The scouting combine in Indianapolis isn’t just a place where journalists flock to exchange mock drafts. Coaches and executives are grilling players. Medical evaluations are being performed. Official measurements are taken. And, wafting underneath the smell of too-expensive steaks and juiced-up shrimp cocktail, coaches, general managers and agents are mingling, laying the grounds for some of the most consequential decisions of the offseason. Here are the five things we’ll be talking about all week:
1. The height and weight of Kyler Murray
Quarterback weight and height measurements are tentatively scheduled for Thursday and both will be appointment viewing. NBC’s Peter King reported that Murray is expected to hit the 206 mark, which would make him two pounds heavier and roughly one inch shorter than Russell Wilson when he was measured back in 2012. While it may represent a significant development for us—Wilson has since transformed his body and playing style to meet the rigors of the NFL—this could end up being more of a media-driven story. Coaches and scouts already have a good idea of what Murray is capable of on the field and what his frame could project out to. That’s why we have yet to hear any authoritative stamping down of his decision to play football instead of baseball. Even if Murray opts to only throw at Oklahoma’s pro day, where he could limit what people see and only make the kinds of throws that accentuate his strengths, there’s a good chance we leave Indianapolis with a stronger sense that Murray is a top-10 pick than we have now.
2. The full-throated praise of Josh Rosen
Regardless of whether Kliff Kingsbury actually meant what he said about Murray back when he was Texas Tech’s head coach, this isn’t something the Cardinals just address once and walk away from. The better Murray performs, the more legitimate questions will be had about Arizona’s future at the quarterback position.
Should the Cardinals meet with Murray at the combine, that’s a story. Should a Cardinals scout or general manager be seen peering intently at him during bench press, 40-yard dash or on-field workouts (if they happen), that’s a story. This is a franchise in disrepair, which nabbed a falling QB prospect in last year’s draft to try and start the rebuild a tick early. A coaching staff has since been fired, and hiring Kingsbury was meant to be a jolt to the system, one which might require a certain quarterback to operate at full speed.
It will be fascinating to see what kind of unified front both Kingsbury and GM Steve Keim try and put on in Indianapolis, even if they are 100% intent on keeping Rosen as their starter. Maybe they want Rosen to know they’re committed, but would also like other teams to understand that the No. 1 pick is open for business.
3. The most likely destination for Antonio Brown
While Brown’s representatives don’t have permission to seek out a trade, the Steelers will be doing their best to wade through a thicket of logistical issues to try and get the best return for their troubled wide receiver. Brown has willed his way off the roster and out of Ben Roethlisberger’s orbit, but in the meantime may have scared off some potential buyers with his behavior.
Again, Brown can play anywhere. He’s tremendously talented and devoted to his craft, so the market should be robust—just probably not in the first-round pick range. This is a good week to find out which teams are punching the gas pedal. They’ll have a better idea of the readiness of what seems to be a mediocre top of the wide receiver draft class, and a better idea of what their 2019 budget will look like. Behind only one or two quarterbacks and maybe a defensive end that escapes the franchise tag, Brown will be one of the most expensive items on the market.
4. Teams that are serious about Le’Veon Bell
Bell is free to choose his next destination, and while a year ago this may have caused a stir on the market, the pool of capable running backs who, through a rotation, could replicate his production, is actually pretty robust.
Bell will probably never be able to make up for his financial losses in 2018, but we’ll have an idea of how many teams are serious about making it close. In addition to combatting stories about his physical shape, Bell’s team will need to get the word out in Indy: He’s ready to do some damage in 2019, and he’ll make your team better. There will not be a shortage of Team X Meets With Bell’s Representatives stories. The question is: How many are serious, how many are willing to commit long-term money to a 27-year-old who already has a career’s worth of carries, and how many don’t care that he sat out an entire season.
5. The quarterback class falling into order
Ahead of the combine, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah filled in admirably for former draft guru (and now Raiders GM) Mike Mayock’s marathon pre-draft press conference. The plugged-in analyst had Murray slightly ahead of Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, with both of those two ahead of Missouri’s Drew Lock, N.C. State’s Ryan Finley and Duke’s Daniel Jones. But… here’s some much needed perspective:
“In terms of grades [over the past two years]—now this is the grade I had on them coming out, not what they've done. I have [Sam] Darnold with the highest grade. Then it was Rosen, then it was [Baker] Mayfield, and then I gave the same grade to Josh Allen as my fourth quarterback last year as I gave to Kyler Murray this year. So they would be tied for my fourth, and then Haskins would be behind them and then Lamar Jackson would be behind him. So that would be the order I have stacking those guys in with last year's class based purely off the grade.”
We’ll exit this week with a little bit more clarity, especially if Haskins and Lock perform well during their on-field throwing sessions. While we ended up never getting a firm grasp on the pecking order last year, the larger gaps between this year’s prospects should lend itself to a more orderly scenario in 2019.
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