Players began arriving in Indianapolis on Tuesday morning for the NFL Combine, and the first full day of activity is Wednesday when the medical exams, interviews and on-field workouts for the players coincide with NFL head coaches and general managers holding their media sessions.
Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin steps to the podium at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday, while head coach Marvin Lewis is scheduled to speak at 11 a.m. Friday.
Browns executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown goes at noon Wednesday, while head coach Hue Jackson is set for 9 a.m. Thursday.
The player workouts begin Thursday with the kickers and special teams players. The offensive linemen and running backs hit the field Friday, and activities continue through Monday.
Here are seven things to watch this week in Indianapolis:
Who emerges No. 1?
Most analysts are convinced Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett should – and will – be the No. 1 overall selection, a pick owned by the Cleveland Browns. But NFL Network Mike Mayock, speaking on his annual pre-Combine conference call Monday, said he isn’t as convinced that Garrett would be a better choice than Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen.
“I think Myles Garrett has the most upside of any pass-rusher in this draft,” Mayock said. “The reason I think Jonathan Allen has to be considered also is, in addition to affecting the game, he affects it a little bit differently. You can move him around. He can play just about any place on (Browns defensive coordinator) Gregg Williams’ front four, and he could do it at a high level.
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“I also think he’s a little bit safer,” Mayock said. “I think they’re both difference makers. I think there is a higher ceiling for the Texas A&M kid, but I think that Alabama kid is a great defensive player for the next ten years, and I think he’s just a little bit safer than Garrett because he stays healthy, and he just seems like he plays every single week.”
The defensive linemen will do their on-field workouts Sunday.
Bunch of Buckeyes
One year after sending 14 players to the Combine, one shy of the record, Ohio State will send eight to Indianapolis this week.
The invited Buckeyes are wide receiver Noah Brown, cornerbacks Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore, center Pat Elflein, safety Malik Hooker, punter Cameron Johnston, linebacker Raekwon McMillan and running back Curtis Samuel.
Ohio State ranks fifth among players to the Combine with 216 since it began. Florida State is first with 226, followed by Florida 224, Miami 224 and USC 220.
The 2017 quarterback class is one of the weakest in recent memory, but Bengals fans should be hoping the group makes a strong showing this week to increase the likelihood a couple of them go in the top 8 picks.
Head coach Marvin Lewis has said it’s the only position the Bengals won’t consider taking at No. 9, so the more quarterbacks that go in the top eight, the more impact players will be on the board for their first pick.
Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer, Clemson’s DeSahun Watson, North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes and California’s Davis Webb are considered the top five, but Mayock said he thinks they all are projects.
“I don’t think any of them are ready to start Week 1,” he said. “But you could easily make a case for (taking quarterbacks in the first round by) Cleveland at 1, San Francisco at 2, Chicago 3, the Jets at 6. Easily make a case. They need quarterbacks desperately. And you would imagine at least one, if not two or three, are gone by the time you get to 9.”
Discussions will not be limited to incoming players this week. With all 32 teams present in one place, there is sure to be some trade talk, ranging from cursory to serious, involving current backup quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and AJ McCarron.
Even though their numbers are similar – Garoppolo is 2-2 as a starter with a 106.2 rating, completing 63 of 94 passes for 690 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions; McCarron is 2-1 as a starter, with a 106.8 rating, completing 79 of 119 passes for 854 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions – Garoppolo is the hotter commodity given his New England pedigree. He also was a second round pick in 2014 while McCarron lasted until the fifth round.
“I think underneath the Garoppolo stuff, there is some AJ McCarron interest out there,” Mayock said. “I don’t know what kind of value to throw on him. And I don’t know if Cincinnati would be willing — what situation they’d be willing to give him up for. I don’t know if it’s a second-round pick or third-round pick. I don’t know what the value is, but I know there are some people out there who are asking, ‘Is AJ McCarron better than what we have right now?’”
It’s more likely that if either player is traded, it will happen closer to the draft. But getting a deal done this week would allow a team to set a clearer course for free agency, which begins March 9.
Mississippi quarterback Chad Kelly and Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon are prohibited from participating at the Combine after the league instituted a policy last year that bars players based on criminal cases involving violent or sexual offenses.
But while they can’t participate in official activities, it doesn’t mean they can’t come to Indianapolis and meet with any, or all 32, of the teams elsewhere.
Kelly, who plead guilty to misdemeanor assault stemming from a bar fight, and Mixon, who was not convicted despite being captured on video punching a female student in the face, will be able to work out for teams on their respective pro days. But the chance to be available for interviews in a place where all 32 teams are present could help them answer character questions.
Two Dayton natives will be participating in Northwestern defensive tackle Ifeadi Odenigbo and Illinois defensive tackle Jarrod “Chunky” Clements.
Odenigbo played at Centerville, and ESPN ranked him the 50th best prospect in the country, and first in Ohio, his senior year. He never lived up to the hype at Northwestern, but had a breakout senior year, finishing second in the Big Ten with 10 sacks.
He projects as a late-round pick in the draft.
Clements won a state title in basketball as a junior at Dunbar before transferring to Trotwood Madison for his senior year. He played in 46 games in his four seasons at Illinois, including seven starts during his senior year when he recorded a career-high 3.5 sacks. Like Odenigbo, Clements projects as a late-round draft pick.
Of all the on-field workouts, the 40-yard dash tends to be the most popular among the fans, with the NFL Network devoting much of its coverage time to it.
And the interest should increase this year with adidas announcing it will buy a private island for any player who breaks Chris Johnson’s record of 4.24, which has stood since 2008.
There are a couple of caveats, however. The first is that player must break the record while wearing adidas cleats. And the second is that the value of the island can’t exceed $1 million.
Even if the island goes unclaimed, each player who runs the fastest 40 at his position will earn a $10,000 bonus.