Tackling machine. Great instincts. Field general. Luke Kuechly already had all the buzz words typically attributed to the top inside linebacker prospect in every draft.
But few people touted his outstanding athleticism - until Monday, when the former Boston College standout ran a blistering 4.50 unofficial 40, which would tie Robert McCune for the top time since 2000 by an inside linebacker. (40-yard dash results). He also led the inside linebackers with a 38-inch vertical jump.
The "official" 40 time will likely be adjusted down a bit, but that won't affect the bottom line. With that type of speed, and noted instincts in coverage, Kuechly has shown the ability to be a three-down linebacker in the NFL who can hold his own in coverage against running backs and the growing list of freakishly athletic tight ends.
That's exactly while Kuechly is a virtual lock for the first round despite playing at a position that has lot a lot of draft value in recent years. A source told NFLDraftScout.com last week that Kuechly, who posted 532 tackles in just three college seasons, might be the "safest" player in this draft.
Alabama's Dont'a Hightower enjoyed a strong workout himself, posting a pair of unofficial 4.62 40 times at 265 pounds.
UPDATE: We've noted several times during the Combine that none of the 40 times are technically official, and Kuechly finished the day with four different 40 clockings. His second run was clocked in 4.78 by a handheld time after he appeared to get a slow start. He was then asked to run a third time, which was timed at 4.59. So what time is he now listed with? 4.58. At the end of the day, throw out the 4.78 and know that Kuechly runs in the 4.5-4.6 range, which serve the purpose of proving his athleticism.