The 2014 NFL Scouting Combine is a seven-day event in Indianapolis. More importantly, it’s the biggest happening in the draft process where NFL, college football and draft junkies alike can gather together and talk football, although no games are on the horizon.
This year’s group of 335 invites is among the most talented in recent memory. Outside of Johnny Manziel not throwing, every top prospect has (so far) said they’re ready and willing to participate in every event.
From interviews with players like Colt Lyerla and Michael Sam, presumed freak numbers to be posted by guys like Jadeveon Clowney and Anthony Barr, the potential rise of Jimmy Garoppolo to Joe Flacco-like levels and the speedsters that could crack a sub-4.3 40-time, the 2014 NFL Combine is set to be the most exciting in recent memory.
Lyerla, Sam and Manziel Lead Interviews to Watch
In the time leading up to the NFL Combine, talk about forty times and workout numbers is what has fans salivating. However, it’s the interviews with players’ prospective employers and the media that can be the most beneficial—or detrimental—part of the combine for a prospect.
As interviews pertain to NFL teams, they’re given just 15 minutes for each of the 60 prospects they want to meet with. Generally, teams will poke and prod prospects to gauge if they can fit in their franchise and in their locker room. While the media interviews are generally best for a handful of quotes here and there, three players in particular should generate the most attention when it comes to the media hoards flocking to their respective podiums.
Colt Lyerla chose to leave the University of Oregon during the season—a decision that was questionable, at best, and tremendously damaging, at worst, when it comes to his draft stock.
Since leaving, he’s made headlines for cocaine possession (covered by Matt Miller of Bleacher Report) along with two reports (by DetroitLionsDraft.com and OptimumScouting.com) that cast Lyerla in a very negative light. The combine will mark the first time that NFL teams get to see him play football in over four months, and they’ll undoubtedly have plenty of questions and concerns he’ll need to address.
Elsewhere, Michael Sam made a pretty big announcement this week, in case you didn’t hear about it.
This will be the first time every member of the media will get their chance to speak with Sam, discuss the potential difficulties he may encounter in the NFL and learn more about a person that has gone from an SEC defensive leader to potentially the first openly gay NFL player.
And finally, Johnny Manziel will be there. After telling John McClain of the Houston Chronicle that he wants to be a Houston Texan, Manziel has thrust himself into the national spotlight once again and has opened up a new array of questions about his potential fit in the NFL.
Expect Mega Workouts From Clowney, Barr and Mack
Generally, the top prospects choose not to participate in combine drills, in an effort to minimize their risk of injury or a drop in their draft stock. But, as of today, three of the best pass-rushers in the 2014 class are set to work out in every major drill during their stay in Indianapolis.
Jadeveon Clowney is the consensus top defensive player in the 2014 class, but he already has his sights set on putting up remarkable numbers and has predicted he’ll run in the 4.4s, according to Anwar S. Richardson of Yahoo Sports. And that’ll just be the start of a workout that should turn any doubters into full-fledged believers.
After Clowney, both Anthony Barr and Khalil Mack are expected to put up gaudy testing numbers. Anthony Barr reportedly ran a 4.47 for scouts, according to John Middlekauff of 95.7 the Game, while Mack’s explosiveness on film is among the best in recent draft history. As such, he’s currently projected to be a top-five pick.
With three remarkably talented pass-rushers atop this class all planning on participating in the full list of combine drills, the defensive end and linebacker workout days could provide for some jaw-dropping timing numbers and plenty of watering mouths for those in attendance.
Jimmy Garoppolo Tries To Become the Next Joe Flacco
The 2008 NFL draft class didn’t feature a whole lot of quarterback talent, and after Matt Ryan, no prospects were expected to emerge as first-round picks.
But after a solid Senior Bowl performance, Flacco took advantage of the lackluster quarterbacking talent surrounding him to emerge as a legitimate first-round option and used the NFL Combine workouts to vault himself to the No. 18 overall selection, despite hailing from FCS power Delaware.
While the 2014 class certainly isn’t light on quarterback talent atop the draft, only Teddy Bridgewater seems like a lock to be selected with one of the draft’s top-10 picks, with Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles in the discussion as well.
Jimmy Garoppolo participated in the Shrine Game and Senior Bowl and emerged as arguably the best senior quarterback at both events, battling with Derek Carr of Fresno State for that title.
Now, Garoppolo has yet another chance to throw side-by-side with his peers in his attempt to complete a similar rise from productive small-school quarterback to first-rounder—the same way Flacco did six years ago.
A Handful of Guys Can Break 4.30 Barrier in 40-Yard-Dash
Since the implementation of electronic timing in 2000, only nine combine participants have run a 40-yard-dash in under 4.3 seconds.
In that same time, there have been well over 4000 combine participants, putting into perspective just how rare this speed is among a collection of some of the best athletes in the country.
Among the invites this year, a few have a chance to join that elite club. Bradley Roby of Ohio State, Brandin Cooks of Oregon State, Dri Archer of Kent State and Bruce Ellington of South Carolina all have a chance to get below the coveted mark, along with other potential dark horses who possess the potential to shock evaluators.
For as much attention as the NFL Scouting Combine receives, it’s generally filled with hollow insights. It’s always important to remember that film study supersedes workouts done in shorts in Indianapolis.
However, it’s the biggest and most important event in the draft process. We get the chance to see some of the best athletes in the country stack up, side-by-side, and put each of them on a pedestal to see if they’re worthy of being drafted, and if so, how high.
If you’re an NFL draft junkie, the NFL Scouting Combine is the mecca of football’s offseason, and offers a chance to revisit the top prospects in the country one last time on the national stage before the draft in early May.
And with this year’s crop of talent including freak pass-rushers like Clowney, unique character question marks like Colt Lyerla and tremendous speedsters like Bradley Roby, the 2014 combine possesses one of the most athletically impressive rosters Indianapolis has ever seen.