INDIANAPOLIS -- The 2023 NFL Scouting Combine is a wrap. After watching a parade of NFL hopefuls show their stuff in tests and drills in preparation for the 2023 NFL Draft, I'm highlighting some of the best performances by building out a defensive roster of combine all-stars.
Best team fits: Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Chargers.
Bresee's bright future is visible from miles away. His time in the 40-yard dash (4.86 seconds) was fast for a player running at 298 pounds, and in his on-field work, he showed just how smooth, polished and incredibly quick he is. Bresee only made very minor, slightly out-of-control errors in the drills, but they're inconsequential. As long as this man can stay healthy, he's going to be a very productive player for his future employer.
Best team fits: Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns.
It would be easy to slide Calijah Kancey in here after he posted the fastest 40 time for a defensive tackle since 2003, but that was the entirety of his Thursday performance. Redmond stood out among the remaining participants who completed every facet of the workout, appearing controlled, smooth and explosive throughout the full range of drills. No matter the setup, Redmond produced quality reps. Some guys just have the look of future productive pros in these workouts, and Redmond was the best of a trio of defensive tackles (the others being Moro Ojomo and Zacch Pickens) who fit this mold. Add in a day of testing that landed him second in Next Gen Stats' athleticism score (behind only Kancey), and you have a very positive day for a player who put himself squarely on my radar.
HONORABLE MENTION: Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh; Siaki Ika, Baylor; Moro Ojomo, Texas; Zacch Pickens, South Carolina; Dante Stills, West Virginia.
Best team fits: Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens.
Smith had a day for the books, wowing onlookers with a 40 time that initially clocked in at 4.44 seconds, which upset the edge rusher because he was aiming for a number in the 4.3-second range. When the official results were revealed, Smith received his wish: He'd actually run a 4.39. It looked just as fast in person. Smith put together an incredible round of testing, posting the second-fastest 40 time for a defensive lineman since 2003. He also finished as the heaviest player in the past 10 combines to post both a 40-inch-plus vertical leap (41 1/2 inches) and a 40 time below 4.4 seconds. The best part about all of it: He's not just a workout warrior; these numbers show up on the tape. Even though he didn't participate in on-field drills Thursday, he'd already done enough to make headlines in Indianapolis.
Best team fits: Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears.
There were a number of impressive participants in the edge-rushing group -- so many that I wish we had room to name more here. But at the end of the day, Anderson's Thursday performance cemented his place among the best prospects in this entire class. Anderson was consistently explosive throughout his series of drills, and even when his power knocked him off balance, he quickly recovered, putting a hand in the Lucas Oil Stadium turf to reset himself without losing any speed through a pass-rushing drill. He declined to participate in most tests outside of the 40 -- which he finished in 4.6 seconds, at 253 pounds. He'll win with power and explosion at the next level, and he looked every bit the part of a high first-round pick in the on-field work.
Best team fits: Chicago Bears, Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens.
Adebawore introduced himself emphatically with a 4.49 40, the fastest of any player weighing 280-plus pounds since 2003. He was two-hundredths of a second faster than last year's No. 1 overall pick, Travon Walker, despite weighing 10 pounds more than Walker (282 to 272). Adebawore also out-jumped Walker in the vertical (37 1/2 inches to 35 1/2 inches) and broad jump (10-foot-5 to 10-3). His drills weren't quite as impressive as his testing numbers, but because he tested so well, a number of teams will surely take a closer look at him as a sub-package rusher who could grow into a productive 3-technique. The same explosion that was on display in his testing should benefit him at the next level. It certainly opened some eyes to his potential Thursday.
HONORABLE MENTION: YaYa Diaby, Louisville; Lukas Van Ness, Iowa; Jose Ramirez, Eastern Michigan; Tuli Tuipulotu, USC; Thomas Incoom, Central Michigan.
Best team fits: Las Vegas Raiders, Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills.
Most of the prospects in this year's linebacking class struggled to separate themselves from the rest of the group during on-field drills -- with the exception of To'oTo'o. He thrived in every portion of the workout, frequently jumping out from the pack as a player with plenty of potential at the next level, looking like a natural on the field. To'oTo'o put together a respectable day of testing (4.62 40, 32-inch vertical, 9-8 broad jump), but his tape and his drills will stand as the strength of his draft profile.
Best team fits: Detroit Lions, Tennessee Titans, Washington Commanders, Buffalo Bills.
Campbell's stock should be on the rise after a quality round of testing that included a 6.74-second three-cone drill, the fastest time of all linebackers by a fairly significant margin. He also posted the second-best broad jump in the position group (10-8) and the second-best vertical leap (37 1/2 inches). He looked fluid and controlled in his drills and should leap up many draft boards after proving he's a better athlete than many folks probably realized.
Best team fits: Cleveland Browns, Washington Commanders, Tennessee Titans.
Banks wasn't necessarily a testing freak like many of the others on this list, but his on-field performance was polished. He didn't allow aggression to force him off balance or out of position. He completed his drills with fluidity and control, repeatedly producing quality reps that prompted me to take note of him. It wasn't an overly impressive group of linebackers, but while Banks didn't produce eye-popping numbers, he looked like a quality prospect who will benefit from putting on the pads and letting his physical play do the talking.
HONORABLE MENTION: Drew Sanders, Arkansas; Daiyan Henley, Washington State.
Best team fits: Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Cardinals.
Watching Gonzalez run through the many defensive back drills Friday was a real treat. He has the look of a future star at cornerback, excelling in every situation on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium. Gonzalez was polished, controlled, consistent and comfortable, completing each rep with apparent ease, as if he'd been doing these drills for a decade. His testing results were very good, too: 4.38 40, 41 1/2-inch vertical and 11-1 broad jump. I'll be hard-pressed to find a prospect in whom I have more confidence than Gonzalez, who boasts the top Next Gen Stats draft score (92) at his position. He was a standout on Friday, and as the tape shows, he's much more than just a workout warrior.
Best team fits: New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Commanders, New England Patriots.
I could write about this group of cornerbacks for days. It includes a variety of types, and many of these CBs are going to make their future clubs happy -- especially those who are taken on Days 2 and 3. Banks, however, will not last that long, and for good reason. His testing numbers were fantastic (4.35 40, 42-inch vertical, 11-4 broad jump). He followed that up by posting solid reps throughout the drills -- displaying fluidity, excellent closing speed and fantastic recovery ability when he made a rare mistake in his footwork. Banks and fellow former Maryland defensive back Jakorian Bennett both performed well -- they became the first teammates at the same position to post 95-plus Next Gen Stats athleticism scores at the same combine over the last two decades. Banks was not only the better of the two, but one of the best of them all.
Best team fits: Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers.
Turner's testing was off the charts, starting with a combine-best 4.26 40 that was so good, he didn't even give it a second go. Add in a 10-11 broad jump and a vertical leap of 38 1/2 inches, and Turner had himself quite a day. It's unfortunate he didn't participate in the drills, where he could have truly separated himself from the pack while sharing the same field, but Turner definitely did enough to earn a slot on the All-Combine Team.
HONORABLE MENTION: Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, TCU; Clark Phillips III, Utah; Cameron Mitchell, Northwestern; Riley Moss, Iowa; Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State; Jakorian Bennett, Maryland.
Best team fits: New York Jets, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions.
Branch was listed as a cornerback in Indy, but his 4.58 40 underscores that he'll continue playing a safety/nickel role at the next level. No problem: He's as sharp and polished as they come. Branch made up for his lack of elite burst with control and discipline. Look no further than his performance in the session-ending gauntlet, in which he didn't deviate from the line and completed the drill at full speed, showing no signs of difficulty catching passes flying at him from every angle. Branch's testing results won't blow anyone away, but he looks like the type of versatile defender who can step into a hybrid role and perform consistently.
Best team fits: New York Jets, Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions.
Brown finished in the top three among DBs in the early returns on Next Gen Stats athleticism scores, posting a 4.47 40, a 10-10 broad jump and a 40 1/2-inch vertical. While it wasn't as impressive as his numbers, Brown's on-field workout was solid; though he allowed his athleticism to drive him out of control at times, he recovered nicely to finish reps on a strong note. Brown's tape leads one to believe his pro career could follow the trajectory of Talanoa Hufanga, who earned first-team All-Pro honors as a second-year pro with the Niners in 2022. In fact, Brown could enjoy similar success even quicker than Hufanga, provided he lands in the right situation through the draft. Teams will certainly be eager to take a close look at him after his total performance Friday, and for good reason.
HONORABLE MENTION: Ji'Ayir Brown, Penn State; Brandon Hill, Pittsburgh; Jartavius Martin, Illinois; Kaevon Merriweather, Iowa; Jammie Robinson, Florida State; DeMarcco Hellams, Alabama; Rashad Torrence II, Florida.