6 NFL Draft Combine storylines that will shape the first round

One of the strangest job interviews is set to get underway.

The 2024 NFL Scouting Combine.

Over the next week, over 300 NFL Draft hopefuls will be put through the paces in Indianapolis. Some of the action we will be able to see, such as the media sessions as well as the on-field workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium. However, some of the most important events — the meetings with teams as well as the medical testing — will take place behind closed doors.

Every NFL Scouting Combine has its fair share of storylines to follow, and this year’s event is no different.

How will the quarterbacks shake out?


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Let’s be honest: Quarterbacks move the needle. This year’s discussion regarding the quarterback class will kick into high gear due to a number of factors. First, it is a talented group led by Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, and Jayden Daniels. But they are not the only quarterbacks in the discussion, and in recent days a drumbeat behind J.J. McCarthy has led some to believe he will push into the first-round discussion, and early first-round discussions at that.

Beyond the players involved, consider the draft order, and the teams that could be looking at drafting a quarterback. The first round opens with the Chicago Bears, followed by the Washington Commanders, and the New England Patriots. Three teams who could all address the position with their first-round selection.

However, go beyond the first three teams in the draft and you see a number of clubs that could also address the position. The New York Giants (No. 6), the Atlanta Falcons (No. 8), the Minnesota Vikings (No. 11), the Denver Broncos (No. 12), the Las Vegas Raiders (No. 13), and the Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 20) are all teams that could work their way into the QB mix.

Not to mention there is always a team — or teams — that surprises us.

Will a running back step up?

As NFL free agency looms, the potential is there for a historic RB class of free agents. Players such as Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, Derrick Henry, Tony Pollard, and Austin Ekeler are set to hit the market.

How will that impact the rookie class?

The league-wide trend has shifted towards relying on rookie running backs, given the punishment that goes into playing the position and the relative shelf lives of running backs in the NFL. But with a veteran class like the one listed above set to test the market, will that trend hold? Or will a running back from this draft class take a big step forward in Indianapolis?

Some names to watch include Trey Benson from Florida State, Blake Corum from Michigan, Jonathon Brooks from Texas, and Bucky Irving from Oregon.

What pass rushers shine?

As we have seen in recent years, pass rushers that test well in Indianapolis can propel themselves to the top of the draft. For example, ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft Georgia pass rusher Travon Walker put in a tremendous performance at the Combine, which saw him rocket to the top of the draft.

Is there a pass rusher in this class who can put in a similar performance?

As we enter the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine some of the pass rushers to watch include Dallas Turner from Alabama, Jared Verse from Florida State, Laiatu Latu from UCLA, Chris Braswell from Alabama, Bralen Trice from Washington, and Jonah Elliss from Utah. A good week from one — or more — could change the draft conversation.

Who is WR2?

One of the surest things heading into the Combine — or, as sure as things can get in the unpredictable process that is the NFL Draft — is that Marvin Harrison Jr. is WR1.

So, who sets themselves apart as WR2?

The top two contenders for that are Malik Nabers from LSU and Rome Odunze from Washington. Nabers is an explosive WR with a refined arsenal as a route-runner. Odunze has the size, speed, and strength to step into an NFL offense and produce as a rookie.

Both players are likely coming off the board within the first ten picks in April. But which player inches closer to the title of WR2 next week, and can one — or both — of them put some pressure on Harrison at the top of the board?

Who can continue their pre-draft rise?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 31 Reese’s Senior Bowl

Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NFL Scouting Combine gets a lot of attention, but it is important to remember that it is not the first event of draft season. A number of pre-draft events have already taken place, chief among them the Senior Bowl and the Shrine Bowl. Both of these games have given the 32 NFL teams a chance to see prospects up close, and as a result some players have seen their draft stock rise ahead of the Combine.

“I just want to dominate,” Mitchell told the Detroit Lions Podcast as the week began.

He managed to accomplish that goal in Mobile:

But Mitchell is not the only player whose stock has risen over the winter. A pair of wide receivers helped their draft stock down in Mobile: Roman Wilson from Michigan and Ricky Pearsall out of Florida. Regarding Wilson, Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy had some lofty praise for the Michigan WR during the Senior Bowl.

“He’s quick, he’s fast, he’s sturdy, he plays big on the ball for a little guy,” Nagy said to MLive earlier this month. “That’s why the Tyler Lockett comparison. I was lucky to be around Tyler for five years in Seattle. I think they’re really similar players.”

Do these players keep the momentum rolling in Indianapolis?

How do the medical exams shake out?

As noted above, some of the biggest events in Indianapolis happen behind-the-scenes.

Like the medical examinations.

All 32 teams relocated their medical staffs to Indianapolis for the Combine, and while we’re watching the testing take place on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium, below the field and in the bowels of the stadium the medical teams are examining every single prospect.

“Obviously in this sport, there are a lot of injuries and a lot of injury history, so it’s an important part of what we do,” said Dr. Scott Rodeo, the Giants’ head team physician and sports medicine surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery, back in 2018 ahead of the Combine. “[We’re] trying to carefully evaluate their injuries, their histories, we can do imaging studies, so it’s a big part of what we do here.”

For players with complex medical histories, this is the biggest part of the week. Take Michael Penix Jr., who saw four different seasons cut short due to injuries (two ACL injuries and a pair of shoulder injuries). What happens on the turf at Lucal Oil Stadium is certainly important … but what happens below the turf, and in those examinations, might matter more.

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