Feb 27, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Dont'a Hightower lines up to run the 40 yard dash during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
One day after Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks struggled at the NFL Combine, Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw took the field in Indianapolis in front of the NFL scouting community and by all accounts had solid showings.
Dont'a Hightower largely solidified his draft stock by running an impressive 4.68 in the 40-yard dash, doing so after weighing in at 6'2 and 265 pounds. Hightower didn't have the strongest performance in some of the passing drills and looked a bit stiff at times, but even so the quick times he turned in during the agility drills will be the ultimate takeaway for many teams that questioned his ability to play standing up at the next level. Hightower will always be a niche player who excels as an interior linebacker on running downs and as a situational rusher on passing downs more so than as an every-down linebacker, and admittedly several 4-3 teams will likely place a much lower value on him, but the odds now seem good that he can find a way into the back end of the first round.
Courtney Upshaw also went through the linebacker drills in an attempt to show teams that he could stand up and play in space if necessary at the next level, and he seemingly acquitted himself admirably. He looked a bit rough around the edges at times, as expected, but generally impressed scouts with the fluidity of hip movement and his ability to change direction, neither of which are simple tasks for someone who measured in at 6'2 and 272 pounds and who spent much of his collegiate career playing with his hand on the ground.
Upshaw, however, opted not to run the 40-yard dash today in Indianapolis. He had previously stated he planned on doing so and added further that he expected to run in the 4.6 range, but for whatever reason Upshaw chose not to run today. Perhaps he tweaked something in one of the other workouts, perhaps not, but in any event this places a great deal of importance on his March 7th workout at the Alabama Pro Day. Not that there is any real reason to think that Upshaw wouldn't post an impressive time, but even so great athleticism is a necessity for edge rushers in the NFL, so Upshaw needs to run next week and run well.
Josh Chapman was also in Indianapolis today as he continues to recover from surgery to repair the torn ACL he sustained this past season against Florida, but he did not partake in any of the drills. He had hoped to do the bench press -- something Chapman excels at and something that is of particular importance for an interior line prospect -- but ultimately he was not cleared to do so. Chapman weighed in at 6'1 and 316 pounds, and did go through team interviews this week.
The NFL Combine will conclude tomorrow afternoon with defensive backs taking the field at Lucas Oil Stadium. Alabama defensive backs Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, and DeQuan Menzie will be among those working out for the NFL scouting community.