The third day of on-field workouts in Indianapolis for the 2017 NFL Combine is in the books, and the Dallas Cowboys were sitting front and center to watch the top interior defensive linemen, edge defenders and linebackers. The one thing Dallas Cowboys fans can all agree on is that the biggest hole on this team is their pass rush unit. For that very reason, we’ve seen edge rushers like UCLA’s Takkarist McKinley, Auburn’s Carl Lawson, and Tennessee’s Derek Barnett put under the microscope during the pre-draft season. We could talk all day about the top pass rushers in the draft, as we have for the past two months, but in this piece, I’m going to focus on some edge defenders that are flying a bit under the radar. The same goes for the interior defensive linemen, a position that could be a bigger need than people realize, especially if Terrell McClain walks in free agency. With that being said, here are some pass rushers and defensive linemen who impressed in Indianapolis on Sunday that you need to keep a closer eye on.
Jordan Willis, EDGE, Kansas State
– Kansas State’s Jordan Willis had arguably the biggest and most surprising performance of any prospect so far at the 2017 NFL Combine. He ran a 4.53 40-yard dash and 6.85 three cone. In addition to those numbers, he jumped 39 inches in the vertical jump and 125 inches in the broad jump. That is what I call making the most of an opportunity. Before today, Willis was widely considered to be a solid third round player, but with those kind of numbers, he is probably going to be drafted in the top 50 picks. I think he projects as a left defensive end in Dallas, and his performance today is going to make me go back to the tape.
Tarell Basham, EDGE, Ohio
– Tarell Basham is a productive pass rusher with a motor that never stops. He didn’t necessarily blow the roof off of Indianapolis on Sunday like Jordan Willis did, but I think he was impressive nonetheless, especially in the on-field drills. His agility tests were a bit disappointing, but he is such a fun player to watch on tape. He fits the mold of a Rod Marinelli type of defensive end with his work ethic, drive, and ability to bend off of the edge at 6’4, 249 lbs. I think a good landing spot for Basham is in the third round, but Dallas needs to hope he can make it to the 92nd pick.
Derek Rivers, EDGE, Youngstown State
– Like Jordan Willis, Derek Rivers helped himself in a big way with his all-around performance on Sunday. He showed explosion off of the edge at Youngstown State, and his 4.61 40-yard dash, 35 inch vertical jump, and 123 inch broad jump proved it. Rivers only weighed in at 248 lbs., but he had 30 reps on the bench press, which matches the play strength he showed on tape. Some people may have never heard of Derek Rivers before Sunday, but his performance puts him from a fringe top-50 prospect to a potential late first round pick. Dallas desperately needs a right defensive end to get after the quarterback, and Rivers could fit that role with the 28th overall selection.
Ifeadi Odenigbo, EDGE, Northwestern
– As one of the most hyped recruits to ever play at Northwestern, Ifeadi Odenigbo finally lived up to his billing with 10 sacks in 2016, including a dominant performance with four sacks against Iowa. I thought Odenigbo showed flashes of explosion this year, and his broad jump on Sunday matched that. According to MockDraftable, Odenigbo tested in the 97th percentile with his broad jump of 128 inches. The 6’3, 265 lb. senior is still as raw as an edge player can be with his limitations against the run and undisciplined nature as a pass rusher, but with a defensive coach like Rod Marinelli, he would be an interesting project on the third day of the draft.
Carroll Phillips, EDGE, Illinois
– Carroll Phillips’ teammate, Dawuane Smoot, is the flashier player on tape, but it was Phillips who had the better workout in Indianapolis. He had a three cone time of 7.06 seconds, broad jump of 123 inches, and 40-yard dash of 4.64 seconds. He looks good on the hoof with a lean, muscular frame at 6’3, 242 lbs., but he rarely rushed with a plan on tape. Like Odenigbo, he is a raw prospect, but I think he could potentially play right defensive end or stand up as an off-ball linebacker. He may never make a big impact as a pass rusher in the NFL, but I am really intrigued by his potential as an immediate special teams player for this team on Day 3.
Larry Ogunjobi, DT, Charlotte
– Larry Ogunjobi is going to be the first player to ever be drafted from the University of Charlotte, and it could be as high as the second round in my opinion. Ogunjobi’s Combine performance solidified his draft stock with an outstanding broad jump of 116 inches, 4.97 40-yard dash, and 32 inch vertical jump, all at 305 lbs. With Terrell McClain set to gauge the market in free agency, the one technique is going to be a position that could be addressed in the draft, and Ogunjobi fits that position to a T. He could even play three technique if asked to because of his disruption as an interior pass rusher. I think he is a well-rounded defensive tackle who is not scheme specific, which could drive him up the draft board before the Cowboys’ pick at 60.
Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, UCLA
– UCLA’s Eddie Vanderdoes was a five-star recruit coming out of high school, but he experienced both conditioning and injury issues throughout his collegiate career. The biggest concern is the torn ACL he suffered that caused him to miss most of the 2015 season. When healthy and in shape, Vanderdoes is a powerful defensive tackle who has surprising suddenness to his game. His potential as a starting one technique in the NFL could put him in the mix for a top 100 pick, and he tried to help solidify that status with an impressive 4.99 40-yard dash. Vanderdoes could be one of the draft’s biggest steals with his talent level, given he lands in the right situation with the right coaching staff.