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DL & LB Combine Roundup: Learning from a Legend

View photos from workouts at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine on Saturday in Indianapolis that included linebackers and defensive line.

Ross Blacklock went "new school" before taking it "old school."

The defensive tackle from Texas Christian was asked last week at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine about his favorite player.

"Aaron Donald," Blacklock said before adding, "Favorite old-school player is John Randle, though."

It's somewhat hard to believe that it's been six years since Donald was in the shoes of other draft prospects. The 13th overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft has made six consecutive Pro Bowls, been selected First-Team All-Pro five times by the Associated Press and twice been named the Defensive Player of the Year.

Randle also made six consecutive Pro Bowls and was a First-Team All-Pro from 1993-98, setting his course for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Undrafted yet undeterred, Randle is part of the NFL Legends community — along with fellow former Vikings Cris Carter and Tony Richardson — who were invited to serve as mentors for this year's combine participants.

Blocklock soaked up the opportunity to learn from one of the best NFL players that wasn't invited to the combine in his draft-eligibility year.

"He had unbelievable football skills. A different type of dude," Blacklock said. "I'm a young dude, coming in as a rookie. I just want to be able to soak up all the knowledge, especially from a legend like him.

jon-randle-combine

"I watched a lot of his games, I watched a lot of his clips when he was playing, moves I've tried to mimic in a lot of stuff that I do and formulate in my pass-rush game," Blacklock said.

Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown needed a complete introduction to Randle's game and style of play. Born in 1998, Brown said he watched more college than pro football.

A crash course caught him up on Randle.

"Man, somebody told me — I met him and ate dinner with him last night [with a group of prospects] — and somebody told me, 'Go watch the film.' So I went and looked it up last night. Dude's a monster," Brown told media members Wednesday. "And a lot of guys I talked to in the league, they were talking last night, coaches and staff, and they were saying he's the best player they've ever seen. He was just telling us about how it was, playing. He said he had to get up and show out. That's just what he did."

Below are highlights from additional media sessions and on-field workouts of defensive linemen and linebackers participating in the combine this week.

AT THE MIC

Note: players that are included in this section have been listed among the top players in their position group by NFL Media analysts Daniel Jeremiah and/or Bucky Brooks, have a Vikings/local connection or have been linked to the Vikings in a mock draft by an expert or mentioned as a possibility in an interview. They are grouped by position. The quotes are from sessions with multiple media members in Indianapolis.

DE/Edge Chase Young | Ohio State

Jeremiah has Young as the No. 1 overall prospect, and Brooks has him slotted as the top defensive end/edge rusher.

38 games; 98 tackles (68 solo), 41.5 tackles for loss, 27.5 sacks, nine forced fumbles; recorded 4.0 of his 17 sacks in 2019 against Wisconsin; became ninth defensive player out of 159 finalists for the Heisman Trophy since 1982

On people considering him the best player in the draft: "I definitely think I'm the best player in the draft. I think I showed it on my tape. You can go to every game. I think I showed it. I definitely think I'll put my best foot forward this year. I grinded hard. Two of my biggest things are my hard work and dedication, and I'm gonna bring those two to the NFL with me."

DE/Edge A.J. Epenesa | Iowa

Jeremiah has Epensea as the next-best defensive end/edge rusher but has the former Hawkeye as the 23rd overall prospect. Entering the combine, Brooks agreed that Epenesa was next after Young.

39 games; 101 tackles (61 solo), 36.5 tackles for loss, 26.5 sacks, nine forced fumbles, eight passes defended

On having more than 60 people attend the Holiday Bowl: "All of my family just kind of showed up, all of my family from L.A., from Oceanside, from San Diego, they all kind of just migrated to San Diego, and people from Samoa, too, people from Samoa were able to come, my aunties were able to come. We were able to have a good time, and I was able to stay with my family for a couple of extra days after the bowl game in Oceanside, California. … It was just a lot of fun being able to see everybody because I hadn't seen them since before college."

DT Derrick Brown | Auburn

Jeremiah has Brown as the No. 2 overall prospect, and Brooks has him rated as the top defensive tackle.

53 games; 170 tackles (88 solo), 33.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, five forced fumbles, eight passes defended

On playing at multiple spots along the defensive line: "It was very beneficial. Being coached in the system, we didn't really have [set] positions. We played all the way from the 0-technique to the 5, and coach mentioned we had to be versatile at every position. … A lot of teams say they don't even scout for defensive tackles or nose guards no more. They scout for D-linemen. They want to find guys that can play the positions across the board."

DT Javon Kinlaw | South Carolina

Jeremiah has Kinlaw as the No. 8 overall prospect, and Brooks has him as the second-best defensive tackle.

37 games; 93 tackles (48 solo), 18 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, 10 passes defended

Kinlaw, who overcame homelessness, was asked what advice he'd give to himself at age 12: "Keep your head up, man. Stop being so shy. Just talk to people. Don't be afraid to talk to people. Don't be afraid. People probably pick on you because you ain't got much clothes. You're wearing the same clothes, but man, so much so greater is heading to you. Just keep growing. Keep being yourself. Keep being who you are."

LB Isaiah Simmons | Clemson

Simmons' versatility helped him land at No. 6 in Jeremiah's pre-combine rankings. Brooks ranked him as the top overall linebacker. Some have considered Simmons able to bring his hybrid linebacker/safety role to the pros, but he worked out only with linebackers in Indianapolis.

44 games; 253 tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, 22 passes defended, four interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), five forced fumbles; transitioned from safety in 2017 and became school's first winner of the Butkus Award (nation's top linebacker)

On lining up at multiple spots on the field and having success: "I think it's really beneficial for me. I know years ago it wasn't good to be a positionless guy. But now it's become a benefit for me just because of all the versatility I'll be able to do, play linebacker, play safety, whatever it is, I feel like it just helps me out."

LB Akeem Davis-Gaither | Appalachian State

Brooks has Davis-Gaither as the fifth-best linebacker.

55 games; 258 tackles, 28 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks, 18 passes defended, one interception, two forced fumbles; blocked a field goal to preserve 34-31 win over North Carolina

Davis-Gaither, who weighed-in at 224 pounds, was asked about being lighter than most linebackers: "Coming out of high school, I was 170 (pounds), so I just had that underdog mentality, where I was small but I wanted to play big. I wanted to show guys that size didn't matter to me. Hit guys in the mouth. Just really play hard. Just really be like a lion out of the cage on game day."

LB Carter Coughlin | Minnesota

49 games; 159 tackles, 40 tackles for loss (fourth in school history), 22.5 sacks (third in school history), seven forced fumbles, one fumble recovery; All-Big Ten Second Team in 2018 and '19; played high school football at Eden Prairie

On overcoming multiple changes during his time at Minnesota: "One thing we talk about as a team, talked about – it's crazy to say that now, it's past tense – is you can't always control what happens, but you can choose your response. When changes happen, a new coaching staff comes in, changes in life, you can always choose how respond, either taking it as a negative or a positive. It took a little while, but I took it as a positive and was all-in."

LB Kamal Martin | Minnesota

45 games; 177 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, nine passes defended, four interceptions, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries

On trying to team with Coughlin at the next level: "If that could be the plan. No, but we joke about it all the time because we've been roommates since June of 2016, and it hasn't stopped. We both signed with the same agent, we both room together where we're training and [are] rooming here. It's funny and a crazy story."

ON THE FIELD

Sub-4.5 40s: Three players — all linebackers — ran the 40-yard dash in less than 4.5 seconds on Saturday, compared to seven running backs on Friday. Simmons clocked the fastest time at 4.39 seconds, which was one-hundredth of a second shy of the 4.38 by Shaquem Griffin in 2018. Mississippi State's Willie Gay, Jr., ran it in 4.46 seconds, and Colorado's Davion Taylor finished in 4.49 seconds.

Not even close: While a combine record almost fell among linebackers in the 40-yard dash, defensive linemen were not close to records in that event, the bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, 3-cone drill or 20-yard shuttle.

Click here to see this year's top performers in timing and testing drills.

DL SUPERLATIVES

Pro Football Network compiled official measurements in a sortable table that is available here.

According to Pro Football Network, Kinlaw and his Gamecocks teammate D.J. Wonnum are tied for the longest wingspan (83 3/4 inches) among defensive linemen at the combine this year. Kinlaw's arm length of 34 7/8 inches is tied with Florida's Jonathan Greenard and Penn State's Yetur Gross-Matos for the longest among this year's group. Alabama's Raekwon Davis measured the tallest at 6-foot-6 1/8 inches. Utah's Leki Fotu is the heaviest at 330 pounds.

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