Draft analyst Rob Rang says Vea showed off "extraordinary" speed and explosion for a 347-pound defensive lineman.
There was considerable anticipation surrounding Vita Vea entering the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. He was widely regarded as a top-15 draft prospect before the combine, and his performance over the weekend seemed to further validate that belief.
“It’s really difficult to live up to as much buzz as he had prior to the event, and then for him to demonstrate that remarkable strength and that speed — it’s extraordinary at his size,” said Rob Rang, an analyst for NFLDraftScout.com.
The 6-foot-4 Vea weighed in a 347 pounds at the combine, then bench-pressed 225 pounds 41 times on Saturday, second-most among all defensive linemen.
Perhaps even more impressively, on Sunday morning he ran a 5.10-second 40-yard dash, earning noteworthy praise from NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock during the broadcast of the event.
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Vea is Mayock’s No. 1-ranked defensive tackle in the draft.
“Do you know how freaky this kid is?” Mayock said, according to NFL.com. “He played high school basketball, he was a running back in high school. On defense, they’ve used him everywhere on the front. He stands up at 347, plays the “joker,” rushes the A-gap, comes off the edge. (Stanford coach) David Shaw said he’s got the ability to be the best 3-4 nose tackle or 4-3 nose tackle in football.”
Vea tweaked a hamstring on Sunday and did not participate in any other drills after the 40.
Beyond the on-field workout, Rang said Vea also impressed in his interviews with teams over the weekend.
“From the conversations I’ve had with folks, he really came off well in those interviews, and that’s such a big part of it,” Rang said.
In his latest mock draft, Rang projects Vea to go to the Oakland Raiders with the 10th overall pick. The draft begins April 26.
Wide receiver John Ross III was the ninth overall pick in last year’s draft, and the Huskies are looking to have first-round selections in consecutive drafts for the first time since 1992-93 (Steve Emtman and Dana Hall in ’92; Lincoln Kenedy in ’93).
Washington will host its Pro Day on Saturday, where NFL hopefuls — including many not invited to the combine — will get a chance to run through drills in front of scouts. It’s unclear if Vea (hamstring) or wide receiver Dante Pettis (ankle) will participate in Saturday’s workout.
Of the seven Huskies who were invited to the combine, no one needed a better showing than Azeem Victor. The linebacker’s draft stock had dropped precipitously last fall, when he was suspended twice by UW coach Chris Petersen and saw his on-field role reduced dramatically.
Victor ran a 4.72-second 40 on Sunday, which Rang said helped put the linebacker back on scouts’ radar.
“Athletically, he showed he’s legitimate NFL prospect,” Rang said. “He showed the speed and the fluidity, the change of direction — all those things we’ve already seen the field. But in his case, when you miss as many games as he did this past season, it was important for him to remind scouts of his athletic ability. I thought he helped himself.”