The NFL Scouting Combine, always one of the biggest spectacles throughout the offseason and NFL draft process, is merely days away.
Hundreds of elite college athletes will be vying for the right to improve their draft stock, but several could see their value drop due to poor performances. With all of this still yet to be determined, the combine is always an event that separates the top athletes from the murky middle and bottom of the talent pool.
The actual value of the combine for some evaluators varies just a bit. While some NFL scouts may fall in love with a player following his 40-yard-dash time or his vertical jump results, others put more significance in the tape of a player with his pads on.
There's also the fact that a successful workout could mean the difference between a prospect going in the first round or falling into the second (or later), which means a much bigger payday.
Before the combine officially kicks off, here's a look at the schedule and a breakdown of some of the interesting aspects to watch for throughout the event.
NFL Combine Information
When: Feb. 22-25 (pre-workout activities such as interviews will begin on Feb. 19)
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind.
TV: NFL Network (Begins at 9 a.m. ET each day)
Live Stream: NFL.com Combine Live
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
What to Watch
Will Any Records Be Broken?
One of the best ways for a player to vault to the top of the draft board is to finish at the top of one of the workouts. If that means breaking a record for the workout, all the better.
For those scouts who see significance in the combine results, taking a player at the top of one particular workout will be an easy call. But even for those who would prefer to go by a player's body of work and college game tape, a record-breaking workout will certainly turn their heads as well.
Back in 2008, some running back from East Carolina by the name of Chris Johnson set the combine record for fastest 40-yard-dash time, with a phenomenal time of 4.24, according to NFL.com.
While Johnson has gone on to become a huge superstar and one of the best playmakers in the game, records don't always signify a great career is imminent.
Stephen Paea nearly set the record in 2011 with 49 reps on the bench press, but fell behind Justin Ernest of Eastern Kentucky, who hit 51 reps back in 1999. Paea still has the most reps by a drafted player, as Ernest wasn't drafted in 1999.
The prospects in the 2014 draft class will be doing all they can to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. The bigger and better the numbers, the more attention they will garner, which will only add to the hype of their draft value.
It's a fun and exciting part of the process that brings unknown names into the spotlight and can generate plenty of shakeup in real NFL big boards and NFL mock drafts everywhere.
Which Quarterback Will Emerge?
Which quarterback will be taken first in the draft?
The 2014 NFL draft is sure to be an intriguing one simply for the value of quarterbacks at the top of the draft. And with several franchises including the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars in desperate need of a signal-caller they can trust, the position is extremely coveted this season.
But going into the draft, there is a lot of debate about who is at the top of the class between Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles and Derek Carr—four players who could all potentially go in the first five to eight picks.
Before the combine workouts begin, Gil Brandt believes that Bortles needs to stand out in order to emerge as the top quarterback and adds his own commentary about the former UCF player, per Daniel Kim of NFL.com:
"He might not be the equal of Johnny Manziel moving around," Brandt said. "But if teams are to consider Bortles that high in the draft, he has to be at least close to Manziel in athletic ability."
Coming into the regular season, Bridgewater was seen as the top quarterback in the class by a huge measure. But after questions throughout the season about his pro potential, he is now seen as an outsider coming into the combine as the No. 1 pick.
As for Manziel, the Texas A&M signal-caller lit up the SEC once again and solidified his spot at the top of several draft boards for the position. With his speed and arm strength, Manziel could come out of the combine as the top dog in the quarterback class.
Though he could come out on top of the boards following the event, he will have to do so without throwing, according to his agent Erik Burkhardt:
.@JManziel2 will do all of his throwing at his March 27th Pro Day & private workouts. Teams will have all the time & access they want.— Erik Burkhardt (@ErikBurkhardt) February 15, 2014
Matt Miller of Bleacher Report shared the thoughts of Nolan Nawrocki of Pro Football Weekly on Manziel leading up to the combine:
He's back... Nolan Nawrocki on Johnny Manziel: "Suspect intangibles -- not a leader by example or known to inspire by his words."— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 17, 2014
More Nawrocki on Manziel, "Carries a sense of entitlement and prima-donna arrogance seeking out the bright lights of Hollywood."— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 17, 2014
While Manziel won't be throwing at the combine, he certainly has plenty of opportunities to prove his doubters wrong during other workouts and his interview process.
Debates will likely continue after the combine workouts, but the three top quarterbacks in the draft certainly have a huge opportunity ahead of them.
Which player will step up and grab the scouts' attention is yet to be determined.
Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter: