The NFL Scouting Combine is like a competition for cash for draft prospects.
It is fair to debate how much combine results should be weighed in the evaluation process, but at least to some degree, teams will move players up and down the draft board if that prospect puts up numbers at the combine that weren't expected.
Of course, the higher a player goes in the draft, the bigger their contract is going to be.
This aspect makes the combine riveting. We are talking about one day of workouts and a few interview sessions, for guys just hitting their 20s, that could be the difference between a few million dollars.
It's interesting and telling to see how the prospects handle the pressure.
Take a look at the guide to events according to NFL.com.
When: Feb. 22-25 (pre-workout activities like interviews will begin on Feb. 19)
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind.
TV: NFL Network will begin coverage at 9 a.m. EST each day.
Feb. 19-21: Exams, interviews, orientation and media
Position Workout Schedule
Feb. 22: Tight ends, offensive linemen, specialists
Feb. 23: Quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers
Feb. 24: Defensive linemen, linebackers
Feb. 25: Defensive backs
- 40-yard dash
- Bench press
- Vertical jump
- Broad jump
- 3-cone drill
- Shuttle run
Prospects will be scouted in other workouts, such as quarterbacks throwing to wide receivers. The above workouts are the ones that carry measured results.
Which QBs will throw?
The top quarterback talent in this year's class falls about midway between the 2013 class and the 2012 class, and probably leans more to the 2012 side.
That was the year where Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III stood out miles above from any other prospect in the class. Last year, EJ Manuel was the first quarterback taken, and he didn't go off the board until pick No. 16 to the Buffalo Bills.
There will likely be four quarterbacks off the board at that point with Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, Central Florida's Blake Bortles, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Fresno State's Derek Carr.
All four quarterbacks have a tantalizing skill set, but all four also have big question marks.
Often, top quarterbacks opt not to throw at the combine and instead throw at their school's pro day. This gives them a familiar setting and target to throw to. Actually, that is not limited to pro days. Manziel set his own day to throw, and I'm sure there will be plenty of scouts on hand to watch.
This would lead me to believe that Manziel will not throw at the combine. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see all four guys pass.
Still, if I'm a general manager, and I am most certainly not, I would give a little boost to a quarterback who decides to throw. Even if his throws were not quite up to the standard of the typical pro day, I want a quarterback with the mentality that he will throw a football anywhere, any place or any time.
Which DT will separate himself from the pack?
There are some physical specimen among the top defensive tackles in this class, but there are also a lot of question marks.
There is no clear-cut answer for the first defensive tackle to be taken off the board.
For instance, CBS posts mock drafts from Rob Rang, Dane Brugler and Pete Prisco. Brulger has Florida State's Timmy Jernigan as the first DT off the board at No. 14 to the Chicago Bears. Both Rang and Prisco have their first defensive tackle going off the board with Notre Dame's Louis Nix III at No. 15 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
A lot of this is due to scheme. Nix appears to be the best available fit for a nose tackle in a 3-4, and Jernigan a defensive tackle in a 4-3.
The stocks of both could vary at the combine, and it's no lock they will be the first two off the board.
For Nix, it is all about the health of his knee. Dr. Dave Siebert breaks that down better than any mortal could:
Suffice it to say, there are reasons for teams to have some concern over the long-term stability of his knee, and they will be looking for some assurance that knee is worthy of a first-round choice.
Meanwhile, Jernigan is a strong defender. There is little doubting his ability to clog up running lanes. He has not shown elite explosion, however. If he puts increased explosiveness on display at the combine, it is not out of the question that he could go in the top 10 of this draft.
There is also Minnesota's Ra'shede Hageman and Nix's teammate Stephon Tuitt as defensive tackles going in the first round of the three CBS mocks.
Hageman is an athletic freak. He doesn't have the production to match it, but his physical tools are hard to ignore. NFL Draft Geek agrees:
Tuitt may best project as a 3-4 defensive end. He, however, has the talent to dominate as a 4-3 defensive tackle.
Coming off of a down year, as Bleacher Report's Matt Miller points out, it will be important for Tuitt to show up at the combine ready to impress:
All of these guys have a chance to make an impression at the combine and improve their draft stock.
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