INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Johnny Manziel and Michael Sam will be the
headliners at the NFL's scouting combine.
Workouts for the league's pre-draft event begin Saturday.
The most important aspects of the combine are often the ones that get
the least publicity — players measuring in, going through the medical
checks and the team interviews that could put many questions to rest or
raise an entirely new set of concerns. So with more than 300 NFL draft
hopefuls attending the second biggest offseason event on the NFL
calendar — and the only that draws team owners, team executives, league
officials, coaches, agents and potential future stars to the same
venue— this week will be far more than just a two-man show.
Here are five things to watch this week in Indianapolis.
JOHNNY BE GOOD: Manziel is a dynamic player who may have
more on the line this week than anybody else in town. After two
sensational years at Texas A&M, he's trying to position himself
to be considered the first overall pick by the Houston Texans. While
the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner has said he will not work out next
weekend, scouts will be looking at Manziel's height and weight to
determine if he can hold up against the NFL's bigger, faster, stronger
defenders. Coaches and team executives also will be eager to see how he
handles the private interviews — the one part of the combine outsiders
never see — to determine whether he's the guy they want as the face of
their franchise for the next decade.
MICHAEL SAM: Last week, Sam became the first NFL
draft prospect to acknowledge he is gay. This week, he'll face a media
circus in Indy. He also has some questions about his physical ability
to answer. The SEC's defensive player of the year was listed last
season at 6-foot-2, 255 pounds, meaning Sam must demonstrate he has the
speed and the agility to change directions to make it in the NFL. The
heavy shift to 3-4 defenses has put a premium on heavier defensive
ends, forcing lighter players to make the move to linebacker. If Sam
demonstrates he's quick enough to be a pass-rushing end in a 4-3 front
or athletic enough to move to rush linebacker in a 3-4 front, his draft
stock should improve.
THE NO. 1 QUESTION: Manziel is only one part of the
equation at the top of the draft. And if Manziel doesn't go No. 1, who
will? That answer probably won't be settled after this weekend, though
most analysts believe a quarterback will once again be taken with the
first pick. If the choice is not Manziel, it could be Blake Bortles or
Teddy Bridgewater. The Texans recently hired Central Florida's former
college quarterback coach, and Bridgewater was considered the
front-runner to be No. 1 throughout most of the college season. A year
ago, at this point the odds-on favorite to go No. 1 was Utah defensive
tackle Star Lotulelei. So a lot can change between now and May's draft,
and don't rule out a possible resurgence by South Carolina defensive
end Jadeveon Clowney.
JUNIOR JAM: A record number of college players (102)
have given up their remaining college eligibility to jump into this
year's NFL draft. While the first-round is sure to include plenty of
underclassmen draftees, led by the likes of Manziel and Clowney, dozens
of other early-entry draft hopefuls must show they're worthy of being
drafted. If the underclassmen do well and go high, the trend of seeing
more and more underclassmen enter the draft could continue in future
CHARACTER COUNTS: The toughest job this week goes
to any of the players having to answer questions about their character.
The list of indiscretions includes everything from arrests to
drug-related suspensions to the use, or misuse, of Twitter. What scouts
and team execs will try to do is sort fact from fiction as they attempt
to figure out whether these were simple youthful missteps or a pattern
of behavior that could continue to cause problems in the future.
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