Everything you need to know and what to expect at the 2018 NFL Combine:
The NFL combine begins in Indianapolis on February 27th and runs until March 5th. The event is the only time of the year when nearly every part of the NFL and their member franchises are in the same place at the same time. Front offices, coaches, doctors and supports staffs are all in attendance in what almost equates to a NFL convention.
Even with free agency beginning at 4PM on March 14th, the focus on the combine will be the 336 college prospects that will be in attendance. There are four big components of the NFL combine: measurements, medical, team interviews, and physical events. NFL evaluators take what they learn in Indianapolis and combine it with what they saw on film during the college season to finish their evaluations before draft day.
Every player in attendance will have their height, weight, arm length, and hand size among other things measured at the combine. These numbers can be crucial since some teams have size profiles for certain positions that they want their players to meet. Some players were already measured at the Senior Bowl. Here are some players experts are keeping an eye on when measurements are taken at the combine:
• It will be interesting to see how much taller Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama) is than 6'0 and how much he weighs below 200 pounds. His skills on the field are unquestioned but is height and weight (and 40 time) could drag him down some people's draft boards.
• No one doubts the quality of player Roquan Smith (LB, Georgia) is but NFL.com only lists him at 225 pounds in his draft profile. Linebacker size isn't as important as it used to be but how heavy he is might determine if he is a middle or weakside linebacker.
• Denzel Ward (CB, Ohio State) covered everyone at Ohio State but he is only listed at 5'10. If he comes in below that number some teams might pigeon hole him as a slot corner, which could negatively impact his draft value.
There's probably nothing at the combine that can drop a player down the boards faster than a bad medical test. Myles Jack is a good example from a couple years ago. He went from a top ten pick into the second round. Here are some medical reports that may believe are important to watch for:
• Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia: A serious knee injury that required surgery in 2015 will be looked at closely by doctors. He is a talented running back but some think the injury sapped some of his athleticism.
• Connor Williams, OT, Texas: Williams hurt his left knee and started just five games at left tackle in his final season at Texas. He returned for the final two games of the season but will that affect his play long term?
• Kemoko Turay, DE, Rutgers: An athletic defensive end had two shoulder surgeries back in 2016. If he can show he is healthy, the former basketball player may make a late run up draft boards.
This is the first time teams will have a chance to meet with the underclassmen in the draft after meeting with some players at the Senior Bowl. It's a chance to get a feel for the prospects as people and let them show their football intelligence by working on X's and O's on a white board. Here are some players draft experts believe the interview process will be very important for:
• Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: A lot of adjectives have been thrown around describing Rosen's attitude but NFL teams will want to come to their own conclusions. Often times that type of noise can be inaccurate. It is important, especially at the quarterback position, for players to have leadership qualities and teams will probe the quarterbacks in attendance for just that.
• Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: Mayfield was seen by everyone planting the Oklahoma flag at midfield after a win at Ohio State. There is also an incident with police caught on tape. At the Senior Bowl, his leadership qualities were lauded by those around him. Who is Baker Mayfield? Scouts at the combine will try to find out.
Some of the drills these athletes will run are the 40 yard dash, short and long shuttles, high and long jumps and the three cone drill. Drills are important because all the players are on the same surface and you can compare the athletic ability of kids from large schools versus smaller schools. Here are some players experts are excited to see at the combine:
• Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State: Widely considered one of the best running backs to come out over the last decade or so, it will be interesting to see if the times on his speed and agility drills match the unbelievable things he showed on the field.
• Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville) and Josh Allen (QB, Wyoming): Both of these quarterbacks are considered two of the top six in the class but there are also questions about the consistency of their accuracy. How well they throw in Indianapolis and at their Pro Days could help their draft standing.
• Marcus Davenport (Texas-San Antonio): He had all the measurements you would want to see at the Senior Bowl, and when he runs drills at the combine you will see where he stands athletically. Coming from a smaller school, it will be important to see if he can match up with power conference players from an athleticism standpoint. If he does, he could vault into the top 15.