Sorting out who's No. 1 will continue after NFL combine
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The process of selecting this year’s top overall draft pick began in earnest last week at the NFL's annual scouting combine.
It's just the start of a longer process.
After watching quarterback Anthony Richardson wow scouts on the field, seeing 2021 Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young check in shorter than expected and defensive tackle Jalen Carter become the center of attention for all the wrong reasons, teams will embark on the next step — pro day evaluations.
Here’s a look at some of the more memorable moments from the past week in Indianapolis:
Most of the focus entering combine week centered on the top two quarterbacks — Young of Alabama and C.J. Stroud of Ohio State. But Richardson of Florida and Will Levis of Kentucky might have been more impressive on the Lucas Oil Stadium turf.
Levis brazenly told reporters he intended to throw so he could showcase his “cannon” arm. He did. And while Stroud also looked the part of a franchise quarterback in the throwing portion of drills, Young opted to sit it out after he measured at 5-foot-10 1/8 inches. That would make Young one of the NFL's shortest quarterbacks.
Richardson, meanwhile, helped himself significantly with one of the most athletic performances all week. At 6-4, 244 pounds, Richardson ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds and posted a 40 1/2-inch vertical jump and a broad jump of 10 feet-9. All three numbers ranked among the best by any quarterback at the combine since 2003.
It was a tumultuous week for Carter. After announcing he wouldn't opt out, like many top prospects, he left town Wednesday to return to Georgia, where he was charged with two misdemeanors, reckless driving and racing, in connection with a fatal crash in January.
The news broke minutes before he was scheduled to speak with reporters. He never stood behind the podium.
On Thursday, he was back in Indy, giving himself a chance to explain immediately to evaluators during team interviews what had happened in Georgia. The next day, bodycam footage surfaced of a police officer giving Carter a warning about speeding — just four months before the fatal crash.
Carter's troubles created an unusual dynamic for his former college teammates who spoke with reporters on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Each drew questions about Carter's character, Georgia's culture and the crash that killed Bulldogs offensive lineman Devin Willock and a recruiting staff member.
Carter came into the combine in the mix to go No. 1 overall. It's unclear if that's still the case.
Players and their agents complained loudly last year about doing the bench press on the same day as on-field-workouts, so this year organizers changed the schedule, holding the bench press the day after on-field workouts. The switch led to one of the bravest performances in memory.
Guard Adnrew Vorhees crashed to the turf with a right knee injury during offensive line drills on Sunday. Reports surfaced Monday that he had suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
But that didn't stop the Southern California product, who lifted 225 pounds (100 kg) a combine-high 38 times. While the injury may cost him all of next season, he showed everyone his resilience and determination.
Edge rusher Nolan Smith of Georgia and cornerback D.J. Turner II of Michigan also made strong impressions.
First, Smith broke down at the podium on Wednesday while publicly sharing his thoughts about Willock for the first time. The next day, his impressive workout included a 4.39 in the 40 and a 41 1/2-inch vertical jump, both tops in his position group, and a broad jump of 10-8, which was third.
Turner drew attention for his blazing time in the 40, 4.26, on Friday. It was the fourth-fastest time since 2003 and the only sub 4.3 at this year's combine.
Smith already was expected to be a first-round pick, but Turner may get some additional looks thanks to his speed.
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith made no secret about his thoughts on the combine even before anyone arrived in Indy. He thinks it should be discontinued.
Still, team executives and coaches repeatedly said the combine was a crucial piece of the evaluation puzzle, primarily because of the interviews and medical checks. Many of the 319 invitees even called attending the combine a dream.
It's pretty clear the combine isn't going away any time soon. Last spring, Indy managed to keep the league's second-largest offseason event through 2024, beating out Dallas and Los Angeles.
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Michael Marot, The Associated Press