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Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Combine struggles won't hurt SEC players

By Edward Aschoff

Michael Brockers didn't exactly blow scouts away during the NFL combine last week. The former LSU defensive tackle didn't test well at all, as all of his times were slow and he only had 19 repetitions of 225 on the bench press.

But testing isn't everything when it comes to the NFL draft and ESPN's Kevin Weidl believes Brockers will be just fine Insider. When you look at a season in which Brockers had 54 tackles, including 10 for loss, two sacks, an interception, and blocked a kick, it's hard to see him slipping out of the first round.

Weidl writes:
Brockers had a poor showing in pretty much every area: 5.36 in the 40; 26.5-inch vertical jump; 8-foot-1 broad jump; 4.81 short shuttle; 7.46 three-cone drill. However, Brockers has impressive natural core strength and power -- as opposed to weight-room strength -- and the tape of his regular-season performance against Alabama is one of the most dominant I saw from a 2012 prospect. The Crimson Tide simply had no answer for him inside.

In this draft, Brockers (6-5, 322) is the most stout defensive tackle at the point of attack. He displays the ability to use his hands to disengage from blocks and fall back into plays, while showing the versatility to play the 3-technique (DT) in a 4-3 scheme or the 5-technique (DE) in a 3-4. His tape is more consistent than the likes of Dontari Poe (Memphis), Jerel Worthy (Michigan State) and Devon Still (Penn State); based on that, Brockers clearly belongs in the first round. The Carolina Panthers could show interest at No. 9 overall, and if Brockers falls a bit, the Denver Broncos could get a steal at No. 25.

Weidl also doesn't expect to see Alabama linebacker Courtney Upshaw slip out of the first round after a not-so-impressive day in Indianapolis. He didn't test all that well, but he was one of the best pass rushers in the SEC last season, registering 18 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. Upshaw's stats and film from 2011 should outweigh his sluggish combine.

Weidl writes:
Based on film study, we knew coming into the combine that Upshaw is not a great athlete, and he confirmed that by looking tight in drills, struggling to open his hips and change directions, and generally not looking smooth in space. However, he's not going to be asked to do those things in the NFL.

At 6-1] and 272 pounds, Upshaw will set the edge against the run with natural leverage, good strength and plenty of smarts and toughness. He'll spot drop on occasion but won't be asked to match up in man coverage, and while he doesn't have elite quickness, his natural leverage and finishing power give him some pass-rush ability. Those qualities show up repeatedly on tape, and you can bet the Patriots, Miami Dolphins (No. 8), Arizona Cardinals (No. 13) and Baltimore Ravens (No. 29) have all taken notice.