Every year the NFL Scouting Combine features players that put up mind-blowing numbers in a particular workout, but that big number ends up being their only NFL highlight. This year, will be no different, but a first round talent — Oregon State DT Stephen Paea — smashed the record for 225-pound bench press reps with 49.
“I’ve been blessed the last couple months to prepare for this event,” Paea said about 45 minutes after the lift. The 6-foot-1, 303-pounder later added: “I think I could go back and do another one.”
Paea has an interesting back story. He grew up playing rugby in Tonga and didn’t pick up football until moving to the United States at 16. He played high school football in Provo, Utah, then attended Snow Junior College in nearby Ephraim for one year before landing at Oregon State.
Paea, rated as Mike Mayock’s No. 5 defensive tackle, was invited to the Senior Bowl last month, but he couldn’t participate while recovering from a damaged lateral meniscus in his right knee.
It’s no surprise that Paea beat everyone this year at the Combine, but I don’t think anyone expected him to destroy the all-time record. The only bad news for the Chiefs is that it likely bumps up Paea’s draft stock after the knee injury seemed to push him down a few pegs.
With Kansas City looking for help in the middle, Paea fits everything Scott Pioli and Todd Haley look for in a prospect. On top of all the physical tools he brings to the table, Paea was also the all-important team captain for the Beavers.
As we’ve seen the last few years, the learning curve for defensive linemen is as steep as they come. Yet when you have a player with as much raw strength as Paea, he might be able to contribute immediately even though he is relatively new to the game.
I love Paea as a prospect and, while I go back and forth if he could be worthy of the 21st pick, I would have no problem if Scott Pioli traded up in the second round to make sure he added this beast from Oregon State.