Fans of both college football and the NFL tune in annually to see their favorite draft prospects perform at the NFL Scouting Combine. With hundreds of prospects on, here are some top storylines to watch as the Combine unfolds, officially kicking off the 2020 NFL offseason.
Top Quarterback Prospects to Watch
Joe Burrow, LSU – The Tigers quarterback considered the best prospect since former first overall pick Andrew Luck. Burrow’s draft stock is at an all-time high coming off of a record-breaking 60-touchdown season en route to an undefeated season and college football championship. Most draft analysts expect Burrow to be selected first overall by the Cincinnati Bengals, in an attempt to turn around the franchise’s dismal 2-14 2019 season.
Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama – Tagovailoa entered the 2019 college football season as the census number one quarterback prospect. Fans of quarterback-needy teams coined the popular phrase “Tank for Tua,” in hopes of their team acquiring a top draft selection for a chance to draft Tua. Unfortunately, 2019 would bring disaster for Tua, who would suffer a devastating season-ending hip injury who many thought might end his career as a football player. Reports indicate that Tua’s recovery has gone well, and while he won’t participate in Combine drills this weekend, he will be working hard this to prove to NFL teams that his injury has healed, and that his body can handle the rigors of being an NFL quarterback.
Justin Herbert, Oregon – The knock on Herbert’s draft status has never been his ability to play quarterback. Standing at a towering 6’ 6” and boasting a cannon for an arm, Herbert has the attributes and physique that every NFL general manager and coach dreams of. However, Herbert has a lot to prove this weekend, as many NFL teams worry that his lack of production while at Oregon, coupled with his quiet personality will pose problems at the NFL-level. Herbert’s interviewing and his composure over the weekend could raise his draft stock to borderline top-five status, or sink his hopes of being a top-ten pick.
Wide Receiver Depth
Two common themes have surfaced in recent months leading up to the NFL Draft. The first is that this draft is one of the deepest drafts for wide receives in recent memory. This mean that most NFL teams can still acquire borderline first-round wide receiver talent potentially deep into the second round. The second, is that while this receiver class is filled with talent, three receivers have clearly separated themselves as the top prospects at the position. The order of the three vary widely, as all three bring something unique in their skillsets.
Jerry Jeudy, Alabama – often seen as the top receiving prospect in the draft, Jeudy is widely viewed as the most “pro-ready” receiver. He is able to step in from day one as a team’s number one receiver. Buoyed by the success of other former Alabama wide receivers such as Julio Jones, Amari Cooper, and Calvin Ridley, Jeudy will look to cement himself as the top receiver in the draft with a solid 40-yard dash time.
CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma – the then-favorite target of the 2019 No. 1 overall pick, Kyler Murray during their time together at Oklahoma, Lamb possesses the biggest “playmaking” ability of the top three receivers. Often viewed as a solid number two receiver, Lamb would open up an offense in ways the other two couldn’t, drawing double coverage away from a team’s top receiver, while also boasting arguably the best route-running ability of the draft.
Henry Ruggs III, Alabama – Ruggs is widely seen as the most explosive receiver in the draft in terms of straight-line speed. Ruggs has often been compared to Kansas City Chiefs star Tyreek Hill as the fastest player on the field with the ability to score every time he touches the ball. Many draft experts predict that Ruggs has the best chance of breaking the 40 yard dash record of 4.22 seconds set by John Ross in 2017. All eyes will be on Ruggs when he lines up to attempt the 40.
Other Storylines to Watch
Much like the group of wide receivers, the offensive tackle position is a deep group of prospects with multiple different pre-draft rankings for the top prospects. With the need for offensive tackle at an all-time high for NFL teams, the Combine is the premiere chance for offensive tackle prospects to separate themselves from their fellow offensive tackles. The NFL Draft is expected to see multiple tackles taken in the top 20 of the draft. The order in which they are taken is still very much up in the air.
Leading the pack of defensive players at the Combine are blue-chip prospects like Chase Young, regarded as the best pass rushing prospect in recent memory. Young’s game has very few, if any, flaws. The Combine carries almost as much risk as it does reward for Young, who would have little gain from a great performance, and everything to lose for a poor showing in drills such as the 40 yard dash and bench press. The same goes for other top prospects such as Jeff Okudah, the shutdown corner from Ohio State, as well as Auburn defensive lineman Derrick Brown, widely regarded as the best interior defensive linemen in the draft.
Watch the NFL Combine throughout the weekend on NFL Network and extended coverage on ESPN.