Gil Brandt's Pre-Combine Rankings: Defense

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Here's a breakdown by position of the key defensive players that will be at the RCA Dome for this year's Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. We are listing the top players at each position and players you might not know about prior to their workouts.

These rankings can and will change after the Combine because of the physical aspects (players could have health or injury problems) and the workouts (i.e. a player might run faster than had been expected).

Each player is listed with a number that he will wear at the workouts so you can follow them during the live coverage on NFL Network.

NOTE: The Combine track will be fast, which is great for running good times. In 2005, 11 defensive backs ran their 40-yard dash in times of 4.40 and under. Of the 11, six ran for times of 4.35 and under. Of those six, Carlos Rogers (4.31) and Fabian Washington (4.31) moved up into the first round. Twenty-nine of the linebackers in attendance ran and completed the on-field drills. Derrick Johnson and Michael Boley both ran times of under 4.60. Players will run on a new FieldTurf this year, which Marvin Harrison and Dwight Freeney say is very fast.

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DEFENSIVE LINEMEN -- 54 PLAYERS INVITED

First players likely to be picked (listed alphabetically):

  1. Broderick Bunkley, Florida State (No. 10)
  1. Dusty Dvoracek, Oklahoma (No. 14)
  1. Tamba Hali, Penn State (No. 19)
  1. Mathias Kiwanuka, Boston College (No. 28)
  1. Haloti Ngata, Oregon (No. 38)
  1. Darryl Tapp, Virginia Tech (No. 47)
  1. Gabe Watson, Michigan (No. 48)
  1. Mario Williams, N.C. State (No. 50)
  1. Kamerion Wimbley, Florida State (No. 51)*
  1. Rodrique Wright, Texas (No. 52)
  1. Claude Wroten, Louisiana State (No. 53)
  • -- Some teams might view Wimbley as a rush linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme.

More names to know:

Elvis Dumervil, Louisville (No. 13)

Orien Harris, Miami (Fla.) (No. 21)

Eric Henderson, Georgia Tech (No. 23)

Manny Lawson, N.C. State (No. 31)

Jonathan Lewis, Virginia Tech (No. 32)

Babatunde Oshinowo, Stanford (No. 41)

Quick Hits

In 2005, 49 defensive linemen were invited to the Combine (26 DEs, 23 DTs) and 34 were drafted. Six defensive linemen were drafted that didn't attend the Combine.

In Combine history, two defensive linemen drafted in the first round were not invited to the Combine: Aaron Jones (Steelers, 1988) and Eric Swann (Cardinals, 1991).

In 2003, Osi Umenyiora was not invited to the Combine. He was selected by the Giants in the second round (56th overall). In 2005, he was voted to the Pro Bowl as the starting defensive end.

Over the past 10 years, 47 defensive linemen have been drafted in the first round, and 20 of the 47 have been taken as a top-10 pick.

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LINEBACKERS -- 38 PLAYERS

*First players likely to be picked (listed alphabetically): *

  1. Bobby Carpenter, Ohio State (No. 4)
  1. Chad Greenway, Iowa (No. 9)
  1. A.J. Hawk, Ohio State (No. 11)
  1. Abdul Hodge, Iowa (No. 12)
  1. Thomas Howard, UTEP (No. 13)
  1. D'Qwell Jackson, Maryland (No. 17)
  1. Roger McIntosh, Miami (Fla.) (No. 22)
  1. DeMeco Ryans, Alabama (No. 28)
  1. Ernie Sims, Florida State (No. 31)
  1. Gerris Wilkinson, Georgia Tech (No. 35)

More names to know:

Jon Alston, Stanford (No. 1)

A.J. Nicholson, Florida State (No. 24)

Kai Parham, Virginia (No. 25)

Freddie Roach, Alabama (No. 26)

Wild card: Parys Haralson, Tennessee (No. 20), will work out with the defensive linemen, but he will mostly likely play linebacker in the NFL.

Quick Hits

In 2005, 37 LBs were invited to the Combine and 25 were drafted. Six linebackers not invited to the Combine were drafted.

Thomas Howard's father, Thomas Sr., was taken in the third round of the 1977 draft and played seven years with the Chiefs and two more (1984-85) for the St. Louis Cardinals. In all, he played in 113 games total.

Chad Greenway helped his high school team win consecutive state titles in nine-man football in South Dakota. He played quarterback and free safety.

A.J. Hawk played point guard on his high school basketball team and was also the team's punter.

In the past two years, LBs Jonathan Vilma (Jets) and Shawne Merriman (Chargers) were named Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Three LBs have been picked No. 1 overall in the draft's history: Tommy Nobis (Falcons, 1966), Tom Cousineau (Bills, 1979) and Aundray Bruce (Falcons, 1988).

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DEFENSIVE BACKS -- 59 PLAYERS

*First players likely to be picked (listed alphabetically): *

  1. Darnell Bing, Southern Cal (No. 5)
  1. Greg Blue, Georgia (No. 6)
  1. Tye Hill, Clemson (No. 19)
  1. Michael Huff, Texas (No. 22)
  1. Kelly Jennings, Miami (Fla.) (No. 24)
  1. Tim Jennings, Georgia (No. 25)
  1. DeMario Minter, Georgia (No. 38)
  1. Anwar Phillips, Penn State (No. 43)
  1. Jimmy Williams, Virginia Tech (No. 56)
  1. Ashton Youboty, Ohio State (No. 58)
  1. Alan Zemaitis, Penn State (No. 59)

Wild cards: Jason Allen, Tennessee (No. 2), and Antonio Cromartie, Florida State (No. 9). Both players are coming off major injuries -- Cromartie before the season started and Allen during the season. Both were highly rated prior to their setbacks.

More names to know:

Daniel Bullocks, Nebraska (No. 8)

Cedric Griffin, Texas (No. 13)

Roman Harper, Alabama (No. 14)

Danieal Manning, Abilene Christian (No. 31)

Marcus Maxey, Miami (Fla.) (No. 34)

Ko Simpson, Southern Cal (No. 47)

Quick Hits

In 2005, 57 DBs were invited to the Combine (32 cornerbacks, 25 safeties), and 39 were drafted. In addition, eight were drafted that didn't get invited to Indy (seven cornerbacks, one safety).

Only one defensive back has ever been drafted No. 1 overall, and that was Gary Glick by the Steelers in 1956.

Marcus Demps' brother, Will, plays for the Ravens. Will was undrafted coming out of college at San Diego State.

Penn State could have four defensive backs drafted: Chris Harrell, Calvin Lowry, Anwar Phillips and Alan Zemaitis.

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WANT TO GET IN THE COMBINE?

For years, I've been part of the NFL combine, and I can tell you it's an interesting time because this is the first chance to see the rookie class of 2006. But for the second time ever, fans will be able to check out the workouts for themselves via NFL Network's live coverage.

Starting at 2 p.m. ET on Thursday, Feb. 23, and Friday, Feb. 24, you will be able to watch the press conferences that take place those two days for two hours. From Feb. 25-28, you will be able to watch three hours daily of live workouts -- the 40-yard dash and position drills.

In addition, NFL Total Access will be on the scene with news, analysis and interviews, featuring host Rich Eisen and Playbook analyst Butch Davis. If you are a fantasy football player, this is a must-watch event. I think you will really enjoy this special program.

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