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NFL Combine 2024: 5 top storylines to follow from quarterbacks to EDGE rushers

Jayden Daniels, NFL Draft

With the 2024 NFL Combine beginning next week in Indianapolis, football-starved fans, journalists and the 32 NFL teams are beaming with anticipation to see this year’s NFL Draft class at the four-day event. This pre-draft event allows aspiring players to demonstrate their abilities, improve their status and catch the eye of talent-hungry scouts, general managers and coaches. 

Once a non-event, the NFL Combine has become a made-for-TV spectacle where fans from all over the country come in to get a peek at their team’s possible next superstar. Each year, the NFL Combine creates captivating storylines that define the week where the dreams of 322 prospects could be made or dashed.

Here’s a look at the top storylines to follow.

Deep quarterback class is the star of the NFL Combine

NFL Combine Caleb Williams
Credit: Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterbacks get all the love in the NFL and it’s no different when it comes to the league’s biggest scouting event. The QB prospects are leading the discussions at the NFL Combine in 2024, including projected top overall pick Caleb Williams of USC.

Fellow Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels from LSU and Drake Maye of North Carolina are also slated to work out and will garner the most attention. Oregon’s Bo Nix and Washington’s Michael Penix, Jr. are also highly regarded quarterback prospects who are attending and hoping they convince NFL teams they belong in the first round.

But Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy is the quarterback with perhaps the most buzz in the weeks leading into the Combine. With a college track record of 27-1 as a starting quarterback and a 72.3% completion rate in 2023, expectations are soaring. Even this week, it was reported the quarterback-needy Denver Broncos and coach Sean Payton are “enamored” with McCarthy.

McCarthy’s athleticism and coachability are closely scrutinized by teams like Denver seeking a quarterback to shape into their system. His performance in the athleticism tests during the NFL Combine could be pivotal in determining his draft position, potentially pushing him into round consideration.

Either way, the quarterback league will have plenty to dissect and digest with this year’s deep signal-caller class.

All eyes on pass rushers at NFL Combine

NFL Combine Dallas Turner
Credit: Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

Another focal point this year is the EDGE rusher class, which includes blue-chip prospects like linebacker Dallas Turner from Alabama, Jared Verse from Florida State, and Laiatu Latu from UCLA. Given the NFL’s increasing emphasis on pass rushers, these positions are a premium for the teams who need them and for the players who earn big contracts for their skillset.

EDGE rushers become TV stars in events like the 40 yard dash,vertical leap and broad jump because they have a way of significantly boosting a player’s chances in the draft. Teams with high picks who need defensive front help, and are not necessarily eyeing a quarterback, such as the Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, stand to gain from the insights these drills and how these rushers perform.

Running back class creates doubt for NFL scouts

NFL Combine Audric Estime
Credit: D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

The 2024 running back class is seen as weaker compared to previous years, with none of the RBs expected to crack the Top 60 in the NFL Draft. However, Trey Benson of Florida State, Blake Corum of Michigan, Jonathon Brooks of Texas and Audric Estime of Notre Dame are names to keep an eye on.

These players have the potential to climb draft boards if they shine at the event but reaching the first round might be a bridge too far. Despite running backs being undervalued in drafts, and even in free agency,  a standout performance in Indianapolis could make a case for a team to make an earlier selection.

Strength of cornerbacks big highlight of the 2024 NFL Combine

NFL Combine Quinyon Mitchell
Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

This cycle’s cornerback group is considered one of the strengths of the 2024 draft class, with several players projected to be selected in the first 40 picks. Players like Kool-Aid McKinstry and Terrion Arnold of Alabama and Quinyon Mitchell from Toledo will be closely watched. The demand for speed, agility, and coverage skills has never been higher. Hence, the 40-yard dash times of these prospects could be pivotal in where they are selected. In today’s NFL, where stopping the passing game is crucial, a strong performance from these cornerbacks could significantly boost their draft stock.

Will players and agents opt-out of the S2 cognitive test?

NFL Combine C.J. Stroud S2
Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The S2 cognitive tests have sparked controversy among players and agents due to concerns raised by Athletes First, a high-profile sports agency that represents players attending the event. They have recommended their clients avoid taking the test, questioning its relevance and the confidentiality of the results. This stance was influenced by the disclosure of C.J. Stroud’s score last year even though he went on to achieve success in the NFL. This incident has triggered discussions about whether the test assesses player potential accurately.

Athletes First’s decision emphasizes worries about privacy and the public exposure of the test outcomes arguing that such information should not influence draft decisions. The actions taken by Athletes First, and the reactions from the NFL community and other agents, may lead to changes in how pre draft assessments are conducted and cognitive testing is utilized in the future.

As the 2024 NFL Combine unfolds, these stories will take center stage among scouts, coaches, journalists and fans. The NFL Combine serves not just as a platform to showcase abilities, but also as a crucial evaluation period that can shape a prospects future career. Their performances in Indianapolis will be under scrutiny with each drill, interview and measurement having the potential to reshape the destinies of NFL teams and aspiring young players striving to make their pro football dreams come true.

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