The NFL Scouting Combine is the single biggest event for every prospect on his path to the draft.
The 2014 combine in particular is more noteworthy than most in recent history with so much controversy surrounding potential picks as they head into interviews and with so many positions in need of a way to sort the best from the rest.
While perhaps a tad overhyped in its importance on a prospect's stock thanks to potentially years of tape and background checks already complete, the combine still serves its purpose as an entertainment commodity for fans in what is a dull portion of the offseason.
When: Feb. 22 - 25
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
Watch: NFL Network, 9 a.m. ET
Live Stream: NFL Network Online
Saturday, Feb. 22: Tight ends, offensive linemen, special teams
Sunday, Feb. 23: Quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers
Monday, Feb. 24: Defensive linemen, linebackers
Tuesday, Feb. 25: Defensive backs
The Interview Process
Perhaps the most important slice of the combine for the teams is the in-depth sit-downs each gets to have with potential targets.
Here, teams get a closer look than ever at a more personal side of each prospect and can sometimes eliminate what they perceive to be bad locker room presences from their boards entirely.
The process itself will mean much to a large amount of prospects. Many teams will want to get a read on certain prospects before making a potential investment. Downright polarizing prospects who have something to prove, such as Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, come to mind.
For others, the process may allow a sense of redemption and a chance to rebuild draft stock. This applies to former Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla, who had extensive off-field problems after leaving the team.
What comes of the interviews this year will have a massive ripple effect on all.
But back to the on-field goodness. Each year, a few names blow away viewers by breaking records or posting times many thought to be out of reach.
This year, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney sticks out as a player who may blow away times on his quest to go No. 1 overall.
Clowney himself expects to run a 4.4 40-yard dash, an insane number for a guy who stands at 6'6" and weighs 274 pounds, via Anwar S. Richardson of Yahoo! Sports:
I hope to run a 4.4 (second) right now. That’s my goal. On hand times, I’ve been running 4.4s. I hope I can get a 4.4 at the combine. A 4.5, I’m not too worried about … I ain’t going to run a 4.6. I’m probably going to run low 4.5, 4.4.
The 40-yard dash is the event every viewer lines up to see, and this year the likes of Bradley Roby of Ohio State, De'Anthony Thomas of Oregon and a host of others may have a legit shot at running a dash in under 4.3 seconds.
Quarterbacks, Quarterbacks and Quarterbacks
Despite high-profile names such as Manziel and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, there is no clear-cut top quarterback.
Better yet, anywhere from four to eight quarterbacks could go in the first round of the draft, and much of that will ride on the outcome of the combine.
Blake Bortles, Derek Carr, AJ McCarron, Zach Mettenberger and even Jimmy Garoppolo are in a tight race to catch up with the top two. According to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, the latter may have the most to gain on the big day:
One team in the NFC North loves Jimmy Garappolo. Told me “his arm is better than (Derek) Carr’s, and he’s smoother in the pocket.”— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) December 10, 2013
While some of the names are debatable, fans have seen quarterbacks rise up out of nowhere before thanks to the combine (think Joe Flacco), and any number of sleepers have a chance to do so this year too.
If fans can only set aside time for just one thing this year, it needs to be the day that features the next generation of signal-callers.