2023 NFL Combine Recap: Defensive standouts, surprises and disappointments
Withdrawal from the 2023 NFL Scouting Association, 40-yard rushing times, individual performances, and how players interviewed teams are the talking points that will cross into pro days this spring and ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft.
My colleague Brad Crawford has already identified winners and losers at the mill. In addition to that, I’m breaking down the honors, surprises and disappointments from the offensive group of contestants from Indianapolis. I’ve already dealt with the attackers here. Now let’s move on to the defensive side of football.
Outstanding: Owen Pappo, LB, Auburn
hard hit Owen Pappo showed a rare twitch, throwing 4.39 40 yards with a 1.52 10 yard gap. He also repeated 225 reps 29 times on the bench, second most among backers. A former elite rookie, Pappou could become a three-stake quarterback at the next level. Pappo had a great day and we hope he can stay healthy after being captured over the past few years.
Outstanding: Byron Young, EDGE, Tennessee
Byron Young ended an impressive 2022 season with an impressive practice at Indy. Young ran a ridiculous 40-yard dash in 4.43, jumping 38 inches and 11-0 long jump. This is very impressive for a 6’2,250 defensive end; many experienced players would love to run that fast. Young is a bit of a teenager like any other player and will need to find one that matches his skills, but his twitch and athleticism will be coveted by most NFL teams.
Outstanding: DJ Turner, CB, MI
DJ Turner cleared 40, running a best 4.26 40 yards at 5 feet 11,178 feet. Turner was expected to be one of the fastest players and no doubt make some money. Turner’s length isn’t ideal, and he’ll likely turn into a nickel and an outstanding special teams shooter at the next level. Turner is getting better every season at Michigan and I see him as a rising player who will hear him called “Day 2”.
Surprise: Adetomiva Adebawore, DL, Northwestern
Adetomiva Adebavore he had a good off-season, with a good week at Mobile at the Senior Bowl, followed by a clinic in Indianapolis, hitting 6’2, 282, rushing for 4.49 40 yards and 37.5 verticals. He also did 30 reps on the bench and showed a long jump of 10-5 and 3 cones of 6.90. Adebavor is a real teenager who is most likely to play on the edge on regular downs and distances, but can also throw inside in obvious passing situations. His play in the Northwest has been solid, not spectacular, and has improved with each season, but his best football is ahead.
College football fans probably know the younger Adebavore, who will play for the Oklahoma Sooners this fall.
Surprise: YaYa Diaby, EDGE, Louisville
Yes Yes Diaby had a strong 2022 season in Louisville, showing an ability to get to quarterback with nine sacks. Diaby has excelled in drills on the pitch and has what every team craves when it comes to the forefront: the speed of the first step. Diaby ran a 10-yard split for 1.56 pounds with almost 265 pounds, which filled his wallet as he now aims to be a day two pick. Diaby also added a 37-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot long jump. His elite output is coveted and can make him steal.
Surprise: Brandon Hill, S, Pittsburgh
Brandon Hill is a brilliant player coming from Pitt’s program that continues to churn out talent.
The 5-10, 193-pound Hill not only crushed his workout looking smooth with great hips and arms, but also ran 4.43 40 yards with a 1.5-second 10-yard split. Hill is an aggressive player who will likely move to the nickel at the next level and have to earn a living as a special teams ace, but he has an outstanding career ahead of him.
Disappointment: Mekhi Garner, CB, LSU
Mekhi Garner has excellent length at 6’2, 212 pounds with 32 ¼ arms, but not as good as expected at 40 (4.55). Gardner managed to hit the timer on his second try, which I’ve never seen before, and was given a third try. Gardner will need to improve his footwork, explosive power and awareness on his pro day while training. Gardner was fairly confident in his burst, jumping 38 inches with a 10-8 long jump.
Disappointment: Byron Young, IDL, Alabama
Universal Byron Young – yes, Tennessee has a player with the same name on this list – he had a great 2022 season as Alabama’s top pass rusher, but he lacked explosive power compared to others in his 26-inch vertical jump and long jump with a score of 9-0. Young chose not to run 40 and would need to impress on pro day and show more surprise in drills in his position.
Disappointment: Brandon Joseph, S, Notre Dame
Brandon JosephHis performance wasn’t perfect, as his 4.62 rushes for 40 yards and 7.08 3 cones would need to improve on his pro day. Joseph’s teachings were also a little sloppy for the former 2020 All-American (Northwestern). Joseph’s stock seems to be dropping a little and he needs to run fast and impress on his pro day on March 24th.