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5 Pass Rushers To Watch At 2017 Scouting Combine


Ozzie Newsome has said many times that he can never have too many pass rushers.

That's particularly true this offseason as veterans Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are both in the latter stages of their careers. The Ravens have some young pass rushers in the cupboard like Za'Darius Smith and Matthew Judon, but they could also benefit from adding a premier talent in this year's draft.

Here's an overview of some of the pass rushers to watch at next week's combine:

Taco Charlton, Michigan6-foot-6, 272 pounds

Charlton had a breakout season his senior year, putting up 40 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. He was a big piece of a Michigan defense that finished the season as the country's top-ranked unit. Charlton has a long frame and great athleticism, giving him all of the tools to blossom into a premier NFL pass rusher. The Ravens will certainly get an honest scouting report on Charlton from Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh.

What he needs to prove at the combine:Charlton will have to answer questions about his inconsistent play during his college career. He's incredibly talented, but didn't earn a full-time starting job until his senior year. If NFL teams are going to invest a first-round pick in Charlton, they'll want to make sure they know what they're getting.

Solomon Thomas, Stanford6-foot-3, 273 pounds

Thomas is an athletic defender who lined up at multiple spots along the defensive front, and particularly thrived as a pass rusher. He earned All-American honors last season after recording 62 tackles and eight sacks. A question with Thomas is whether he projects as a defensive end or outside linebacker in a system like the Ravens run, and that could cause him to slip to the late first-round or possibly even into the second.

What he needs to prove at the combine:Scouts will want to see Thomas in person to get a better sense of the position he'll play at the NFL level. His motor and ability will shine through on tape, but the combine is a time to get a true representation of his measureables. 

Tim Williams, Alabama6-foot-4, 252 pounds

Playing on the vaunted Crimson Tide defense, Williams was a second-team All-American last year after coming up with 31 tackles and nine sacks. His specialty is getting after the quarterback, and he was primarily used as a pass-rushing specialist throughout his college career.

What he needs to prove at the combine:Williams dealt with off-the-field problems at Alabama. He reportedly failed multiple drug tests, and also was arrested on a misdemeanor drug charge. Teams will have pointed questions for Williams about those issues, and if the concerns are significant, they could cause his draft stock to slide. 

Derek Barnett, Tennessee6-foot-3, 268 pounds

Barnett had monster production in his final college season, racking up 56 tackles, 12 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception. He did all of that while going up against SEC offensive linemen every single week. Barnett was a three-year starter at Tennessee and notched 32 sacks during that time. Barnett has drawn high marks from draft analysts for his ability the defend both the run and the pass, which is a skill the Ravens want in their outside linebackers.

What he needs to prove at the combine:Barnett has good size and plenty of college production, which seems to make him a first-round lock. The key for a player like Barnett is to avoid any kind of combine letdown – like running a slow 40-yard dash – that would give teams pause when considering him in the first round.

T.J. Watt, Wisconsin6-foot-5, 243 pounds

Finding an NFL comparison for Watt is easy considering his older brother J.J., a four-time Pro Bowler, already paved the way for the family. But it won't be so easy to live up to his brother's reputation as one of the NFL's best overall defenders. T.J. Watt decided to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft after a great junior season where he came up with 63 tackles and 11.5 sacks. Watt dealt with injuries early in his college career, which limited him to just one year of production. J.J. Watt blossomed into a dominant defender after he reached the NFL, and the team that drafts T.J. will hope he follows a similar path.

What he needs to prove at the combine:The medical examinations are a critical piece of the combine, and team doctors want to ensure that the injuries he sustained to both knees won't hold him back at the next level.

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