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The 2024 NFL Combine - When is it, where is it and which college football prospects to look out for?



Having gone through the latest whirlwind carousel of coaching changes and recruitment drives, the focus of the college football world shifts to the players departing, they hope, to new homes in the NFL.


When and where?


The NFL Scouting Combine, an annual tradition and must-see event for fans to assess who they feel could be the next great player to join their franchise, starts in earnest this Monday 26th February at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.


General managers, coaches and scouts from all 32 NFL teams will be present to run their eye over the 321 players who have been invited to the combine this year. Medical evaluations and player interviews begin on Monday, while the players are then broken down into groupings, where their technical skills, strength and fitness will put to the test in front of a live audience. It's a setting where the unheralded players can make a name for themselves with a blisteringly quick 40-yard time, strong arm or intelligence to read situations in the interview process and adjust under pressure. Equally, a poor showing could damage a player's potential placing in the draft, with millions of dollars at stake. It's a high-risk, high-reward opportunity and not for the faint-hearted.


The Schedule and Tests


In addition to position-specific drills and broader physical evaluation, these are the tests that typically feature at the NFL Combine.


Physical tests Breakdown:


40-yard dash


Washington receiver John Ross ran a combine record 4.22 seconds, moving him into the top-10 of the 2017 NFL Draft, where he was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals. Point of record is that electronic timing only started at the combine in 1999. Auburn's Bo Jackson is reported to have run a blistering 4.12 at the 1986 event.


20-yard shuttle


An ideal drill to test defensive backs and linemen, assessing a player's ability to control their body as they change direction at speed. The record is tied by Oregon State receiver Brandin Cooks and Tennessee cornerback Jason Allen, both drafted in the first round by the New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins in 2014 and 2006 respectively.



Three-cone drill


Want to evaluate a pass rusher? The three-cone drill uniquely assesses acceleration with the ability to bend and change direction, ideal to avoid a powerful offensive lineman and attack the quarterback. Although typically used to scrutinise pass rushers, the record is held by Oklahoma cornerback Jordan Thomas who went undrafted despite his record-setting 6.28 second time in 2018.


Bench press


Showcases upper body strength, assessed by how many times a player can lift 225lbs. More important for power positions in the trenches, less important for the quarterbacks. Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea pushed out 49 reps in 2011, which moved him up the board to Round 2, where the Chicago Bears took him.


Vertical jump



Highlights spring and explosiveness in the lower body. Wide receivers, running backs, cornerbacks and safeties can really elevate their draft stock in this drill. Georgia receiver Chris Conley holds the record with a 45-inch vertical jump in 2015.


Broad jump



Another drill which tests explosiveness and lower-body power. UConn cornerback Byron Jones broke the world record with a stunning 12-foot, 3-inch jump (3.73 metres) at the 2015 NFL Combine.



Schedule:


Monday 26th February - medical evaluations and 15-minute player interviews begin. Mental assessments include Wonderlic and S2 Cognition tests to assess cognitive ability and in-game decision making, essentially their "instincts".


Thursday 29th February, 3pm ET - Defensive linemen and linebackers.

Friday 1st March, 3pm ET - defensive backs, tight ends.

Saturday 2nd March, 1pm ET - quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs.

Sunday 3rd March, 1pm ET - offensive linemen.


Who are the players to look out for?


Quarterbacks


USC's Caleb Williams is the favourite to be picked No.1 in the NFL Draft (Image credit: sportskeeda.com)

Four to five quarterbacks could be selected in the first round, with all the contenders attending the combine in Indianapolis. USC quarterback Caleb Williams, the consensus top overall pick in many mock drafts, will be showcasing his exceptional arm strength and athleticism. Drake Maye (North Carolina), Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels (LSU), national championship winner J.J. McCarthy (Michigan) and Bo Nix (Oregon) all have the potential to be picked in the first round.


Spencer Rattler (South Carolina), coming off a strong Senior Bowl performance, Michael Pratt (Tulane) and Michael Penix Jr. (Washington) will be worth watching as they hope to elevate their draft positions.


Wide receivers


LSU receivers Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr. will be on display at the NFL Combine (Image credit: si.com)

Ohio State's Marvin Harrison Jr, is the standout in an excellent receiving class. He could be off the board before the fifth pick. Rome Odunze (Washington), LSU duo Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr., Ladd McConkey (Georgia) and Keon Coleman (Florida State) all have an excellent chance of landing in the first round.


In a deep pool of talent, look for Troy Franklin (Oregon), Texas duo Adonai Mitchell and Xavier Worthy, Roman Wilson (Michigan) and Xavier Legette (South Carolina) to impress.


Running backs


Jonathon Brooks could be the first back taken in the draft (Image credit: cbssports.com)

Despite Bijan Robinson and Jahmyr Gibbs being selected in the top twelve picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, the running back class of 2024 is unlikely to yield a first round pick. Jonathon Brooks (Texas), Audric Estime (Notre Dame), Blake Corum (Michigan), Cody Schrader (Missouri) and Braelon Allen (Wisconsin) are the stand outs.


Tight ends


Brock Bowers is the best tight end in college football (Image credit: wkky.com)

Georgia's Brock Bowers is head and shoulders above his competition and should be off the board in the first fifteen picks. Ja'Tavion Sanders (Texas) could also go in Round One.


Offensive linemen


Notre Dame's Joe Alt leads a talented class of offensive linemen (Image credit: indystar.com)

An increasingly highly valued position with a talented crop emerging from the college football ranks. Joe Alt (Notre Dame) is many people's favourite to be the first offensive lineman taken. Olumuyiwa Fashanu (Penn State), JC Latham (Alabama), Tyler Guyton (Oklahoma), Tailese Fuaga (Oregon State) and Graham Barton (Duke) could all join him as first round picks.


Defensive linemen


Laiatu Latu is an exceptional pass rusher (Image credit: si.com)

Laiatu Latu (UCLA), providing he can convince medical examiners of his long term fitness, could be the first defensive lineman off the board. Man mountain T'Vondre Sweat (Texas), Dallas Turner (Alabama), Jared Verse (Florida State) and Chop Robinson (Penn State) will be worth keeping an eye on.


Linebackers


Jeremiah Trotter has been dominating opposition in the ACC (Image credit:247 Sports)

Edgerrin Cooper (Texas A&M), Chris Braswell (Alabama), Jeremiah Trotter (Clemson) and Payton Wilson (North Carolina State) are the cream of a strong linebacker crop.


Defensive backs


Toledo cornerback Quinyon Mitchell is rising up draft boards (Image credit: si.com)

Cornerback and safety are both highly sought after range of positions and the 2024 class offers a talented bunch of prospects. Alabama pair Terrion Arnold and Kool-Aid McKinstry will be on display could both go in the first round. Quinyon Mitchell (Toledo), Nate Wiggins (Clemson) and Kamari Lassiter (Georgia) will be amongst the earliest defensive backs selected. The injured Cooper DeJean (Iowa) will be a big miss in the physical drills.


Specialists


Alabama kicker Will Reichard is college football's record points scorer (Image credit:USA Today)

The all-time record holder for points scored in college football, Alabama kicker Will Reichard will be in Indianapolis. Look out also for fellow kickers Joshua Karty (Stanford) and Cam Little (Arkansas) and punters Tory Taylor (Iowa) and Ryan Rehkow (BYU).


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