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Combine Breakdown

NFL Combine Saturday Highlights

by Mark Lindquist
Updated On: March 1, 2020, 4:19 pm ET

Saturday saw the defensive linemen and linebackers take part in testing at the NFL Scouting Combine. Below are the top highlights from the day's events. If you're looking for Thursday's breakdown, check out Christopher Crawford's recap here. You can find my recap of Friday's combine day here. Without further ado, Saturday's observations.


Isaiah Simmons wows with 4.39-second 40-yard dash

 

As Thursday was owned by Henry Ruggs and Friday was owned by Tristan Wirfs, Saturday was owned by Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons. And we mean owned. Simmons went Sonic the Hedgehog on the 40-yard track, bolting his way to a 4.39-second finish. That time matched Jonathan Taylor’s Best in Show sprint from Friday. We could go on and on about who Simmons was faster than, but the basic idea would be, almost every player participating in the combine. 

Beyond the 40-yard dash, Simmons posted the second-best broad jump in the linebacker group, hurtling himself 132 inches in the broad jump. His vertical jump? Fourth-best in the group at 39 inches. Simmons would not participate in any further testing or on-field drills after that 40-yard dash. Because why would he? He had already kind of proven the point. Also, no reason to risk injury. Speaking of which:

 

Further injuries cast pall over athletic testing

Lloyd Cushenberry and Damien Lewis both went down injured on Friday. Saturday, Kenneth Murray and Patrick Queen followed suit. As Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline noted on his podcast ‘The Draft Analysts,’ the primetime testing schedule is an unnatural one for players whose entire bodies are fine-tuned and on schedules. Tests into the night hours only help one entity -- a billion-dollar one at that -- not the coaches, evaluators and media, certainly not the players.

The schedule should be changed, at the very least, if not the tests themselves. Because one of these years we’re going to see a torn ACL on a sprint and it’s suddenly all going to seem very, very dumb. Fingers crossed that everybody gets healthy in time for pro days (held in the day, look at that).

 

Laviska Shenault reportedly to undergo core surgery

Early into testing on Saturday, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and ESPN’s Adam Schefter independently reported that star Colorado WR Laviska Shenault would be undergoing core surgery on Tuesday and was expected to face a 4-6 week recovery timetable. Per Rap Sheet, NFL teams were informed on Saturday morning. This is incredibly unfortunate news, as Shenault had already reportedly been diagnosed with an inflamed pubic bone (no jokes) over the winter, on top of various collegiate injuries. If anybody needed a clean weak medically, it was Shenault. Instead things took a worst-outcome turn.

Shenault is reportedly expected to be healthy for training camp, but that’s a silver lining on a dark cloud which just unleashed a hailstorm with damaging winds. At least it explains his 4.58-second 40-yard dash. The reality for the wideout is that the possibility of Round 1 might be slipping out the window right now. Some lucky team -- probably the Patriots -- will be waiting to catch his fall in Round 2. 

 

Montana LB Dante Olson posts weird number combo

Olson led all linebackers -- all of them, for real -- with a vertical leap of 42 inches. Or think about it this way: Matt Olson out jumped Isaiah Simmons! So of course, Olson then came out in the 40-yard dash to slow-trot it to the tune of 4.88 seconds. Vertical athleticism but not horizontal athleticism, a fascinating combination which doesn’t do Olson much good. You play the game moving forward, alas. Olson will probably be on the outside looking in come April’s draft, but for at least one brief moment, he stands in the spotlight and can now tell his grandkids about the time he jumped higher than Pro Football Hall of Famer Isaiah Simmons.

 

Three iDL could outrace Wisconsin WR Quintez Cephus and Tennessee WR Jauan Jennings

A trio of interior linemen in James Smith-Williams (who injured his elbow banging it against the stanchion of the vertical jump apparatus), Jabari Zuniga and Alton Robinson all ran the 40-yard dash in under 4.70 seconds, something which both Cephus and Jennings failed to do on Thursday. Smith-Williams did it in an absurd 4.60 seconds. The 6-foot-4, 265-pounder (mercy) enrolled at NC State under 200 pounds before hitting the weight room. But he still can run a mean sprint.

 

Clock malfunction horrifies nation during Derrick Brown 40-yard dash

Brown was the fourth gentleman to run the 40 on Saturday. And he initially clocked in at 5.51 seconds, a mark which led the NFL Network’s Rich Eissen and Daniel Jeremiah to immediately scoff and discount. Rightfully so, as Brown’s time was later unofficially dropped to 5.11 seconds and locked in officially at 5.16 seconds. Brown’s day as a whole was kinda meh -- the run was still slow, if not THAT slow, while his jumps were likewise forgettable -- but we would be surprised if he legitimately took a fall for it. 

What could happen, easily, is that South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw bumps past Brown as iDL1 on some post-combine boards. Kinlaw did not take part in testing, but people spent the week raving about him, anyway. 

 

Iowa EDGE A.J. Epenesa can’t grab Tristan Wirfs bounce

While Wirfs shone so brilliant on Friday that you needed shades to watch his tests, Epenesa came out rather dull. His 40-yard dash of 5.04 seconds was disappointing, his jumps (32.5 inches vertically, 117 inches broad) pedestrian, his 4.46-second 20-yard shuttle middle-of-the-pack. None of this will push Chase Young off his position pedestal, though we would again stress not overreacting to these numbers. Especially with Epenesa, who plays with immense power and strength. Maybe they should figure out a “club things in a phone booth” drill, because Epenesa would crush that. 

 

Willie Gay Jr. flash fries 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump

The Mississippi State linebacker wasn’t quite Isaiah Simmons, but his athletic tests were scintillating in their own right. Gay ran the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds (second only to Simmons), notched a 39.5-inch vertical jump (second only to Dante Olson) and threw himself 136 inches in the broad jump. Nobody posted a better broad jump among linebackers in Indianapolis. This package of raw athletic prowess comes with off-the-field baggage -- and recent at that -- as Gay appeared in just five games during his final season in Starkville due to multiple suspensions. Still, that’s quite a bit of raw athletic prowess.   

Mark Lindquist
Mark Lindquist holds a master's degree from the University of Iowa and writes baseball and college football for Rotoworld.com. He's currently working on a memoir about life, death, rock 'n' roll and his year teaching at a Chinese university. You can reach him on Twitter @markrlindquist.