.96 cone, 4.26 shuttle
  • Joe Bachie, Michigan State (R5): 6010, 230; 4.67 40, 1.59 10; 6.93 cone, 4.34 shuttle
  • Azur Kamara, Kansas (FA): 6032, 245; 4.59 40, 1.63 10; 7.20 cone, 4.46 shuttle

Finally, there is a large group of players who did not perform in agility drills and/or the 40-yard dash at the 2020 Combine, but who likely would have hit the cutoffs. This group includes the top three off-ball linebackers by most scouts’ estimation, including two (Patrick Queen and Kenneth Murray) who are popular Packers picks at 30 in mock drafts. Here are those names, along with the testing information we do have so far:

  • Isaiah Simmons, Clemson (R1): 6035, 238; 4.39 40, 1.55 10
  • Patrick Queen, LSU (R1-2): 6002, 229; 4.50 40, 1.58 10
  • Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma (R1-2): 6024, 241; 4.52 40, 1.59 10
  • Akeem Davis-Gaither, Appalachian State (R2): 6014, 224
  • Jordyn Brooks, Texas Tech (R2-3): 6000, 240; 4.54 40, 1.62 10
  • Markus Bailey, Purdue (R4): 6001, 235
  • Troy Dye, Oregon (R4-5): 6032, 231

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