NFL Combine Storylines To Watch

The 2024 NFL Combine has officially arrived.

The First week of March is a big one in the NFL news cycle, with the 2023 season officially coming to a close before the new league year begins on March 13th. This very special week in Indianapolis adds a lot to the NFL offseason, including overreactions, rumors, and most importantly, St. Elmo’s Shrimp Cocktail.

All jokes aside, the NFL Combine is so much more than just the sarcastic title of “Underwear Olympics” it has been given over the past decade or so. It’s what happens behind the scenes in the medical evaluations and team interviews with prospects that make it one of the biggest and most important events of the year. 

For some teams, the NFL Combine is key to the evaluation process. For others, like Sean Mcvay and the Los Angeles Rams, it’s hardly on the radar at all. But for NFL fans of all 32 teams, it’s a true introduction to the rookie class and the next potential superstars of their franchises. With that being said, let’s dive into the biggest storylines heading into the NFL Combine.

Rising WR Stars

Early Monday morning, Albert Breer wrote in the “Monday Morning Quarterback” about Marvin Harrison Jr.’s decision to not participate in the NFL Combine drills, training, or testing. Then later Monday afternoon, it was reported by Ian Rappaport that LSU WR Malik Nabers would be forgoing participating in any athletic testing at the combine as well. It’s a major bummer for the public, but perhaps smart for two of the highest rated receiver prospects in recent memory. And while neither will see his stock fall this week due to their decision, there are a number of receivers in a deep 2024 class that can look to take the spotlight and elevate themselves as a bonafide first round prospect.

Washington’s Rome Odunze, the consensus receiver three of the class, will be at the Combine and is confirmed to be testing. While it may seem like there isn’t a lot of ground to be made for the top spot, a good performance in drills and positive buzz around how each interviews behind goes closed doors could muddy the waters on which order these receivers go.

A few other names who could seriously help themselves this week: FSU WR Keon Coleman has continued to receive first round buzz, and could test extremely well and raise his stock. Brian Thomas Jr, who continues to chart as the WR4, could show off that unique skillset that differentiates him from his teammate Nabers.

In such a deep wide receiver class, there are a plethora of talented young players that all provide something different that could make sense for a team in the back half of the first round. Texas teammates Adonai Mitchell and Xavier Worthy, along with Oregon’s Troy Franklin are all names to watch this week.

Top-End Tackles

Arguably the deepest position of the 2024 class, the Combine should boast a wide range of tackle talent. From the consensus top prospect in Joe Alt, to sneaky sleepers like Patrick Paul and Kingsley Suamataia, seeing the prospects side by side should give teams and fans a more clear picture on how the order will shake out. And as the players begin to fall into place, it won’t be surprising to see a logjam of tackle talent within the consensus top 25. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah already has seven tackles in his top 20!

Looking at the position through Titans-tinted glasses, the Combine brings the opportunity to see who might be the top picks on Ran Carthon and Brian Callahan’s draft board. With so much talent, it also opens up the possibility now more than ever of the Titans trading back within the first round to recoup some of the capital spent on past deals if their number one option is off the board at seven.

With new head coach Brain Callahan’s father Bill Callahan in the fold, the possibilities really seem to be endless as to how the Two-Toned Blue will address their massive need to shore up the line for the 2024 season and beyond.

Where’s The D?

The 2023 Draft saw big draft capital used early and often on the defensive side of the ball. Alabama standout edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. was the first off the board, selected third overall in a trade-up by the Houston Texans. Devon Witherspoon, Tyree Wilson, and Jalen Carter also made the cut for the top 10. In total, nine of the first 20 selections last season were defenders.

This draft could see a drastic shift in order. The 2024 Consensus Big Board currently charts Alabama edge rusher Dallas Turner as the first defensive player off the board at pick nine. Combine that with the current top-10 buzz surrounding Michigan’s QB JJ McCarthy, we could realistically see the first eight picks of the draft include four quarterbacks, three wide receivers, and an offensive tackle. 

That selection of picks leaves out a lot of good offensive players as well, including tackles Penn St.’s Olu Fashanu, Oregon St.’s Taliese Fuaga, and the best tight end prospect since Kyle Pitts in Georgia’s Brock Bowers. With such rich offensive talent available in the first round and nine of the most offensive-needy teams in the top 10, there is real potential for the first defensive player to not come off the board until between picks nine and fifteen.

And it can’t even be considered a knock on the talent in this class. There are arguably three or four secondary players like Terrion Arnold, Nate Wiggins, and the red hot Quinyon Mitchell who could be considered top-ten caliber players. Dallas Turner and Jared Verse have been consensus top fifteen guys since before the 2023 college season. The wild cards in UCLA’s Laiatu Latu and Iowa’s Cooper DeJean make this a home run class for teams in the back half of the draft who need a boost on defense. As the offensive stars continue to rise to the top, the defensive players continue to fall, creating a value gold mine in the back half of the first round and the entirety of the second round.

Author: JT Ruhnke

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