The NFL Combine is underway. Offensive linemen, tight ends, quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers have been weighed, measured and put through their paces. What have we learned from the opening weekend of the NFL Scouting Combine? Join me as we take a look at some of the key takeaways from Indianapolis so far.
Offensive Line Talent Pool Runs Deep.
Offensive linemen, especially tackles, have fast become one of the most sought after positions in the NFL—nine linemen went off the board in 2013, including three of the top four picks.
In 2014, they are likely to be just as sought after as last year. Fortunately for general managers, the talent pool runs very deep this year.
Although there are some clear leaders among them, including Greg Robinson and Jake Mathews, potential starters on the offensive line will still be available well into the third round and even beyond.
If the combine served to prove anything it was that the disparity between the top and bottom of the offensive line talent pool is not so great as we have come to expect.
It also demonstrated that these big men are coming into the NFL much quicker, and more athletic than any previous generation of linemen. Many of them were running sub 5 second 40 yard dashes, at over 300 lbs.
Tayler Lewan, for example, weighed in at 309 lbs. and ran a 4.87 40 yard dash. Just a few short years ago, this would have been considered a top time for a tight end.
The difference between the top and bottom of this class has more to do with polish than skill. Some of these guys are clearly more raw and less NFL ready than others, but any offensive line coach worth his salt will have no difficulties whipping them into shape.
Johnny Manzel Remains Top QB In Draft, In Spite Of Size.
Johnny Manzel is, and looks set to continue to be, one of the most talked about players in this year’s NFL Draft. Although Manzel measured a quarter-inch shy of 6 foot tall, very short for an NFL QB, he is considered a top QB in his draft class.
During the combine, he did nothing to alter that perception. He did not throw the ball during position drills—an odd choice for a passer—but all of his other performances demonstrated that his size doesn’t change the fact that he is an athletic freak.
He ran a 4.68 40 yard dash, 113″ broad jump, and 31.5″, all very respectable for a man at his position, and all the more so given his stature.
Though scouts will wait to see him throw at his Pro Day before cementing him atop their draft boards, Manzel now seems to be leading the way among passers.
AJ McCarron Closing Gap On Leading Passers.
Although Manzel, along with Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles seem set at the top of the quarterback class—all three of whom could conceivably go off the board during the first round—other once hotly tipped quarterbacks worked hard during the combine to increase their draft stock.
One such passer was AJ McCarron.
McCarron was once considered a potential first round pick, but questions about his arm strength, decision making and deep ball abilities have seen his stock tumble.
After electing not to take part in the Senior Bowl, many considered him nothing more than a third round project coming into the combine.
However, during passing drills in Indianapolis, McCarron looked sharp. He made all of the throws, and well.
He looked poised, prepared and, perhaps most importantly, ready to step up at an NFL level. During the short break between the end of the college season and the combine, McCarron had clearly put in a lot of time tweaking and adjusting his mechanics.
His deep out throws have tended to float a little on him during his college career, and he has lacked power on passes of 20+ yards, but both of these issues seemed to have been addressed, and his passes looked very good, especially considering he was throwing to unfamiliar receivers.
He appears to be the well coached, pocket passer many believed he would be, and any questions teams had about him, seem to have been answered.
In and of itself, the combine has probably still not seen McCarron move up into the first round, but with a solid pro day, and some great interviews, teams could be convinced enough to make McCarron their future franchise guy.
Eric Ebron Some Distance Ahead Of Pack at TE
Tight end is becoming an increasingly sought after and utilised position in the NFL. Pass catching TE’s, who can double as full backs when needed, are fast becoming some of the most valuable and versatile players on the field for most teams.
Eric Ebron out of UNC has cemented his position at the head of the Tight End class, and by some distance. Ebron is big, quick, versatile and has great hands. All of this was on display during the combine.
He was already considered a first round pick by most, but after the combine, could very well come off the board within the top 10, and barring disaster, will certainly not make it past the Arizona Cardinals with 20th overall pick.
WR Sammy Watkins Proved He Is A Top Ten Pick.
Sammy Watkins is widely considered the best receiver in the draft. Many have called him the best prospect since AJ Green, an impressive comparison.
That said, Watkins is aware that wide receiver tends to be a position with a great deal of depth, and one which teams sometimes value less highly than others with the early picks. Although he was assured a first round pick, where in the first round remained a point of great debate.
At the combine, a stellar performance, including a 4.43 40 yard dash, cemented his position as a top ten pick, and may have been enough to see him edge into the top five, possibly even as high as number 2 if the St. Louis Rams are unable to trade back in the draft, and feel it necessary to address their most glaring need, a pass catcher, first.