5 things learned at the NFL Scouting Combine – Day 4

Patrick Queen plans to be the next great LSU linebacker

LSU LB Patrick Queen
LSU LB Patrick Queen

INDIANAPOLIS – The rest of the defensive prospects wrapped up the media access Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Here are five things learned on Day 4.

1. Patrick Queen has come a long way in just one year.

The LSU linebacker didn't even begin 2019 as a starter, but ever since getting his chance with the Tigers, the speedy Queen has become a rising star and is now being discussed as a mid-to-late first-round pick.

Just one year as a starter has raised experience questions, though, and Queen also has heard doubts about his run-stopping ability between the tackles. That brought him to Indy ready to stand up for himself.

"I feel like people are taking into consideration that I'm not a run-stopper, and I feel like that I am," the 6-foot, 229-pounder said. "I guess they question it because of my size. I guess that's a problem with some people, that I'm not that big of a linebacker. But at the end of the day, size doesn't mean anything. It's all about the heart, and I have the heart to stop the run."

Queen did confirm having a formal interview with the Packers. He credits LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda's teaching and his running back background for helping him diagnose plays quickly. His 4.4 speed is an asset chasing plays to the sideline and covering backs and tight ends.

He plans to be the next high-impact NFL inside linebacker from LSU, following Devin White, Kwon Alexander and Deion Jones. White was a first-round pick last year.

"I take a lot of pride in that," he said. "Devin was a very vocal guy that got people lined up. Kwon was a very energetic person who got people fired up. Deion was a very aggressive person. So I take every little piece of their game and add it to mine, try to be a versatile player."

Having worked so hard just to crack LSU's starting lineup, Queen also prides himself on never taking a play off.

"That's just competitiveness coming out of me," he said. "I don't want to have somebody turn on my tape and say, 'That's a bad play. He's not great,' or, 'He's not aggressive. I want to be that guy when people to turn on the tape they say, 'We have to watch out for him.'"

2. Packers safety Darnell Savage is appreciated as a mentor.

Darnell Savage's partner at safety in his final season at Maryland was Antoine Brooks Jr., who is now headed into the draft. Brooks credits Savage and another former Terps teammate, Carolina Panthers linebacker Jermaine Carter, for shepherding him along.

"They taught me a lot," said Brooks, who also has had a former meeting with Green Bay. "They raised me from a boy to a man in college. I appreciate every moment with them. I practiced hard just for them two. They taught me how to go to class, they taught me about time management. They taught me to be a man.

"As I got older, I just learned from them to be aggressive. You can't have fear from anything or anybody. They taught me how to watch film, how to go through the playbook. Savage was real hard on me about the playbook."

Brooks, a 5-11, 220-pound safety, nearly quit football as a senior in high school after sustaining a compound fracture of his ankle and a broken wrist on the same play. Both injuries needed surgeries, and he was ready to give it up.

He didn't, obviously, and the period of soul-searching helped him understand how passionate he is about the game, which shows in his play.

"Now I'm here, very blessed," he said. "I won't give up, never again, with this sport because I love it too much."

Take a look at photos of Packers players during their NFL Scouting Combine appearances.

3. It's hard not to love Marlon Davidson's attitude.

The 6-3, 303-pound Auburn defensive lineman has quite the personality, from admiring New Orleans Saints pass rusher Cameron Jordan for his "vicious" style of play to calling himself "country strong."

Davidson relied on that strength for his first three years at Auburn, saying he never really worked out until his senior season. Then in one year he went from being able to bench press 265 pounds to hoisting 395. He also posted a career-best 7½ sacks among 12½ tackles for loss in 2019.

Those are just a couple of reasons it was a good move to play one more year in college when he could have been perhaps a second-day draft pick a year ago.

But more important were the promises Davidson made to his late mother he was determined to honor. His mom died unexpectedly of a blood clot when he was a junior in high school, and in his younger days Davidson had vowed to finish college and take care of the family financially.

"I wake up to my phone alarm saying, 'Do what mom says, to do your best,'" Davidson said.

Working to boost his draft stock has Davidson in first-round discussions now, even with fellow Auburn defensive lineman and SEC Defensive Player of the Year Derrick Brown rated ahead of him. Whether or not he's one of the first 32 players chosen, he's "going to play like a first-round draft pick."

Either way, his decision should pay off handsomely, and his new promise is to be smart with all the money he does make.

"I'm a country kid, I come from the trees, I don't need much," he said. "Get me a pair of shoes and go play ball."

4. Ross Blacklock will never back down from a challenge.

It would have been natural for the TCU defensive lineman to play basketball. After all, his father, Jimmy Blacklock, has played and coached a number of years for the Harlem Globetrotters.

But the younger Blacklock has played football since he was 5 years old and always liked it the best among all his sports, which also included baseball, track and swimming (he was all-state).

"My dad never really pushed me to be a basketball player," Blacklock said. "He knew football was where I wanted to be. For me, (basketball's) too soft.

"I love the physicality of this game and you can't be soft to play this game. You have to be tough."

He's enduring 21 formal interviews at the combine, including one with the Packers. At 18 minutes each, that's almost 6½ hours of sit-down interviews.

More enjoyable for the 6-3, 290-pounder was a chance to meet one of his favorite "old-school" players, John Randle, known as a tough guy himself.

Blacklock proved his own toughness by coming back in just seven months from a torn Achilles that cost him the entire 2018 season. The injury can require up to a full year of rehab and recovery, but he was back in plenty of time to prepare fully for the 2019 season, when he recorded 3½ sacks as an interior rusher.

He did drop some weight during his lost season that he should be able to put back on his 6-3, 290-pound frame. Of his mentality to fight back from the injury, he simply said, "You can't just mope around and be sad and mad at the world."

5. Trevon Diggs picked the right game to go see his big brother play for the first time.

The Alabama cornerback had actually never been to an NFL game in his life until attending the 2017 NFC Divisional playoff game between the Vikings and Saints to watch his older brother Stefon.

Minnesota's star receiver, of course, pulled off the "Minneapolis Miracle" by catching the game-winning touchdown pass on the final play.

"To see him make that catch, it was amazing," Trevon said. "A lot of people were leaving the stadium and then everyone just stopped. The place went crazy."

Trevon has always leaned on Stefon, five years his senior and whom he's looked up to as a father since their dad passed away when Trevon was in fourth grade. He'll call him anytime, even at 2 a.m., just to chat or ask advice.

Trevon, a 6-1, 205-pound corner, intercepted three passes this past season in earning various All-SEC and some All-America honors.

"He's always critiquing me. We don't talk about the good things, we talk about the bad things to get better," Trevon said. "He doesn't babysit me. He doesn't tell me what I want to hear. He keeps me hungry, keeps me humble."

Except with regard to the prospect of covering his brother sometime in an NFL game.

"I feel like it'll be easy," he said with a smile.

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