Subject: 8 storylines to follow at the 2018 NFL Combine
8 storylines to follow at the 2018 NFL Combine
The most important measurements, a potential break out player, and more
to follow this week in Indianapolis
By Dan Kadar Updated Feb 27, 2018, 12:33pm EST
Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
The NFL Scouting Combine starts this week in Indianapolis with players
going through medical checks, testing drills, team interviews, and
meeting with the media. These are the eight most interesting storylines
to follow during the week:
1. Can the quarterbacks separate themselves?
There is no agreement on the quarterbacks in this year’s draft. Some
like Josh Rosen of UCLA, while others like his crosstown rival Sam
Darnold of USC. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield has his fans, including Pro
Football Focus, which asserts he should be the first pick in the draft.
Some, like ESPN’s Mel Kiper, give the nod to Josh Allen of Wyoming (for
some reason). Then there’s Lamar Jackson of Louisville, who let’s just
say opinions vary on.
The point is that one of the top quarterbacks hasn’t separated himself
from the pack. From a combine testing standpoint, a clear favorite
shouldn’t emerge. But the rumors and speculation that always emerge in
Indianapolis could give an indication on which of these quarterbacks the
2. Jackson answering that question
When Jackson faces the media on Friday, he will undoubtedly be asked if
teams are talking to him about converting to wide receiver. That is not
to say Jackson should, but it will help determine if this position
switch talk is just the construct of an old football guy or if teams
legitimately think he should switch positions. The wide receiver stuff
with Jackson isn’t about what we think; it’s about what teams think.
3. The single most important measurement
The point of the combine is finding out medical information and the
official measurements of underclassmen. Both remain important, and there
are some serious curiosities with the latter. Some teams set thresholds,
whether it’s arm length for offensive linemen or height for a cornerback.
With the cornerbacks this year, teams will closely be watching Ohio
State’s Denzel Ward. The junior is the draft’s top corner, and by some
margin. The main question, however, is about his size. If he measures
shorter than the 5’10 Ohio State lists him at, his draft stock could go
down. The same thing happened to Jason Verrett in the 2014 draft. He
came in under 5’10 and dropped to the Chargers at 25th overall.
4. Follow these medical checks
Shaun Dion Hamilton should have been the next great Alabama linebacker.
He started alongside Reuben Foster in 2016 before a knee injury in the
Sugar Bowl ended his season. Last season he was hurt against LSU in the
ninth game of the season. If there are concerns about the long-term
health of his knees, teams will be hesitant using a pick on Hamilton.
There were moments at Florida State when defensive end Josh Sweat looked
like he could’ve been a first-round pick. But it’s hard to ignore his
injury history. Before Sweat even got to FSU, he suffered a torn left
ACL and dislocated knee cap in high school. He tore the meniscus in the
same knee in 2016. A 6’5, 250-pound pass rusher should be a high pick.
But the injuries hurt Sweat, and if his medical check isn’t clean, teams
may shy away.
Another Florida State player, Derwin James, faces an important hurdle
with the medical checks. A meniscus injury cost him the majority of the
2016 and last season he just looked a step slower and less impactful.
Could injury concerns keep him out of the top 20 picks?
5. Predicting a post-combine riser
Going into last year’s combine, quarterback Patrick Mahomes was not
considered by many as a high first-round pick. But he excelled in
Indianapolis and became the 10th overall pick. Kevin King also had a
good showing and jumped a few cornerbacks to become the 33rd overall
pick by the Packers. In 2016, the same thing happened with players like
wide receiver Will Fuller and cornerback Artie Burns. Who could be a
draft riser after the combine this year?
How about Georgia pass rusher Lorenzo Carter? NFL teams are going to
love Carter because of his sheer athleticism and 6’6 frame. He often
lined up on the edge for Georgia to use his quickness and was considered
by many in the program as the team’s best athlete. If he puts up big
testing numbers teams might overlook his ordinary 21.5 tackles for loss
and 14 sacks in four seasons with the Bulldogs.
6. Sam Darnold’s hand size
Darnold has become sort of infamous for the amount of turnovers he had
at USC. It wasn’t just the 22 interceptions in two seasons, though.
Darnold also had 20 fumbles over that time. That could be due to
Darnold’s throwing motion, where he’s often pulling his arm down in his
release. But you have to wonder if Darnold has trouble holding onto the
ball because of his hand size.
Hand size doesn’t always matter. Tony Romo’s hands were measured at 8
7/8 inches, and he had a successful pro career. But part of the draft
process is about eliminating outliers, and hand size could explain
Darnold’s turnover problems.
7. Donte Jackson going for the 40-yard dash record
Just a year ago a new record in the 40-yard dash was set at the combine
with John Ross running it in 4.22 seconds. That partly helped propel him
into the top 10 of the draft. This year there are a few players who
could challenge Ross’ record run.
If there’s a player who can break that record, it’s Jackson, a LSU
cornerback. Jackson isn’t shy about his speed, once saying he ran the
100 meters in 10.1 seconds and that he’s the fastest player in college
8. Finding the next Alvin Kamara or Kareem Hunt
As a rookie, Kamara took the NFL by storm. He ran for 728 yards,
averaging 7.5 yards per carry, and caught 82 passes for 826 yards. He
was a sensation despite being the 67th pick in the draft last year.
Hunt, of the Kansas City Chiefs, was the league leader in rushing yards
with 1,327 after being taken 86th overall. Two third-round backs
outplayed the running backs taken higher in the draft. With another deep
running back class, that could happen again, and we could figure out who
those players could be during the combine.
One of those players could be Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson. He’s much closer
to being a Hunt-type than an all-around back like Kamara. Johnson runs
with power, and if his testing numbers look good he could be an
attractive choice. It’s much harder to find a Kamara clone because he’s
such an electric athlete rushing and receiving. Tennessee’s John Kelly
might come to the closest. He ran for 778 yards at Tennessee last
season, and caught 37 passes for 299 yards. He has power and enough
wiggle. His stock is right in that third-round range.
NEXT UP IN NFL
2018 NFL mock draft: How trades can change the draft
The latest news and rumors about Kirk Cousins' free agency
No, Lamar Jackson isn’t a damn wide receiver
A complete guide to the 2018 NFL offseason and all the things you’re
going to get worked up about for no reason
1 potential cap casualty for each NFL team in the 2018 offseason
The Eagles are set up to be a Super Bowl contender for a long time