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Combine Preview: Everything you need to know

Michigan State defensive back Khari Willis runs the 40-yard dash at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Monday, March 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michigan State defensive back Khari Willis runs the 40-yard dash at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Monday, March 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

There's a lot to look for at the NFL Combine this week. Here's what I'll be keeping an eye on in Indianapolis:

1. Front Office Intentions

Before any of the players hit the field for workouts, we are going to hear from nearly every NFL coach and general manager on Tuesday. What the Giants end up doing on draft night will be dependent on what the teams ahead of them and behind them intend to do. Are the Lions or Redskins open for business? Do the Chargers want to trade up for a quarterback? Most teams don't give much away, but if you listen hard enough, there are things to learn. This is when we start getting a feel for exactly what draft night might look like in terms of movement.

2. Players In Person

It is one thing to watch these players on television, or on coach's tape, and another to see them in person. NFL personnel know what body types tend to succeed at certain positions, and getting a look with a complete set of measurements will further their understanding of the players' traits. For people in the media, we will get to see them in person at the podium. Two years ago, one couldn't help but notice Saquon Barkley's tree trunk legs when he stepped to the podium.

3. In Their Own Words

NFL teams will interview players behind closed doors and learn about their football intelligence and who they are off the field. Meanwhile, the media and fans get a chance to see and hear them answer questions. It provides only a glimpse compared to what the team personnel gets to see, but it gives a small peak of these prospects as people and how they might handle the spotlight of the NFL and the New York market.

4. Medical Red Flags

Teams evaluate the prospects for any medical issues that may impact their draft stock. More times than not, these medical issues remain private, but sometimes there are reports that get leaked to the media. Teams view medical information differently, and that is always kept secret.

5. On The Field

The numbers recorded by players at the combine serve as a good crosscheck for what scouts saw on tape during the season. If a player runs very well at the combine but doesn't show good game speed on tape, teams will re-check to see if their original evaluation was correct. It's no different for a player that ran past people on tape but runs poorly in Indianapolis. The combine can confirm what front offices think they know or create huge contradictions.

Here are some specific things to keep an eye on in Indianapolis.

- Based on media reports and on the evaluation of draft analysts in the media, there is not a lot of separation between the top four offensive tackles. Alabama's Jedrick Wills Jr., Iowa's Tristan Wirfs, Louisville's Mekhi Becton and Georgia's Andrew Thomas might all be top 15 picks, but which player is the best at the position? Perhaps what happens at the combine will offer some clarity as to who the top tackle in the NFL Draft is in 2020.

- Based on what he did at Clemson, Isaiah Simmons is a unique player who has been effectively used at linebacker, slot cornerback, deep safety and strong safety. Where will he fit in the NFL? Or can he do all those things on the professional level, too? Perhaps his testing scores will give some clues as to his athletic strengths and weaknesses, which will point to where his future lies in the NFL.

- Who is going to be the top wide receiver in the draft? Most analysts are on board the CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy bandwagons. Jeudy is expected to test better in speed and agility drills than Lamb, who has a larger frame. If Lamb can manage to match Jeudy's testing scores, he could solidify himself at the top of the class.

- How fast will Henry Ruggs III run? Most believe he has a legitimate shot to run in the low 4.3's in the 40-yard dash, which could solidify his spot in the Top 20 or 15.

- The rest of the wide receiver class will be interesting to watch. It is a deep class, and there will be serious competition to get selected as high as possible so they earn the highest possible starting salary. What happens at the combine could be the difference between some of these players being a late second round pick versus an early fourth round pick.

- No matter what happens at the combine, Chase Young will be the top edge rusher selected. But will another edge player perform so well at the combine that they move themselves into Top 10 consideration? A.J. Epenesa (Iowa) and K'Laivon Chasson (LSU) are the players to watch and their 3-cone drill times will be key.

- Linebackers are getting smaller and smaller, so they will be expected to run extremely well, which shows their potential in coverage. Other than Simmons, will another off-ball linebacker test well enough to prove to NFL teams they can be a true three-down linebacker? Keep an eye on Patrick Queen from LSU, Zack Baun from Wisconsin, Kenneth Murray from Oklahoma and Akeem Davis-Gaither from Ohio State.

- As the top cornerback in the draft, Jeffrey Okudah will be expected to run a sub 4.5 in the 40. If he does, he will maintain Top five consideration, but if he doesn't, will that scare some teams off? The next group of cornerbacks after Okudah can separate themselves with excellent combine performances.

- Two quarterbacks' performances at the combine will impact the Giants. The first is Tua Tagovailoa's medicals, and the other is Justin Herbert's in drills. The latter has elite physical tools and will impress everyone watching him in person. An event like the combine is made for players like Herbert. Tagovailoa's injury history is significant and how teams evaluate his future durability will determine how high he goes in the draft. Both quarterbacks may be trade targets for teams selecting after the Giants in the draft.

- The order of prospects at the top of the running back class is no sure thing. Some people have D'Andre Swift, while others have J.K. Dobbins. How they run and move in agility drills might move one ahead of the other on some boards. Testing for Jonathan Taylor, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and even Zack Moss and Cam Akers could move them up or down boards, too.

- Two small school prospects I'll be watching will be Dayton tight end Adam Trautman and safety Kyle Dugger from Division II Lenoir-Rhyne. Both can double down on the high praise they received at the Senior Bowl by testing well, which could put both safely into the second round of the draft.

- Here is a good guide when you watch some of the times recorded during the primetime events that Gil Brandt posted on twitter. Some of the times might be a little high to be considered thresholds, but if players beat them, it shows they are at least average to good for athleticism at their positions.

View photos of players listed on NFL Network's Top 50 NFL Draft prospect rankings

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