NFL Combine Profile: Anthony Hitchens


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Anthony Hitchens’ final play inside Kinnick Stadium as an Iowa linebacker was one that defines his style of play. Hawkeye fans remember that freezing late November day, when Hitchens shed a block, chased down Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner near the Wolverine sideline, forced and recovered a fumble before running around 52 and a half yards across the field with the football raised in his left hand.

With Iowa up 3 points, Hitchens’ memorable play stopped a Michigan drive with less than two minutes remaining on Iowa’s Senior Day.

With a solid career at Iowa over, the 6-foot, 233-pound linebacker has turned his sights to his NFL combine workout on Feb. 24. For Hitchens, the workout can do some good, not much, but some good to help his chances of being called in the NFL draft in April.

There are a few reasons for this — first, it’s his position, linebacker’s 40-yard dash times and other tests at this workout don’t carry as much weight as they would for a running back or defensive back. That’s not to say quickness isn’t important.

Hitchens’ fastest 40 time, according to nfldraftscout.com, is 4.62, which ranks slightly above average compared with other outside linebackers.

If Hitchens runs that time, it won’t do a ton to help his chances. But if he does improve, even if it is slightly, it’ll give a big boost to his chances of being called at Radio City Music Hall in a few months — a time in the 4.5s looks a lot better than in the 4.6s. Analysts say his closing speed and quickness are some of his biggest strengths, along with the nose for the ball he seemed to develop in his senior campaign.

“Flows to the ball (when he sees it) and has good playing range to the sideline,” his NFL.com combine profile reads.

With that being said, his development is widely recognized as a weakness. The Clearview product came into Iowa as a fullback, was quickly moved to safety, and started for two seasons as an outside linebacker, leading the Big Ten in tackles (124, 5.5 for loss) as a junior and tallied 95 as a senior but increased to 11 tackles for loss in his second full season.

Because he hasn’t played behind the defensive line as long as his fellow linebackers — Christian Kirksey and James Morris — he’s had less time to learn the intricacies of the position (see: pass coverage and awareness). Part of the drop in tackles can be attributed to that. But CBSSports.com draft expert Rob Rang said the decline in bring-downs doesn’t have to be looked at in a negative way. “Made strides in his second season, providing some hope that the light is coming on” Rang wrote.

While the playmaking ability is seemingly growing, Hitchens’ inexperience, parlayed with his lack of size, has made him a projected seventh round pick or go undrafted on most boards.

The combine could help his case to be drafted if he performs well and improves his numbers — teams may be more willing to spend a pick on a guy that’s going to take some time to develop if he looks better on paper.

Even with that development, it’s unclear as to how good a player Hitchens can be. He’s shown he can make plays, like the one against Michigan, but his size and football knowledge aren’t on his size — at least yet. That may change, it may not; the road starts in Indianapolis.

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