Thursday, April 18, 2024
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2024 NFL Combine burning questions: Top storylines to watch in Indy? What to make of QBs? Biggest risers?

The NFL Combine is meant to confirm or reject impressions that teams have of players based on film study. Over the course of the week, 321 draft prospects will be poked and prodded as they are put through medical evaluations, interviews and physical testing in an effort to determine where they should be selected in the 2024 NFL Draft, which begins April 25. 

Here are some of the questions that will be answered in Indianapolis: 

What is the biggest storyline entering the combine?

Ryan Wilson: “The quarterbacks. It’s always the quarterbacks. No one will care that Caleb Williams has chosen not to throw because he’s the best QB in this class, but just like the Senior Bowl, Michael Penix Jr. and Bo Nix still have something to prove, despite stellar college careers. And J.J. McCarthy, who is getting buzz as a top-10 pick, will have an opportunity to impress teams not only in the interviews but with his athleticism. He wasn’t asked to do a lot at Michigan, but he has special physical tools that many teams think will translate at the next level.”

Chris Trapasso: “How does the top of the wide receiver class sort itself out after Marvin Harrison Jr. and Malik Nabers? Everyone agrees it’s a loaded wideout group … but who’s WR3? And the combine is where we can — and will — get some separation based on workouts for guys like Rome Odunze, Troy Franklin, Brian Thomas Jr. etc.”

Josh Edwards: “Moving week for the offensive tackles? Notre Dame’s Joe Alt is considered the top of his class with Penn State’s Olu Fashanu not far behind, but how will that second-tier tackle group shake out? Will anyone put together an athletic profile that launches them up the board, resulting in millions of dollars earned?”

Which prospect will erupt at the combine?

Wilson: EDGE Chop Robinson, Penn State: “We haven ‘t talked a lot about Chop Robinson when discussing the edge rushers, but even if he’s slightly undersized, he has the highest motor in this class. He’ll also test through the roof and solidify himself as a top-20 pick.”

Trapasso: WR Troy Franklin, Oregon: “At well over 6-foot and probably around 190 pounds — or maybe less — Franklin has the build to absolutely scorch the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis, and he looks like a rocket on film.”

Edwards: EDGE Dallas Turner, Alabama: “At 21 years old, Turner is one of the youngest prospects in this draft class. He has the physical traits that will allow him to run fast and jump out of the gym. Although not a finished product in college, I think his best football is still ahead of him, and his performance at the NFL Combine will only cement that belief.”

For more draft coverage, you can hear in-depth analysis twice a week on “With the First Pick” — our year-round NFL Draft podcast with NFL Draft analyst Ryan Wilson and former Vikings general manager Rick Spielman. You can find “With the First Pick” wherever you get your podcasts: Apple PodcastsSpotifyYouTube, etc. Listen to the latest episode below!

Caleb Williams is the best QB prospect since ________

Wilson: “Let me refer you to my ‘With the First Pick’ co-host, former Vikings general manager Rick Spielman:”

Trapasso: Trevor Lawrence: “Purely from a prospect perspective.”

Edwards: Trevor Lawrence: “Joe Burrow was a better quarterback from the pocket and someone who played with a lot of confidence. Few would argue against the idea that Williams is a better athlete. Anthony Richardson is the best athlete we have maybe ever seen at the quarterback position, but he did not have the same experience and confidence as Burrow. Williams is not a generational quarterback, but he is the best blend of athleticism and production since Lawrence.”

Marvin Harrison Jr. is the best WR prospect since ________

Wilson: Julio Jones: “Coming out of college, I’d go back to Julio Jones. If we consider how a prospect did once he got into the NFL, look no further than the 2021 class; Ja’Marr Chase opted out of his final season at LSU but was dominant the moment he stepped on the field for the Bengals. Harrison Jr. is a special player, no doubt about it, but LSU’s Malik Nabers has a chance to be just as productive at the next level.”

Trapasso: Ja’Marr Chase: “In terms of size, speed, ball-tracking skill and capability running the entire route tree — there’s a case he’s the best since Julio Jones. But because he’s not incredible after the catch, I’ll go with Ja’Marr Chase.”

Edwards: Julio Jones: “Jones measured nearly 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds at the NFL Combine before running a 4.39-second 40-yard dash and leaping out of the gym. Harrison doesn’t seem to have the same physical traits, but he is the most polished prospect we have seen recently.”

Who will run the fastest? 

Wilson: S Tyler Owens, Texas Tech: “There will be some legit track stars in Indy, and I’ll go with Texas Tech defensive back Tyler Owens. He’s not in the early-round conversation, but he’ll help his draft stock with his 40 time. In fact, according to Tracking Football, Owens ran a 10.29-second 100-yard dash in high school.”

Trapasso: RB Jawhar Jordan, Louisville: “It’s usually not a running back, but Louisville’s Jawhar Jordan is a blur on film and has the right frame to do it — he’ll probably be around 5-foot-10 and under 190 pounds.”

Edwards: WR Xavier Worthy, Texas: “My initial thought was Worthy until I saw Wilson’s stupid tweet above and now I have to admit he is probably right. For the sake of discourse, though, I will say Worthy. He was an accomplished track star in the state of California coming out of high school.”

Which under-the-radar prospect is bound to be a household name after the combine? 

Wilson: EDGE Jonah Elliss, Utah: “Elliss had 13 sacks and 24 hurries last season, and he was somehow more disruptive than those numbers indicate. And he’s just as effective against the run. Don’t be surprised if he puts up impressive numbers in Indy and ends up as a top-50 selection in late April.”

Trapasso: RB Braelon Allen, Wisconsin: “This is a running back who looks like he was chiseled out of stone and should turn heads at around 6-foot-2 and more than 230 pounds. He was plenty fast in his quick but illustrious career with the Badgers.”

Edwards: OT Nathan Thomas, Louisiana:Darius Robinson would have been my answer until the Senior Bowl. He should test really well for his size. I will say Thomas out of pure self-interest because I think he is a sleeper in a deep tackle class.”

Which quarterback will have the best combine?

Wilson: Spencer Rattler, South Carolina: “Rattler will build on a solid Senior Bowl, where he was the top quarterback all week, and parlay that into a good combine, too. He’s matured, which was a big concern early in his career, and despite standing only at 6-foot, he has one of the best arms in this class, and showed incredible toughness last season behind a suspect offensive line.”

Trapasso: Bo Nix, Oregon: “While it’s a challenge for a quarterback to really differentiate himself at the combine, C.J. Stroud did a year ago with his surgical accuracy. This year, I won’t be surprised if Bo Nix tests very well across the board and demonstrates plus accuracy during the throwing portion.”

Edwards: Joe Milton III, Tennessee: “Milton was not the most accurate nor the most consistent quarterback during his collegiate career, but this type of a setting is where he can excel. The one-time Michigan transfer is a well-built quarterback with a cannon for an arm. He should be motivated to get teams buzzing about what he could become best-case scenario.”

Who needs a huge combine to boost their draft stock?   

Wilson: QB Michael Penix Jr., Washington: “For as much as J.J. McCarthy is surging, it feels like Michael Penix Jr.’s draft stock has taken a hit. If he can come in and blow the doors off the interviews and test well physically, perhaps he can work his way back into the mix as one of the best passers in this class. I’ve talked to teams that do like him in Round 1, and I’ve talked to other teams that think he’s a third-round prospect.”

Trapasso: CB Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama: “There’s plenty of buzz about Terrion Arnold actually being the better Crimson Tide cornerback prospect. But McKinstry’s tape is still darn clean. If he tests well, he’ll remind everyone that he too is a borderline elite cornerback prospect.”

Edwards: CB Nate Wiggins, Clemson: “Everyone is talking about Alabama’s Terrion Arnold and Toledo’s Quinyon Mitchell right now, but Wiggins does not turn 21 years old until August and should run sub-4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash. His play has been inconsistent, but he has an opportunity to re-establish his name among the best cornerbacks eligible for the 2024 NFL Draft.”

What happens with the No. 1 overall pick? Who makes it and who gets selected? 

Wilson: “Washington will try to trade up for Caleb Williams but the Bears will stay put and take the USC quarterback. And instead of taking an edge rusher with the No. 9 pick, Chicago trades up for Malik Nabers.”

Trapasso: “While there’ll be plenty of chatter, and maybe a report or two, it’ll be Caleb Williams to the Chicago Bears. GM Ryan Poles can’t trade away the No. 1 overall pick in back-to-back years.”

Edwards: “Chicago will take USC quarterback Caleb Williams No. 1 overall and trade former first-round selection Justin Fields.”

The 2024 NFL Draft will take place from April 25-27 in Detroit. More draft coverage can be found at CBSSports.com, including the weekly updated draft ordermock drafts and a regularly available look at the eligible prospects

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