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Cover 4

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Cover 4: What to look for at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine

COVER-4-COMBINE

The Giants.com crew discusses what to look for this week at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis:

John Schmeelk: People obsess with the raw numbers, but that isn't it. The real question is whether players meet, exceed or fall below expectations based on their college tape. For example, if wide receiver Keon Coleman ran a 4.55, I don't think anyone would be surprised, nor would his draft stock plummet. If Xavier Worthy, on the other hand, ran a 4.55 (he won't), evaluators would be scrambling to figure out what they saw incorrectly watching him at Texas.

Evaluators want to see the numbers these players post at the NFL Combine match what they see on their college tape. If the player wins with speed, then he better run fast. If they win with quickness, their three-cone drill better be good. If a player that might not look quick on tape posts an excellent three-cone, that might help him. If a speed guy runs slow, that could be a big problem.

There are other important threshold numbers for certain positions. Three-cone numbers for edge rushers have proven to be very predictive of their success in the NFL. Along with arm length, I always want to see how offensive tackles move in those drills to determine how well they can block those explosive edge rushers. Speed for cornerbacks is a real thing. You can't be slow and be a high-level cornerback.

Safeties, on the other hand, play a position where raw speed numbers are not as important: see Hamilton, Kyle, and Branch, Brian. How that position sees the field, processes, and reacts from a mental standpoint is far more important. Tight end, on the other hand, is a position where size and speed often translate to success long term.

The NFL Combine is all about the numbers, but without context to those numbers, it is easy to be led astray.

Dan Salomone: While they always play it close to the vest this time of the year, general managers around the league will take the podium this week in Indianapolis. And they won't be fielding questions only about the draft. In just two weeks, the two-day negotiating period will open before the start of the new league year on March 13. In preparation, the NFL announced Friday that the 2024 salary cap will be $255.4 million per club, an unprecedented $30 million increase from a year ago.

The Giants' list of pending free agents includes Saquon Barkley, Xavier McKinney, and Tyrod Taylor – just to name a few. In other words, there will be plenty of questions for Joe Schoen. The Giants' general manager said at his end-of-season press conference that by the time they get to the combine, they will have "circled up" with their representatives. We'll see where things stand this week in the Circle City.

View the players set to become free agents when the new league year begins on March 13.

Lance Medow: I'm sure my colleagues will write about specific drills. how fascinating the times will be for some players, their reps on the bench press, how big their hands are, what they say in passing during pressers. All that is great but I'm a big believer in what you do in college on film is far more impactful and influential than anything that may happen over the span of a few days in Indianapolis. That's why I won't be writing about why you should tune in to the scouting combine during primetime. Let's not forget, these players are running around in their underwear and aren't in helmets and pads so there's only so much that will translate to the field. The measurements are complementary pieces to a player's resume and mainly used to reaffirm what teams see on film. I would argue reviewing the medical info on all players is by far the most valuable component of the combine so any developments stemming from that facet of the event are worth monitoring.

In addition to the prospects being put under the microscope, the true benefit of the combine is that front office executive from all 32 teams and agents representing various players are all in one place so normally there's a few likely frameworks for deals and trades that will be laid out. We've even learned of some blockbusters in years past during the combine so if there's anything I'm watching for, it has more to do with news regarding the veterans than the potential order and ranking of the picks. We still have two months after the combine before the actual draft.

Matt Citak: Heading into this year's combine, there are debates among most analysts about some of the top prospects at certain positions. While Caleb Williams and Marvin Harrison Jr. are almost unanimously considered to be the top quarterback and wide receiver, respectively, the battle for the No. 2 spot at each of those positions will be one of the biggest topics in Indianapolis. North Carolina's Drake Maye and LSU's Jayden Daniels are both likely to be selected within the first few picks in the draft. But how things go at the combine could determine which one lands with the Commanders with the second overall pick, and which one will be available at No. 3 for the Patriots or a team trading up. Daniels has garnered comparisons to Lamar Jackson, while Maye has been compared by many to Justin Herbert. Reports Monday morning indicate Daniels won't be working out in Indy, while we have not yet heard about Maye. Even if neither one does any on-field drills, acing the team interviews could go a long way in solidifying one of them as the second quarterback taken. On a similar note, there is a competition between LSU's Malik Nabers and Washington's Rome Odunze to be the second wide receiver selected. Nabers could have ended up being one of the biggest stars of the combine, but reports Monday afternoon state that Nabers does not plan on running or testing until his pro day on March 27, and instead will only interview with teams in Indianapolis. If Odunze ends up participating in the on-field drills this week and tests better than expected with his 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame, it could be enough to move him ahead of his LSU counterpart. Each of these competitions should be of particular interest to the Giants, as they will likely be in play for one or two of these players, depending on how the first five picks of the draft go.

Outside of the top few prospects, I will be interested to see who are the biggest standouts in Indy. I mentioned Richardson above, who was perhaps the most significant winner from last year's combine. While he was already considered to be an early first-round pick prior to the festivities in Indianapolis, his performance locked him in as a top-five pick. Similarly, we saw the draft stock of numerous prospects rise at last year's combine after strong showings. Guys like Will McDonald IV, Broderick Jones and even Deonte Banks, just to name a few, skyrocketed up draft boards after displaying above-average athleticism at the combine. The same will happen this year, and we are likely to see some big changes to a lot of mock drafts come early March because of it.

View photos of the Giants participating at the NFL Combine.