The Lions Armchair Scout's Guide to the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine
When you consider that only 224 get drafted (not including a handful of compensatory picks), you begin to realize just how critical this week is for many players, especially those who are not "names" the public is all that familiar with.
How is a Lions fan going to keep it all straight? Well, to help you, I have compiled a guide for helping you keep your head from exploding.
First off, if you don't have NFL Network, you can catch up on all the video of the main drills at NFL.com's Combine page. They'll have interviews with the prospects as well as discussion from their draft experts as well.
Of course, you follow anyone there on Twitter as well for live takes as well as press conference news.
It's important to decide ahead of time where to focus your attention. So let's go over the schedule and what groups of players Lions fans will want to follow.
Group 1, 2 and 3 Schedules
Group 1 are the kickers, special teams players and some offensive line prospects, Group 2 are all offensive linemen and Group 3 are the tight ends.
Lions fans will be most interested in the linemen, though there will be some players to watch among the kick and punt returners or kickers in general (Jason Hanson isn't getting younger or cheaper).
These groups arrive Wednesday and do some medical tests, though the bulk of the medical stuff will be dealt with on Thursday. On that day, we'll hear about the measurements as well—official height, weight, arm length, hand measurement—and any questions about lingering injury issues will be checked out (for example, Matt Barkley's separated shoulder).
Friday brings psychological testing, the bench press and the workout for kickers and special teamers.
The bench press for the offensive linemen will be something Lions fans might want to catch, since the offensive line is a position of interest.
They'll also want to watch the on-field drills on Saturday as well. This will cover the same drills you've seen many times before—the broad jump, the vertical jump and the fabled 40-yard dash.
Tight ends will, of course, also do some receiving drills.
Group 4, 5 and 6 Schedules
Groups 4 and 5 are comprised of both quarterbacks and wide receivers, while Group 6 is just running backs.
These three groups are absolutely ones Lions fans will want to keep an eye on—specifically the wide receivers and running backs. While it wouldn't be a bad idea to see what the quarterbacks can offer, more than likely the Lions will only grab someone for depth, if at all.
Arriving on Thursday, these groups will do the same schedule as the previous groups, just one day later. So their full medical is Friday, the bench press and testing is on Saturday and their on-field workouts are on Sunday.
Keeping in mind that nobody is hitting these players, you can only gain so much from watching the receiving and various passing drills. However, it's useful to have the players on the field at the same time so you can compare some of what they do.
And certainly for the receivers, seeing how their hands and breaks look even if they aren't covered is a good exercise.
Keep in mind though, that these drills should never overshadow the game film on these players. It's great to have a low 40 time, but some of the backs and receivers play faster than they time. And some play much slower than they time.
Still, for both receivers and running backs, drills are important. The broad jump helps test an athlete's explosiveness off the line, as does the vertical jump. The three-cone drill shows you how an athlete can change direction while running, which will help see how crisp a route a receiver might run or whether a back is capable of cutting quickly to make a defender miss.
For an excellent run down of all the main drills, check out Mike Mayock's explanations at NFL.com.
The Lions should be looking closely at running backs and receivers both—especially ones they can grab on day two (or later) of the draft, as they are going to be more focused on defense early.
Group 7, 8 and 9 Schedule
We flip the script for these groups and go all defense from here on out. Group 7 and 8 are both defensive linemen, while Group 9 contains all the linebackers.
All three of these groups are of interest to the Lions—specifically the defensive ends and outside linebackers.
This group arrives on Friday, then does their full medical on Saturday, their testing and bench press on Sunday and their drills on Monday.
Of course, you'll want to note what they do on the bench press Sunday, but the drills will again be the key here for combine watchers.
You'll want to watch the broad and vertical jumps closely for your edge pass-rushers, and a good 40 time won't go awry. Of course like the receivers and backs, the linebackers and linemen have their own drills.
You'll see coaches have players follow the ball in his hand and react to sudden changes in direction; you'll see players show off their hand motion and strength in batting their way through tackling dummies as well as see the usual basic drills.
Keep a sharp eye on anyone who stands out in the specialized drills as those might be players the team goes back and takes a closer look at on tape.
Group 10 and 11 Schedule
Both of these groups are defensive backs, usually split into corner and safety groups. They have the same schedule as everyone else, just pushed another day back. They arrive Saturday and do their medical exams on Sunday, their regular testing and the bench press on Monday and drill on Tuesday (the final day of the combine).
These are absolutely players Lions fans will want to track, given how many issues the secondary has. More than likely, the Lions will need to do something in free agency as well, but they are bound to take a player or two from these groups, and I wouldn't be shocked if they went very early on a cornerback.
Vertical jump is a big drill here, as well as the more specialized workouts. We'll see some hands drills as well as take a look at them backpedaling (though let's be honest, that's much more important when watching it on game film).
All throughout the week, these players will be meeting with teams so team staffs can get the measure of a player one-on-one. They'll chat about anything from how they'd react to a situation on the field to how they would deal with something off of it, to even things like what they listen to, read, watch on television and more.
Nothing is off topic, and their reaction to a question can be as important as the answer they give.
These interviews, while done away from prying eyes, are more important than almost any drill for many players and could boost a player's stock or remove him from a team's board.
You'll hear more about the interviews the day after players leave and all of next week, and it's worth listening to how players did, especially ones who have question marks.
Players to watch
Of course, there are more players you could watch than you might have time for. The great thing is, if there is a drill you missed, especially the "main" drills like the three-cone or the 40-yard dash, NFL.com will have them up on the site after the fact (including the highlight of the week: Rich Eisen's 40-yard dash).
Lions fans will primarily be worried about the edge pass-rushers—the outside linebackers and defensive ends—with a few offensive line prospects thrown in for good measure. You'll, of course, watch the receivers and running backs, but if you have a limited amount of time, concentrate on the defensive side of the ball.
Two defensive ends I have seen mentioned quite often in Mock Drafts are Florida State's Bjoern Werner and the guy with my favorite name in the draft—Barkevious Mingo from LSU.
Both are a little raw, but the speed and skill they have even without polish could be huge attractions to the Lions. Mingo is likely to show some exceptional speed in drills, while Werner might have the edge on field awareness—something which won't translate well to the combine. Werner has better technique at this point, and that should show in drills.
I expect Mingo to come out of Indianapolis with more buzz but don't sleep on Werner.
Many Lions fans are clamoring for more beef up front on the offensive line and while Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel is the class of the draft and worth watching, I am still impressed by what I have seen from Central Michigan's Eric Fisher.
At this point, I don't believe there is another offensive lineman worth a top five pick, but keep an eye on Lane Johnson of Oklahoma, Dallas Thomas from Tennessee and Oregon's Kyle Long as potential second rounders or guys who could be worth trading up for in the late first.
Cornerbacks are vital for this team, so keep an eye on Dee Milliner. The former Crimson Tide player will be the only player worth that fifth overall pick if anyone is.
Of course, you can just read the list we compiled last week as well (Milliner is there), but add in guys like Jamar Taylor (Boise State) and Robert Alford (Southeastern Louisiana) as day two prospects.
As I say in the linked article, I don't want to see them pass the end of day two (really, ROUND 2) without addressing the cornerbacks.
Finally, let's talk "skill players." More than likely, guys such as Cal's Keenan Allen and Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson will be off the board by Round 2 or 3.
Frankly, I would prefer they pass on a receiver before the third round, but it all depends on value.
DeAndre Hopkins (Clemson) and Tavon Austin (West Virginia) are worth second-round picks, but guys to really watch are the value picks in the third or perhaps even late second if they wish to trade back in.
Tennessee's Justin Hunter and Tennessee Tech's Da'Rick Rogers are definitely worth watching, and I am curious to see how Texas receiver Marquise Goodwin performs.
Finally, with running backs you want to wait a bit. I've heard some buzz that Wisconsin back Montee Ball could slide to the fourth, and I think he's well worth a third or fourth round look.
Oregon's Kenjon Barner is a guy I really liked at the Senior Bowl, and Jawan Jamison from Rutgers could have a perfect skillset as a replacement for Jahvid Best.
This is all well and good, and a great way to kill time at work, but ultimately you have to stay on an even keel and take all this with a grain of salt (or whatever trite saying you like).
All too often, teams and analysts get caught up in a great combine and forget the tape. It happens more with analysts than teams of course, but it happens.
If you see someone break out over the next week, make sure you go back and watch the one thing which matters above all else—the tape.
Ultimately if they can't do it there, they probably won't do it on Sundays.
Take another look, sure. But don't get to high or too low after the combine.
After all, it's just one step in the process.
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