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5 things you need to know for the 2018 NFL combine

Posted Feb 27, 2018

Each year there are prospects with longer to-do lists than others as they head to Indianapolis for full medical evals, on field testing and the all-important formal interviews with clubs. Here’s a look at some of the more anticipated storylines at this year’s pre-draft showcase.

1 – QB Mason Rudolph may not fully participate
A mid-foot sprain kept the Oklahoma State quarterback from doing everything, but attend quarterback meetings for a couple of days at the Senior Bowl. His disappointment was evident, but he confirmed in late January that he’d be fully healed to participate at the NFL combine this week.

Whether he does everything remains to be seen. He recently indicated that the change of direction drills like the short shuttle or the three-cone drill could be ones he chooses to bypass.

He’s been in an immobilizer boot for three weeks, but has had almost two weeks to ramp up for all the on-field drills.

NFL scouts will pay close attention to his drop back footwork knowing he played almost exclusively in shotgun for the Cowboys.

2 – Largest pool ever
The 2018 combine attendance list will see its largest pool of players invited. There was a total of 336 welcomed to the scouting combine this year.

“Evaluating players is a subjective business,” said National Football Scouting President Jeff Foster in an appearance on the John Murphy Show. “For us there are always really good, talented players who are left out of the combine, even if we invited 400.

“What we do is we involve all 32 teams in the initial process. We ask each of the 32 teams to participate in an initial round of review and selection of players. It’s most important for them to weigh in on what players they believe should attend.”

3 - Crucial medical evaluations
NFL personnel executives would be the first to tell you the most important part of the NFL combine are the medical evaluations. Here are some of the bigger names prospects whose medical reports will be of particular interest to NFL clubs.

S Derwin James – Florida State
James was looking like a sure-fire first round pick even after a torn meniscus in 2016 cost him almost the entire season. He still wasn’t himself this past year, which now has teams anxious about how well his knee has healed.

WR Anthony Miller – Memphis
The Tigers speed receiver missed the Senior Bowl due to a foot injury in Memphis’ bowl game. Teams will be eager to see the extent of the injury and how well Miller has progressed through his recovery.

QB Josh Rosen – UCLA
The quarterback has a throwing shoulder injury in his history and a pair of concussions in close proximity this past season, which forced him to miss UCLA’s bowl game. For a projected top pick, the medical exam will be lengthy.

G Isaiah Wynn – Georgia
Wynn was arguably the most consistent interior offensive linemen during practices Senior Bowl week, which became even more impressive when he underwent surgery for a torn labrum in his left shoulder the following week. NFL teams will want to see how his recovery is coming along.

4 – New position grouping, new testing
Each year the National Football Scouting committee makes efforts to enhance the pre-draft evaluation process for the 32 NFL clubs. This year at the request of the clubs they’ll be separating the defensive back group and defensive line group into specific positions during field testing.

“The defensive line and the defensive backs who have all traditionally been put together in two different groups per position. We’re going to do things a little differently this year,” said Foster.

“We’ll have a group of interior defensive linemen and then a group of edge defensive linemen and then the DBs we’ll try to split between corners and safeties. It’ll provide a little bit different look on the field and a little bit better evaluation opportunity for the club people.”

The NFS will also be rolling out a new performance test with the help of Sparta Science to help give NFL clubs an extra layer of information on a prospect’s physical capabilities.

“We recently added a functional movement screen for performance testing in the last couple of years,” said Foster. “This year we’re adding a group that helps us identify prospects using force play technology. A group called Sparta Science is going to be here helping us perform a balance and jump test that we believe will provide some new information for the clubs.”

5 – Speed to burn?
There are a number of NFL prospects who are expected to test well this week. Some were two-sport athletes who also ran track like USC RB Ronald Jones and LSU DB Donte Jackson. But the prospect who might have the most onlookers for his field testing is Washington DT Vita Vea. A mountain of man, Vea has rare athleticism for a man his size.

“He is a dancing bear. He’s a freak,” said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. “He’s 340 pounds and everybody says he’s going to run a sub-five 40. The last defensive lineman to do that was Dontari Poe and he went at number 11. Vea is a better player than Poe was coming out of college and more advanced. He’s a plug and play nose tackle in any scheme and if he runs 4.85 or 4.9 at 342 pounds, to me that’s more impressive than watching John Ross run a 4.22 (in 2017).”