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Subject: 8 storylines to follow at the 2018 NFL Combine
Date: Tue, 27 Feb 2018 16:49:30 -0800
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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
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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 
NFL prefers.

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 
football.

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.

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