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4 defensive players I’m excited to watch at the NFL Scouting Combine

The defensive side of the class is full of athletic freaks.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL NOV 19 Illinois at Michigan Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On-field workouts at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine get underway on Thursday with defensive linemen and linebackers taking the field first. Defensive backs and special teams will follow on Friday with offensive players taking the field on Saturday and Sunday.

Below are four defensie players I cannot wait to see workout this week in Indianapolis.

DT Mazi Smith, Michigan

Defensive tackle isn’t near the top of the Chargers’ needs this offseason but after seeing how ravaged the position was this past season, I wouldn’t put it past them to keep tabs on some of the top players in the draft class.

If there is one tackle that will rightfully have my attention this week, it’s the immensely powerful Smith out of Michigan.

At 6’3 and just under 330 pounds, Smith is built incredibly well with very little bad weight hanging around. With that comes some immense strength, as well. One source says that Smith can do 22 reps on the bench 325 pounds. For context, the NFL combine uses 225 pounds for their bench test, and 22 reps is just “fine” at that weight for a defensive lineman.

Lance Zierlein of compares Smith to the likes of former first-round defensive tackle Dontari Poe who enjoyed a nice career as both a defender and as a gadget offensive weapon near the goal line.

Aside from the bench press, I expect Smith to test very well in his vertical and broad jumps, as well.

CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia

Ringo plays the cornerback position, but if you looked at his combination of height and weight, you’d think he was a hard-hitting strong safety that spent of his time rolling down into the box.

But that isn’t the case with Ringo. The former five-star recruit joined the Bulldogs with a notable track resume that included state titles in the 100- and 200-meter dash.

At 6’2 and 210 pounds, he’s arguably the most intimidating cornerback in this class physically and the upside of his elite speed just makes his floor of prospect rise even higher. However, he’s not without some shortcomings.

Zierlein notes in Ringo’s draft profile that the corner can struggle with route recognition and struggles to move horizontally when threatened. For someone his size, his ability at the catch point also leaves much to be desired.

Either way, reports are that Ringo could break into the low 4.3s in the forty which would unsurprisingly raise his draft stock in the eyes of those coveting elite speed on the boundary.

DT Calijah Kancey, Pitt

The last time a defensive tackle considered “undersized” was picked in the first round out of Pitt, it turned out pretty well. That’s not to say that Kancey is anywhere near the stratosphere of Aaron Donald, but the guy’s tape is littered with “wow” plays from start to finish.

At a generous 6’0 and 280 pounds, Kancey has an elite first step and explosiveness off the line of scrimmage that consistently catches opposing offensive linemen off guard. Those traits should translate into an eye-popping performance in Indianapolis in both the agility and jumping tests.

LB Daiyan Henley, Washington State

Henley was a standout at this year’s Senior Bowl and a player the Chargers are specifically high on entering the draft.

At a lean 6’1 and 230 pounds, Henley is a sideline-to-sideline defender with the high motor to run around the field all game long. Zierlein describes his style of play as more “active” than “instinctive” which will lead to a lot of waste movement when he fails to read his keys properly. But at the end of the day, the amount of effort he puts forth will only serve him well going forward if he can be coached up and polished in the NFL.

Any linebacker at his size is expected to test well in order to balance out the lack of size and mass on his frame. It’s with this in mind that I hope to see Henley break into the low 4.5s this week when his positions runs the forty on Thursday.