With only three D-I teams (Alabama, Virginia, Cal) using the 3-4 as their last year base defense last year, NFL teams looking for rush linebackers to fit this scheme are being forced to consider how pass rushing defensive ends from the 4-3 will convert.
Taking some of the guess work out of the process, 34 (out of 39) defensive ends tested at the Combine also did linebacker drills.
Scouts leaving Indianapolis yesterday told me that former defensive ends Sergio Kindle (Texas), Jerry Hughes (TCU), Everson Griffen (USC), Ricky Sapp (Clemson), and Thaddeus Gibson (Ohio State) were the most impressive of the conversion bunch. The fact that there were so many who did so has scouts excited that some of these young pass rushers will be able to make an immediate impact as rookies.
Kindle, who has experience at linebacker and is widely viewed as one of the draft's better all-around athletes, was not a surprise. Griffen, also viewed as an elite athlete, also was expected to perform well. Scouts felt that each were so athletic, in fact, that some question why they weren't more productive during their collegiate careers.
Sapp needed a strong workout to ease teams' concerns about his surgically repaired knee.
The more impactful workouts may have been had by Hughes and Gibson.
Hughes (6-2, 255) gambled by not attending the Senior Bowl, but may have proven he made a wiser decision in prepping for workouts. Scouts clocked him in the low 4.6s in the 40-yard dash and he also impressed in linebacker drills, as well as the 3-cone and 20 yard shuttle, each of which are designed to test how well an athlete changes directions -- typically areas of concern for DEs making the conversion to OLB.
Gibson (6-2, 243) is less known to scouts due to the fact that he left by Ohio State after his junior season. Gibson proved his agility by leading all defensive linemen (and finishing 3rd among linebackers) in the 3-cone drill (6.84 seconds), while also posting solid numbers in the short shuttle, 40-yard dash and bench press.