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2023 NFL Scouting Combine: Defensive Player Dynasty Review

Which defensive players stood out at the Scouting Combine and are ready to make an IDP impact?

Calijah Kancey

Since the Scouting Combine has wrapped up, we are going to go position by position and break down some of the big performances in Indianapolis last week. Athleticism is almost more important on the defensive side of the ball compared to offense. Players are expected to read and react quickly to what’s unfolding in front of them. You may have all the mental processing in the world, but if you can’t make a play on the ball or ball carrier, it’s all for naught. Players who did not do athletic tests at the combine are not included in this article.

Defensive Tackles

Bryan Bresee, Clemson

The former top high school recruit out of Maryland put on a clinic at the combine, posting an absolutely blazing 93rd-percentile 40-yard dash while weighing two pounds shy of 300. One of the best block shredders in this class, Bresee was a force at Clemon, racking up nine sacks and 15 tackles for a loss while having a redshirt sophomore year for torn ACL. He was able to bounce back in 2022 and looked very explosive at the combine. If he can stay healthy he will be an excellent addition to any IDP roster that needs interior starters.

Calijah Kancey, Pitt

Kancey was very productive at Pitt, putting up 15 sacks and an eye-popping 28 tackles for a loss in his sophomore and junior years. He is a bit undersized for the position and likely doesn’t spend much time on the field in run downs in the NFL, but his size is not as much of a factor for his pass-rushing ways. His 40-yard dash time of 4.67 was in the 99th percentile, which ends up tied at the position for best all-time at the combine with Milton Williams. Kancey’s 95th percentile 10-yard split is evident with his suddenness and ability to get off the snap and get to the QB.

EDGE Rushers

Nolan Smith, Georgia

While not an unknown player by any means, Smith completely demolished the combine and absolutely popped onto everyone’s radar with his testing. Not only did he have a 99th percentile 40 and 10-yard split time, but he posted a 98th percentile vertical and a 95th percentile broad jump, all while weighing in at 240 pounds. The question is if Smith will be held back at all by his size, but he was a very productive run defender for the Bulldogs and with some more refinement from NFL coaches, he can develop moves that utilize his speed and burst on all three downs. The athletic freak factory that is Georgia over the last couple of years has created another one.

Adetomiwa Adebawore, Northwestern

Adebawore turned heads at the combine this year and caused many analysts to revisit the tape a bit. At 282 pounds, he showcased some extremely impressive athleticism with multiple burst and speed workouts over the 90th percentile mark. Doing this at his weight led him to be a player who played inside and outside for the Wildcats, but was a standout at the Senior Bowl. He is a classic burst player who needs refinement at the next level. Adebawore is moving up draft boards in a hurry and could be a very nice upside pick for an IDP player in later rounds.

Will Anderson Jr., Alabama

With top blue chip players, we need to be careful with double counting their workouts, but also keep in mind there are important thresholds they need to clear to continue on to be top picks. Anderson checked in with prototypical size and weight for the modern edge positions and while he didn’t do any of the burst workouts, he checked in a very nice 89th percentile 40 time. Heralded as a long, bursty edge defender, Andserson’s 63rd percentile arm length is a little shorter than many expected. Regardless, Anderson is on his way to being the first non-quarterback selected in the draft after his excellent college career and the litany of tools in his pass-rush plan.


Jack Campbell, Iowa

Campbell’s combine spider chart is nearly completely colored in, which means that he has incredible size, speed, and burst for the position. His 95th-percentile three-cone drill is leading the way but all of his metrics are off the charts. An excellent run defender with the ability to play man and in zone, his biggest concern coming into the combine was burst, but he was able to do very well in those tests. Potentially lacking the stud factor overall, Campbell can walk into any NFL defense and get work right away.

Owen Pappoe, Auburn

While being undersized, Pappoe had an extremely productive combine, posting a 98th percentile 40, a 96th percentile 10 yard, and above average burst metrics. He is exactly the type of player I tend to fall for going into drafts – a good value player with questionable size and extremely good athleticism for the position. If he can add some weight to his frame without losing that speed and power, there could be some good playing time in his future.

Trenton Simpson, Clemson

Likely the first linebacker taken in the draft before the combine, Simpson could have skipped it, but he did end up working out and putting up excellent numbers for his size. A 97th percentile 40 with a great 10-yard split solidifies what Simpson can do on film. He needs to improve the mental side of the game to take that step to the next level, but his combine left no detractors to his speed.


Brian Branch, Alabama

While he played a lot of nickel corner during his time in Alabama, I’m projecting Branch as a plus safety at the next level. NFL defensive coordinators are going to love his ability to play all over the field and we know that snaps equal IDP points. His combine was medium to be sure, but where he wins is on the mental side of the game. He still posted above-average tests in both burst and speed. Expect Branch to be the first safety taken in the real and IDP drafts.

Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M

A real downhill type of safety, Johnson showcased his nice blend of size and speed with 86th percentile height and a 64th percentile 40. He also showed off an impressive wingspan that you can see on film. With his size, I expect him to be used very close to the line of scrimmage because he needs some work to play as a true free safety.


DJ Turner, Michigan

Any combine article wouldn’t be complete without the fastest 40-timed player in the class. Turner blazed a 4.26 40 which is top 10 all time. We all know speed wins in the NFL but Turner needs some work on dealing with the bigger offensive weapons he could be lined up against. As the NFL continues to get more shifty and prioritize separation, players who can close those gaps quickly could see increased work.

Christian Gonzalez, Oregon

Already the top corner on post boards. Gonzalez did not disappoint at all at the combine. He is an extremely well-rounded player and very gifted athletically. He had plus metrics in all the size speed tests and had 95th percentile or better in the burst metrics. If he can corral some technique blemishes, Gonzalez will easily be a long-term force and menace at the defensive back position.

Adam Tzikas
2023 NFL Scouting Combine: Defensive Player Dynasty Review
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