NFL Draft News & Analysis

2023 NFL Scouting Combine: Standouts from defensive line and linebacker drills

Indianapolis, IN, USA; Georgia defensive lineman Nolan Smith (DL45) participates in drills during the NFL combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

• EDGE Nolan Smith: His 4.39-second 40-yard dash and 1.52-second 10-yard split both place in the 99th percentile for edge rushers at the combine since 1999.

• DT Calijah Kancey: His 4.67-second 40-yard dash, which was the best 40-time for an interior defensive lineman at the combine since 1999.

• DT Bryan Bresee: At 6-foot-5 and 298 pounds, Bresee ran an official 4.86-second 40-yard dash — a 94th-percentile time among defensive linemen.

Estimated Reading Time: 4 mins

INDIANAPOLIS — Though plenty can be gained and learned from the podium sessions in Indianapolis, the true entertainment of the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine comes when the players take the field for their athletic testing.

The first group of the week was the defensive linemen and the linebackers, and they did not disappoint when it came to producing some eye-popping athletics.

These are the standout athletic performances from the first group of players at the combine.


EDGE NOLAN SMITH, GEORGIA

Wow, and I truly mean wow.

Nolan Smith may have measured in on the lighter side at 6-foot-2 and 238 pounds, but he made up for it with some wild testing numbers. His 4.39-second 40-yard dash and 1.52-second 10-yard split both place in the 99th percentile for edge rushers at the combine since 1999. His 41.5-inch vertical jump was the best among the group, also in the 98th percentile, and his 128-inch broad jump placed in the 95th percentile.

As a former No. 1 overall recruit for his athletic potential, it’s safe to say he’s living up to it. It’s hard to imagine he’ll get out of the top 15 in the 2023 NFL Draft now. 


EDGE BYRON YOUNG, TENNESSEE

If it weren’t for Smith, we all would be sitting here talking about Byron Young as the marvel of the edge class.

Young registered an official 4.43-second 40-yard dash while jumping 11 feet in the broad and 38 inches in the vertical. Those numbers are all well above the 90th percentile for the position, making him one of the top athletes in his class. Young was only a two-year player at Tennessee and is one of the older prospects in the class. But numbers like those are enticing enough to solidify him as a second-round selection.


DL ADETOMIWA ADEBAWORE, NORTHWESTERN

Northwestern defensive lineman Adetomiwa Adebawore was already having a good draft season after a great showing in Mobile, Alabama, at the Senior Bowl. But his combine performance took his stock through the roof.

At 282 pounds, he ran a 4.49-second 40-yard dash with a 1.61-second 10-yard split, one of the fastest weight-adjusted times over the past 20 years. For more perspective, Travon Walker ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash at 272 pounds. So, Adebawore ran faster with 10 more pounds on him.

He was already one of the biggest risers on the PFF Big Board. That will only continue after this week.


EDGE LUKAS VAN NESS, IOWA

Van Ness had been shooting up draft boards over the past few months prior to the combine. The allurement with him is his power and speed at his size.

At the combine, we got confirmation of that, as he measured in at 6-foot-5 and 272 pounds with 34-inch arms. Then, on the field, he tested very well with a 4.58-second 40-yard dash and a 1.64-second 10-yard split. Plus, he recorded very impressive agility drills with a 4.32-second short shuttle and a 7.02-second three-cone.

The hype for Van Ness as an athlete to bet on only got stronger this week.


LB JACK CAMPBELL, IOWA

Campbell’s good day started when he measured in at 6-foot-5 and 249 pounds. He then impressed on the field with a 37.5-inch vertical jump, a 10-foot-8 broad jump and an impressive 4.71-second 40-yard dash. 

Campbell has some great off-ball linebacker tape, and with those athletic numbers added to his scouting report, a team looking for a true between-the-tackles linebacker will be interested.


DT CALIJAH KANCEY, PITTSBURGH

Kancey showed up to the combine at 6-foot-1 and 281 pounds — up five or six pounds from his playing weight of 275. The extra weight was good, as there are no sub-280 players in the NFL who have enjoyed consistent success. But it was to be seen just how athletic Kancey would be with the added weight.

He answered those questions in record-setting fashion with a 4.67-second 40-yard dash, which was the best 40-time for an interior defensive lineman at the combine since 1999. He also had a 1.64-second 10-yard split, which was not quite historic but placed in the 98th percentile.

Kancey needed to be fast, and he absolutely was. 


DT BRYAN BRESEE, CLEMSON

Bresee’s stock saw some improvement in Indianapolis thanks to solid athletic testing results. At 6-foot-5 and 298 pounds, Bresee ran an official 4.86-second 40-yard dash with a 1.17-second 10-yard split. That 40 time is in the 94th percentile for interior defensive linemen, while the 10-yard time puts him in the 75th percentile. Bresee is intriguing because of his athleticism at his size. Posting those numbers was a good sign that teams could still believe in his ability as a top-50 2023 NFL Draft prospect.

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