As the second day of NFL Combine workouts in Indianapolis unfolded, Penn State defensive lineman products Carl Nassib, Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson were all put through their paces.
The group of defensive linemen who are eligible for this year’s NFL Draft is the thickest and most talented of all position groups, with names like Joey Bosa, Shaq Lawson, Noah Spence and Shilique Calhoun high on the lists of several NFL teams hungry for run-stuffers and pass rushers.
Many draft projections have Austin Johnson going in the high-to-mid second round when selections are made by NFL teams in April.
Johnson performed at about those standards on Sunday.
The defensive tackle has slimmed down about 10 pounds since Penn State’s season, and measured in at 6-foot-4 and 314 pounds. Johnson ran a 5.32-second 40-yard dash, impressive considering his size. He also executed 25 reps on the bench press (the standard weight is 225 pounds), had a 26.0-inch vertical jump and a 99.0 inch (8.25 feet) broad jump, ran a 7.84-second cone drill and, important for his particular position, executed a 4.75-second 20-yard shuttle run.
His performance prompted NFL Analyst Mike Mayock to say, “This kid is so gifted. I got a second-round grade on him,” via broadcast.
Those who followed defensive tackle Anthony Zettel’s Penn State career know he has freaky athletic ability, though his rawness and need to hone his technique has prompted analysts to project him to get picked up in the late third round or as an undrafted free agent (UDFA). His 6-foot-4, 277-pound. long-legged frame puts him at somewhere between the ideal build of a tackle and an end, and while at Penn State he played in both spots.
However, Zettel’s strong showing at the combine likely only helped his stock. He finished among the front of the pack with a 4.81-second 40-yard dash and cranked out 28 reps on the bench press.
Those reps also went toward Zettel’s charitable effort through Penn State’s Uplifting Athlete’s chapter, and the lineman was able to raise more than $6,000 for rare disease research.
Zettel also posted a 30.5-inch vertical and 109-inch broad jump alongside a 7.36-second cone drill and a 4.39-second shuttle run.
Not to be forgotten was former walk-on Carl Nassib, who led the nation in sacks last season. Nassib hasn’t been at the top of many draft boards, as analysts have seemed wary of his success his last year at Penn State being a “one-and-done” type of situation and have cited his inexperience when projecting him as a late third-round pick or a UDFA.
However, Mayock gave warning via broadcast to “not count Nassib out from being a really, really good defensive end in the NFL.”
The 6-foot-7, 277-pound pass rusher ran a 4.84-second 40-yard dash and benched a bottom-of-the-pack 21 reps. He also recorded a 28.5-inch vertical jump and impressed with his length after broad-jumping 114 inches. Nassib finished with a 7.27-second cone drill and 4.37-second shuttle drill.
The combine will conclude Monday with the workouts of safeties and defensive backs. Penn State’s Jordan Lucas will work out with the safeties group.