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The annual scouting combine wrapped up on Monday. We've been looking at some under-the-radar performances by prospects that might interest the Jets. Earlier this week, we looked at offensive players, but now let's consider some prospects on the defensive side of the ball...
Washington nose tackle Vita Vea made headlines by running a 5.1 in the 40-yard dash, but a lesser prospect who impressed with his numbers across the board was small school prospect Nathan Shepherd, whose numbers including the second-best broad jump, and fifth-best vertical jump among the defensive tackles participating.
Shepherd, who attended college at Fort Hays State, is an older prospect, but impressed scouts with his athletic, 315-pound frame. The former linebacker was also able to showcase some of his athletic ability.
The Jets need depth on the defensive line -- both at nose tackle and defensive end. Shepherd could be a good addition as scouts believe he has the tools to play inside and outside.
Bradley Chubb from NC State is considered the top edge defender in the draft, but he was overshadowed to an extent by the likes of Lorenzo Carter from Georgia and Harold Landry from Boston College.
One of the most impressive sets of numbers came from Florida State defensive end Josh Sweat. After a slow start, Sweat had a dominant finish to the season in 2017, producing against the run and generating good pressure even though his sack total was lower than in the previous season.
Sweat, perhaps, needs to bulk up from his 251-pound weight at the combine, but would immediately give the Jets an athletic option to potentially contribute as a situational rusher, and has an impressive 84½ inch wingspan, so he can probably add some weight to that frame.
An inspirational performance from UCF's Shaquem Griffin drew most of the headlines at linebacker, while the likes of Boise State's Leighton Vander Esch and Virginia Tech's Tremaine Edmunds solidified their round one credentials by displaying an excellent combination of size and athleticism.
One player the Jets may have been impressed with is Ohio State's Jerome Baker, after he showcased his excellent all-round athleticism in workouts. While he didn't live up to pre-workout claims that he was capable of running 4.4 flat, Baker still posted the fourth best 40-yard dash and the third best broad jump among all linebackers, while also posting a 36½ inch vertical jump. He may need to bulk up, though, as he weighed in at under 230 pounds.
The trouble with Baker is that the Jets already have one undersized linebacker from Ohio State in Darron Lee. So, while he might provide some depth, Baker might not be an ideal fit to complement Lee if he manages to become a starter.
A record nine defensive backs ran their 40-yard dash in 4.40 or less on Monday, so there are plenty of athletic options out there if the Jets want to try and find a potential starter later on in the draft.
One late-round prospect who might be good value is Pittsburgh's Avonte Maddox. Maddox is small, and had an occasional tendency to get outmuscled when working on the boundary last year. However, if he's going to move to a slot cornerback role at the NFL level, then he demonstrated adequate agility numbers by posting the second-best three-cone drill, and fourth-best short shuttle time at the combine.
Maddox also ran a 4.49 40-yard dash and posted good explosiveness numbers, which are often a sign of good closing or recovery speed. Maddox only had a limited exposure to playing in the slot over the past few years, so he may have to be a developmental project.
At the safety position, Justin Reid from Stanford, Natrell Jamerson from Wisconsin and Penn State's Troy Apke all boosted their stock by posting 40-yard dash times of 4.40 or less.
However, it was Gordon Igwebuike who put together one of the best collections of workout numbers across the board of any defensive prospect at the combine. He displayed speed (4.44 40-yard dash), strength (19 bench press reps), agility (6.56 three-cone drill) and explosiveness (128" broad jump).
Igwebuike has been consistently good over the past three seasons at Northwestern, contributing equally in coverage and against the run. His range enables him to play deep, but he's just as capable of coming up into the box to make plays.