As the lights dimmer, the media starts to tear down their man-made huts in the middle of the halls at Lucas Oil Stadium. The last group to hit the field on Tuesday will be on the defensive side of the ball as the defensive backs look to showcase their speed and ball skills at the 2014 NFL combine. Each NFL organization will go back to their draft war rooms in their home states and use this event, along with game tape and other variables, to break down and digest each player that enters this years draft. Many highly touted prospects took advantage of the weekend, while others left much food for thought, some only performing in specific drills, and a select few not doing any drills at all at the combine.
The quarterback position will always be the most scrutinized position in the league, putting the future signal callers under a heavy microscope before draft day. Blake Bortles probably helped himself the most during the weekend, being the only quarterback out of the top four to participate in every event and throw during the combine. Johnny Manziel ran the fastest forty time out of the four, but also reportedly interviewed very well with teams during the meetings. Teddy Bridgewater hurt his stock the most by choosing not to throw or run, during the QB drills held on Sunday. Those who did not throw plan to use their pro days to display their throwing abilities, but the lack of competition held for the position did not seem to impress many experts on the quarterback’s lack of competitiveness at the combine.
Some of the other offensive players who left lasting impressions were sure to help their stock only a few months away from the draft. The three top offensive linemen in this draft looked just about, if not more, impressive then the three top offensive linemen from last year, who were all drafted in the top five picks. Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans left many teams thinking that they may have a shot at a franchise wide receiver if either of the two drop to their picks. Also draft expert, Mike Mayock, was extremely impressed with the running back from Washington, Bishop Sankey at the combine. There may not seem to be any first round talent at the running back position in the 2014 draft, but there are durable enough backs in this years draft to fill a position of need for the future in a very pass heavy NFL.
The defensive side of the ball may have the most talent in abundance heading into the draft. The defensive line depth is unbelievable with multiple speed rushers from the edge and big bulky defensive tackles manning the middle of the line. One particular defensive end, Jadeveon Clowney has blown up the NFL combine with his rare combination of size, speed and potential. He is predicted to be the best defensive prospect to enter the draft since defensive end of the Buffalo Bills, Mario Williams; who was then drafted by the Houston Texans. The linebacker position is full explosive rushers like Anthony Barr and Khalil Mack and the prototypical anchor of the middle a defense like C.J. Mosley. With the Seattle Seahawks defense setting the precedent on the defensive backfield, multiple teams are looking for their tall, long and lean cornerbacks and hard-hitting safeties at the combine. Players like Justin Gilbert, HaHa Clinton-Dix, and Calvin Pryor fit that kind of bill teams may be looking for come May.
The thoughts and impressions on the draft breathes a rich variety of talent and depth at almost each position. With many experts calling this 2014 class one of the deepest of its kind, predicting that anywhere from 20 to 25 of the first players selected in May’s draft could have been a top ten selection in ones in the past. The combine showcases a broad variety of flavors to explore which teams will need to figure out soon enough. With the free agency period starting in two weeks, franchises will figure out a direction from there and move forward with their picks at hand. With the seasons winding down in both basketball and hockey, and the football proceedings just now picking; there are sure to be many spectacles besides the combine, to be seen in the months ahead. America will not have to wait too long, its beloved sport will be back before the sporting world knows it.
By Justin Huffman