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2015 NFL Combine preview: Edge rushers

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The LEOs that could be king, and other assorted edge rush fun.

Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

This year’s class of DE/edge rushers may be the best we’ve seen in a decade. The first glimpse of how good it will be should come Saturday when we see these stallions on the hoof. As per usual, I’m writing with a slant toward Seahawk interests and availabilities. So I will not say much on the Gregory, Ray, Dupree, Beasley class of guys.

Let’s start with what Seattle likes: length. More specifically…32" arms are requirement on the DL (and I forgot to mention, more often then not 33" arms as a DT). Edge rusher length: Cassius- 32.75", Scruggy-35", Bruce- 33.38", Cliff- 33.75", Obie- 32.38", Ty Powell- 32.5", Jackson Jeffcoat- 33.88", etc.

Another good mark to remember is that of the average Seattle LEO: 6’3"/247 (at time of testing…Seattle LEO’s come out of college a little lighter and bulk up…Chris Clemons tested at 236lbs). Much like RB, LEO is one of those spots that only has a 1"/10lb discrepancy between the big and small ends of the roster. The combine names that initially look like Seattle LEO’s (Note: I have chosen to skip previewing the combine field of LB’s, and instead listed OLB/Edge guys here):

Eli Harold
*Nate Orchard
*Lorenzo Mauldin
*Zach Hodges
Tony Washington
Max Valles
*Zach Wagenmann
Ryan Delaire

*= Confirmed in the LEO length category. If a player doesn’t have an asterisk, arm measure still pending.
**= Names like Kikaha and Golden were scratched for not meeting arm length specs.

The next test for a LEO is the 40. Although we think of LEO as the Bruce Irvin/4.40 speed type, LEOs can actually run as slow as Clem’s 4.68. The average LEO speed comes out to about a 4.57. I think Eli is easily in there, I think Delaire probably gets that, and Orchard might surprise by getting close (maybe more of a 4.59).

The interesting thing about that list of 8 potential LEOs is that 2 project 1st-2nd round, 2 project 3rd-4th round, 3 project 6th round, and 1 projects UDFA. This could suggest, if there is a decision to be made between, say, DE, WR, and RB in the first three picks, maybe DE can be pushed back if Seattle loves one of the latter six names on the LEO list. I certainly have already isolated one of the names and can see a tremendous advantage it would give (similar to the advantage of finding our starting QB in the 3rd in 2012) if this were to become our strategy.

Though I think Seattle needs another LEO (as evidenced by the lack of depth when Avril got knocked out of the Super Bowl), there are other really compelling edge rushers this class that are built more like a Michael Bennett type that have to be on our radar. Having drafted Cassius last year (plus guys like Dobbs/King on the roster listed as DE and both in the 280 range), having another guy in that 6’4"/270-280 range may be redundant. But sometimes you just can’t fight the board. If the league decides to start vulturing from the LEO pile, maybe it’s a bigger DE like a Preston Smith or Lynden Trail that slides.

When looking at these bigger DE, the 40’s will be closer to 4.7-4.8, but try to peek at the 10-yard split. Michael Bennett fell out of the draft because of his 4.86 forty, but in hindsight you could see his get-off in his 1.62 split (by comparison, Malcolm Smith has a 1.61). For the LEO’s you want to see a 10-split in the 1.5’s. We also want to focus on the players from this group that make a 10’ broad jump.

I mentioned earlier I’m not previewing the LB group this year…Seattle is just pretty solid there, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they wait until UDFA this year to find the next Morgan/Coyle. But…I did want to suggest you keep your eyes on a kid named Edmond Robinson from Newberry. Some want to compare Benardrick McKinney to KJ Wright, but the closer comp might be Robinson. Watch for those arms.

And of course I’m looking forward to seeing what Ben Heeney does.