The 2023 NFL Combine is now in the books. On Monday, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper published his list of the 10 players who most improved their draft stock during the measurements, interviews and workouts of the last week.
Let’s take a look at some of them who might be of interest to Kansas City Chiefs fans.
Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
Smith, who tore his right pectoral muscle in November and missed the rest of the season, did just three drills on the field Thursday night, but he was elite in each one. He ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash and put up a 41.5-inch vertical and 10-foot-8 broad jump. At 238 pounds, he is now the second-heaviest player to run a sub-4.4 40 and have a 40-plus-inch vertical jump at the combine since 2006 (Vernon Davis is the other). Those are unreal numbers for an outside linebacker.
NFL teams covet edge rushers — it’s one of the positions they reach for most. Smith has all the physical tools teams want in an outside linebacker, but he had just 6.5 sacks over the past two seasons and too often got swallowed up by offensive tackles. He has to develop more pass-rush moves. I don’t have a Round 1 grade on Smith — he’s my No. 3 OLB — but I could see a team falling in love with him and taking him in the 15-25 range in April.
In the 31 national mock drafts Arrowhead Pride has tracked since January, Smith has been the player who has been projected to the Chiefs most frequently — which suggests that analysts believe he not only fills a need in Kansas City but will be available when the team makes its first-round pick at 31st overall. This was also borne out last week when Smith ranked 40th in our compilation of national prospect rankings.
Kiper’s new characterization of the former Bulldog as a player who could go in the “15-25 range” could suggest that his Combine performance makes him less likely to be unavailable to Kansas City. It is still, however, just one analyst’s opinion. In the national prospect rankings we averaged before the Combine, Smith was ranked from 26th through 74th.
Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
Bresee had a great workout Thursday, dispelling any questions about his physical tools. He moved well, running a 4.86-second 40-yard dash, which ranked fourth among the defensive tackles. At 298 pounds, he looked fresh and healthy.
Bresee looked like a future top-five pick as a freshman in 2020, but he tore his left ACL and played four games in 2021. Last season, he dealt with the death of his sister and a kidney infection. He played 320 snaps and had 3.5 sacks and 18 total tackles. Bresee could be a 3-technique tackle in the NFL, and he has some juice as a pass-rusher. This workout puts him firmly in the Round 1 discussion for teams that need help inside.
This defensive tackle is another player projected to the Chiefs in multiple mock drafts. Bresee was listed as Kansas City’s pick in Ryan Wilson’s first post-combine mock for CBS Sports on Monday — and was projected to the Chiefs by NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah on January 20 and by PFF’s Trevor Sikkema on January 30.
Ranked 16th in last week’s rankings compilation (from eighth and 37th in the five prospect lists we averaged), it would appear that when Bresee has been projected to Kansas City, it’s been as the best player available at 31. If other teams share Kiper’s view of his Combine efforts, Bresee will be less likely to be available to the Chiefs.
Adetomiwa Adebawore, EDGE, Northwestern
Adebawore was one of the stars of Thursday, putting up the fastest 40-yard dash (4.49 seconds) of any player over 280 pounds at the combine since at least 2006, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. He also has the second-best vertical jump (37.5 inches) of any player over 280 pounds. Those are off-the-charts numbers.
The question for NFL teams now is: Why doesn’t Adebawore’s sack production match his physical traits? He had 9.5 sacks over the past two seasons, playing about three times as many snaps as an edge defender vs. a defensive tackle. That versatility will help, but he’s a bit of a tweener at the next level. Adebawore was just outside my defensive end rankings headed into the week, but he’s firmly in the third-round discussion now.
Adebawore was already pretty firmly in the third-round discussion. Ranked from 45th to 156th, he ranked 89th in our compilation — close to the end of the third round. So he’s probably not likely to be in the discussion at 31 — but should the Chiefs go with a different position in the first round, a player like Adebawore could be a possibility in the third.