Alabama's Dareus Making Case to be First DT Taken in Draft

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INDIANAPOLIS --** After the offensive players took center stage at the NFL Scouting Combine over the weekend, Monday provided the defensive linemen and linebackers with a chance to boost their value.

The focus on the 40-yard dash can make the rest of the drills seem irrelevant, but the data gained from the battery of athletic tests and position-specific drills helps evaluators stack their respective draft boards.

Although this workout is only a small fraction of the overall evaluation process, the measurables are often the deciding factor between similarly graded players.

Given the impact of the numbers and passing the eyeball test, some players are on the move based on their combine performance.

Marcell Dareus, Alabama, DT: He made a strong impression on coaches and scouts with his workout. He reported in tremendous shape (6-foot-3, 319 pounds) and moved better than anticipated in drills. His speed, quickness and body control are exceptional for a bigger player. Given his skill set and intangibles (work ethic, leadership and football intelligence), Dareus is building a strong case to be the top defensive tackle.

J.J. Watt, Wisconsin, DT: He's made a strong push up the charts since the end of the regular season and his performance at the combine will only enhance his stock. His prototypical size and frame (6-5, 290 pounds) are complemented by a relentless motor and work ethic. He surprised scouts with his agility and athleticism in drills. His 4.84 time in the 40-yard dash makes him a viable option at defensive end in a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme.

Von Miller, Texas A&M, OLB: After amazing scouts with his speed and athleticism at the Senior Bowl, his workout at the combine only cemented his status as the premier outside linebacker in the draft. He showed acceleration in drills and his fluid movement skills will encourage coaches and scouts to view him as a versatile playmaker. With a track record for production, Miller's value will continue to rise.

Martez Wilson, Illinois, LB: Expected to be the top performer at his position based on the athleticism he displayed on tape, few thought he would run a 4.49-second 40-yard dash. His explosive display while going through the range of agility drills ranks as one of the most impressive workouts of the day. While his measurables (6-4, 250 pounds) will certainly create buzz, his performance during linebacker drills was equally impressive. His nimble footwork and lateral quickness not only stood out while working through the bags, but he also shined when dropping into coverage. While Wilson was projected to be the first middle linebacker taken, he might have upped his value as a potential first-round pick.

Marvin Austin, North Carolina, DT: He reported in outstanding shape (6-2, 309 pounds) and flashed strength and athleticism in drills. His 38 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press indicate he worked in the weight room during his season-long suspension. Austin also showed balance, body control and quickness while going through individual drills. Even though his year away from the game hindered his development and raised questions about his character, his talent is hard for scouts and coaches to ignore.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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