In today's NFL, the quarterback is the most important player on the field, no one disputes that. And with the new rules that make passing games more difficult to stop, teams need a way to slow down offenses.
The response to all offensive advantages is for defenses to disrupt the quarterback, which is why today's performances were so pivotal. Edge rushers are now the biggest piece of the defensive puzzle and they did not disappoint at the NFL Combine.
Leading the way was Clemson pass rusher Vic Beasley, who ran a 4.53 40-yard dash. Beasley showed off his explosiveness with a 41 inch vertical jump and 130 inch broad jump, while weighing in 11 pounds heavier than he played during the college season, alleviating some fears about his size.
Florida defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. excelled, running a 4.60 40 at 261 pounds and Nebraska's Randy Gregory reaffirmed his athletic prowess by clocking a 4.63 40-yard dash with a 125 inch broad jump.
UCLA defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa was another player who may have shot up the draft board by running a 4.62 40, had a 39 inch vertical jump and blazed a 4.19 second 20-yard shuttle.
Other edge rushers who impressed were Kentucky's Bud Dupree, who ran a 4.56 and jumped through the building with a 138 inch broad jump, LSU's Danielle Hunter who ran a 4.57 at 252 pounds and Virginia's Eli Harold.
A great performance was also put on by USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams, who can rush the passer from the middle. Williams ran a sub five 40-yard dash (4.92) at 302 pounds and solidified his status as the best big man in the draft.
It was one of the most anticipated days of the Combine and the edge rushers lived up to the hype. It's an outstanding group that should be well represented in the first few rounds of the NFL Draft and has no shortage of explosive players.
Quarterbacks should be afraid, be very afraid.
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