The NFL Draft Combine is set to take over the world of football over the next few days.
Here are the biggest storylines to follow in Indianapolis.
How does Bryce Young measure?
This year's quarterback class is not the most star studded like in recent memory, but it's certainly better than it was last year when just Kenny Pickett in Round 1. But even at the top of the board, the questions begin with Alabama's Bryce Young. The former Heisman Trophy winner has proven he can win at the highest levels of college football, but his size has many concerned. Heck, even if lead NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay said this week ,“If I’m a GM, I’m scared to death of drafting him."
How Young measures in both height and weight will be of great speculation this week, but that's where the questions just begin. Many are already questioning whether - regardless of what he weighs in at - if he can keep the weight on for the entire season.
Assuming Chicago trades the first pick (which has been reported this week), Young is still the odds on favorite to go No. 1. But questions will remain up until draft day - and may scare prospective teams away.
Who is QB2 - Will Levis, CJ Stroud or Anthony Richardson?
Will Levis, QB out of Kentucky is for the most part regarded as the second best QB in this draft. He fought week in and week out against SEC competition, behind a bad offensive line, all while battling a toe injury. The numbers weren't great (19 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 65 percent completion percentage) but how much should those other things factor into his draft stock?
After him, is Ohio State QB C.J Stroud. Stroud led the Buckeyes to the College Football Playoff, but fell short. Stroud, much like his predecessor Justin Fields, shows flashes of huge potential but questions remain on his ability to play at the next level. Most notably, playing in an NFL system, with elite talent (maybe the best wide receiving corps in the country each of the last two years) was Stroud that good, or was the middle and bottom of the Big Ten competition that inferior?
Finally, there's the wild card of the draft, Anthony Richardson. Odds markets have Richardson moving up the board, but analysts are conflicted on his ability to transition to the pros. Richardson completed just 54 percent of his passes, but also has insane upside as both a passer and a runner.
He's looked at as a “make or break” pick.
What's next for Jalen Carter?
An interesting development happened early Wednesday morning, when former Georgia defensive star Jalen Carter was issued an arrest warrant for his involvement in reckless driving and racing in connection to a crash that killed a teammate and recruiting staff member.
In the last 24 hours, Carter left Indianapolis to return to Georgia, where he turned himself over to authorities. After making bail, he is already back in Indianapolis, where he will reportedly conduct interviews with teams.
Clearly, as the projected No. 1 pick, it will be fascinating to see how his next few weeks unfold, and how Wednesday's news impacts his draft stock.
A loaded tight end class.
While TE1 vary from analyst to analyst, it's clearly a loaded draft, with McShay having five players at the position in his Top 50 prospects overall. The consensus at number 1 is either Utah’s Dalton Kincaid (25 overall on McShay's board) or Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer (28 overall). There's also Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave (33 overall) and Iowa’s Sam Laporta (57 overall).
Kincaid is regarded as the best receiving tight end in the draft, whereas Mayer has the “highest floor” player in the draft. You know he can compete at the next level, but does he have what it takes to be truly special? As for Musgrove and Laporta, analysts say Musgrove has the means to compete at the next level with some fine tuning, and Laporta has great potential to develop if taken with a lower round pick.
There is more than the usual amount of value at this position in this year's draft and it will be intriguing to see if any teams are willing to spend a premium pick at the position this year.
How high will Bijan Robinson go?
Bijan Robinson is already getting compared to players like Saquon Barley who, after this year, should be considered a top 5 running back in the league. This is a lot of pressure to put on someone who hasn’t even been drafted yet, but Robinson has the talent to back it up. He rushed for over 1,800 yards for Texas this year to go along with 18 rushing touchdowns. He also caught two touchdown passes as well.
The question is, with the running back position so devalued, where will he go?
Mel Kiper had him as the No. 27 overall pick in his latest mock draft, so it'll be interesting to see if Robinson can do anything during the draft process to improve his standing.
Edge rushers are the strongest position, but this is a weak class overall
This year's edge rushers at first glance look like solid even great first round picks. But looking at this class deeper, once you get past Georgia's Jalen Carter, Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr, and Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson, but beyond that, there is a lack of depth. And interestingly, this draft lacks depth overall, with McShay saying earlier this week "I have 14 guys I legitimately feel like are first-rounders.”
It's an interesting assessment, if only for teams picking in the back half of the first round. Is there as much value in those picks? And will teams be able to trade them?
This is something to keep an eye on as the draft unfolds.
Lackluster wide receiver class
Speaking of "lackluster," wide receiver is usually a position of strength in the draft. Just in the last few years the draft has given us the likes of Justin Jefferson, Ja'Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, Devonta Smith, Garrett Wilson, on and on.
Unfortunately, this year is different, as again, the deemed "strengths" of this class lie at quarterback and ont he edge.
That being said, this year's draft is not void of talent. TCU’s Quentin Johnston along with USC’s Jordan Addison are considered to be first round talent, although middle or late picks. It's also worth noting Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba is available as well. Smith-Njigba's 2022 season was essentially non-existent because of a pair of injuries, most notably a hamstring injury that kept him sidelined virtually the entire second half of the season.
Smith-Njigba is expected to run in Indianapolis this week, and it's clear that he has show scouts he's 100 percent healthy.
Remember though, the last time we saw him at full-strength, he put on a virtuoso performance with a staggering, 347-yard receiving performance in the Rose Bowl two seasons ago.
Next year's QB class
Finally, while this year's quarterback is intriguing, it's the 2024 class that has scouting drooling. USC’s Caleb Williams, this year's Heisman winner, and North Carolina’s Drake Maye are already seen as elite upside players, with many scouts speculating that Williams and Maye would go No. 1 and No. 2 in this year's draft if they were eligible. McShay confirmed as such, saying, “Caleb, he’d be the first pick in this draft.
It will be interesting to see both how it impacts this year's draft - will teams pass on guys like Stroud, Levis and Richardson in hopes of positioning themselves for Williams or Maye next year?
It's just one of many fascinating storylines to follow in Indianapolis this weekend.