10 things from 2013 NFL combine
Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 1:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 1:54 p.m.
Who's the best athlete? The best quarterback? How about the emergence of the read-option and whether it will impact this year's NFL draft and free agency? A rundown of 10 story lines, none of them related to Manti Te'o, from the NFL combine:
1. Who's No. 1? Expect another shake-up atop the draft board after this weekend's craziness. Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei went home after being diagnosed with a heart condition, cornerback Dee Milliner is preparing for shoulder surgery and offensive tackle Eric Fisher appears to be closing the gap on Luke Joeckel, the presumptive No. 1 pick (hello, Kansas City?). Some analysts are moving guard Chance Warmack and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd into the top five.
2. Medical exams: Nothing is more important at the combine than passing a physical, and nothing can hurt a draft prospect's stock faster than a bad exam. Just ask Lotulelei, who has generally been ranked in the top three since the college season ended. After doctors diagnosed the Utah star with a heart condition, he was sent home to see a specialist.
3. Going deep: Teams looking for an Andrew Luck or a Robert Griffin III or even a Jake Long will be hard pressed to find a franchise anchor at the top of the 2013 draft. That means the big winners will be the teams looking to fill in around Luck, Griffin or Cam Newton because this year's talent pool runs deep.
4. Hold the line: Coaches and general managers often talk about building teams around the line of scrimmage. This year, they can show they mean it. Of the 333 players who attended this week's combine, 112 (33.6 percent) were either offensive or defensive linemen.
5. Check it out: This year's rookie class will keep the NFL's background checkers busy through draft weekend. There are plenty of concerns that need to be sorted out, from drug use and alcohol abuse to criminal allegations.
6. Believe your eyes: Fans become enamored with things like times in the 40-yard dash and the number of reps players have on the bench press. Scouts prefer to look at the tape. The reality is the workout warriors (see Mike Mamula) in shorts don't always meet the expectations in pads.
7. Feel-good stories: Defensive lineman Walter Stewart of Cincinnati and Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones were told they would have to give up football in college after doctors discovered congenital spinal conditions. Both have been cleared to play and hope to embark on NFL careers.
8. QB quandary: While there is debate about who will be the first quarterback taken this year — Matt Barkley, Mike Glennon, Geno Smith or someone else — few analysts believe there's a top-10 QB available.
9. SEC rules: No conference has been better at winning national championships over the last decade and now the SEC's domination is carrying over to the NFL. The SEC easily had the highest number of players at the combine (73), and could have the highest total of first-round picks in April, too.
10. Going global: American football is suddenly becoming a hit overseas, too. Players at this year's combine were born or reared in the following countries: Australia, England, Estonia, Ghana, Germany, Japan, Liberia and Tonga.