Look, I'm not saying that when wide receiver John Ross ran his 4.22 40-yard dash I didn't let out a yelp, or when cornerback Jalen Ramsey jumped a 11-foot, 2-inch broad jump that I didn't simultaneously jump out of my seat in amazement. But let's face the facts here. The most alluring position to watch at the NFL Scouting Combine is within the defensive line, specifically the edge rushers.
This is the category in where the freaks come out -- and I mean that in the nicest and most complimentary way. This is when you get guys like Jadeveon Clowney, who show up at 6-foot-5, 265 pounds, run a 4.53 40-yard dash, jump 37.5 inches on the vert and hit a 10-foot, 3-inch broad jump. It's where some of the great athletes in the world, with booth size and athleticism in consideration, all blow the minds of us mere mortals watching on TV.
Edge play is important -- it's one of the core four positions of the game of football. For this reason, these guys are going to be coveted as Top 10 picks. As such, teams are going to want to get to know every differentiating factor they can assess to ensure they're getting the best (and the correct) one.
With that said, these are three edge players who have the most to prove at the Combine this week.
Nick Bosa, Ohio State
How in the world could the consensus No. 1 overall player in the 2019 NFL Draft have the most to prove at the Combine? Well, I would tell you that him being rated No. 1 is the exact reason why he has the most to prove -- because no one else but him has to re-prove they're No. 1.
Bosa hasn't been on a football field in five months. In those five months, we've seen players like Josh Allen, Brian Burns, Jachai Polite and Clelin Ferrell tear up college football offensive tackles week-in and week-out. When Bosa was out there, he was more dominant than all of them, but the NFL draft is very much a mind game. It is a game of momentum, whether you want to admit it or not. It's a "what have you done for me lately" process, at times, and because of that, Bosa needs to show teams what he can do to refresh memories.
If he does, he can go No. 1 overall, and with a ceiling like that, no one has more to prove than him.
Brian Burns, Florida State
Speaking of one of those edge players creeping up on top dog status, as it pertains to the edge rushing class, there were few players in the country who were more productive than Burns was this past season.
As Florida State's primary edge rusher, and best defensive weapon as a whole, Burns was a tear on the edge. He showed an ability to bend the corner at a height of 6-foot-5, which is very difficult to do. He's an explosive pass rusher who showed shade of success similar to a former Nole in Josh Sweat, only Burns has better change of direction, making him a more complete edge rushing weapon.
So what's the catch?
The catch is that it was reported that Burns played this past 2018 season at a weight of just 230 pounds. 230 pounds, even for an edge rusher with his length, is tough to justify. There just aren't many players in the NFL who can play at that weight without getting bullied by stronger offensive tackles. But it is reported that Burns has bulked up to about 245-250 pounds since the end of FSU's season. That would put him well within range of some of the successful speed rushers in the league. The question is, how athletic is he with nearly 20 extra pounds on his body? Can he still show that explosiveness, agility and flexibility? We shall see.
If he can, the Top 10 -- and maybe even Top 5 -- likely awaits his future.
L.J. Collier, TCU
Bosa and Burns are two of the big-name players, but as for a guy down the list who has a lot of money to make, Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network thinks that TCU's L.J. Collier could be a big riser during Combine week.
“One name I’ll throw out to you is L.J. Collier from TCU, who I think you’re going to continue to see get more notoriety and attention as we go through the process,” Jeremiah said. “You see L.J. Collier, he’s got a nasty little shake bowl move, he’s got quick hands, he can convert speed to power. He can play a little bit inside, he can play outside. He’s got some versatility that way. So he would be one I think kind of in the bottom of one.”
On the flip side, our own Jon Ledyard had this to say about Collier after watching his film.
Collier is a hard-nosed end who played some anchor, stood up as a force defender, dropped into coverage and even saw the occasional inside pass rush rep for Texas Christian. He did it all as a rotational player, yet still managed 11.5 TFL and six sacks this season, albeit good chunks of that coming in two games. Collier simply doesn't have the desirable athletic traits and pass rush ability to be a preferable starter on the edge, and I don't see him holding up as an every-down interior player even if he does hit 280 on the scale. Best bet? Become a masterful technician and get time as an interior nickel rusher in the NFL.
So it seems one analyst is betting on Collier to show some hidden athleticism and the other isn't holding their breath. The truth could be somewhere in between, but after praise like Jeremiah gave, this is where that rise would begin for Collier, if it's going to happen.
And as an edge rusher, when you rise up boards, you rise really fast. Everyone is looking for a sleeper pass rusher.