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2019 NFL Scouting Combine preview: Every important storyline to follow

The Combine kicks off and there’s plenty to watch, so we’re looking at some of the prevailing storylines this week.

NFL Combine - Day 3 Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The 2019 NFL Scouting Combine is going to be a nexus of activity in the coming days, and it’s going to be a lot more than just guys in shorts running a little bit and jumping some. As the whole event kicks off with boring stuff like medicals and interviews, we’re going to take a look at some of the more prominent storylines that are going to be mentioned as the weekend wears on. Some of these directly involve the Lions, some of them are players who have certain questions that need answering, and others still are just your everyday Combine goings-on, but we’re going to jump right into the prevailing story lines of the 2019 NFL Combine.

The Injuries

Not exactly starting off on a happy note, the Combine has already seen a breadth of talent sidelined with injury, and, as luck would have it, many of them are players who would have had the most to gain from a strong Combine showing.

Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, believed to be one of the fastest players in the draft class looking to showcase his skills and try to maintain his beloved speed at a higher weight than his listed 165 pounds, sidelined with a Lisfranc injury.

Deionte Thompson, once considered a top five prospect, saw his stock nosedive due to concerns about his speed and explosiveness. Now sidelined with injury and is likely to also miss his pro day.

Austin Bryant, once considered a possible first-round pass rushing prospect from Clemson, facing concerns about his athleticism in general, now unable to participate.

Jawaan Taylor, during his big push as the possible best offensive tackle in the class, now sidelined with a hamstring injury.

It happens every season, and it always sucks. The only ‘good’ injury news so far is that Nick Bosa, the presumed number one overall pick, is healthy enough to compete at the Combine. And this is not just about those coming in injured, because someone is bound to get hurt during drills, too, and that can see their stock nosedive since recovery time is likely to drag into training camp.

The trade rumors

The worst ones have already started. Around the NFL went into an asinine discussion about how Matthew Stafford is a candidate to be traded to the Miami Dolphins for first and third round picks so the Lions can take a 5-foot-9 quarterback in the first round of the weakest QB draft since 2013.

I’ve got news for you, this is just the tip of the iceberg for the kind of trade talk that is going to happen this weekend, and that’s not even considering the actual trade talk that will be discussed by NFL GMs and front office personnel. The Combine is a hub for rumors because it is a central point of activity on this front. Players will get re-signed, trades will be discussed if not agreed to in principle, and anarchy will ensue. Strap in!

The Exaggerations

If a guy looks like he could run a 4.49, he’s a “4.4 guy”. If he might manage under 4.7, he’s a “4.6 guy”. Players who are currently projected to go in Day 3 are “possible Day 2 guys,” while players who may see their stock drop after one poor drill are “possibly going to slip a round or two.” And players who run a single drill well are “in first-round consideration.”

The Combine didn’t become one of the premier NFL offseason events by telling the boring truth. Just make sure to take this entire weekend with a heavy grain of salt, and you’ll do just fine.

The Specifics

Time to jump into the more specific storylines you’ll be hearing about throughout the week. We’re making an attempt at being both as detailed as possible and as rapid fire as we can.

Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma:

Will he throw? The general assumption is that he has nothing to gain by throwing at the Combine. It’s a weak class, so he really only has stock to lose. Yet, reports are that he’s going to participate in every drill. That makes people like me happy, because numbers, but it’s an odd choice.

There’s also serious interest about how Murray will measure. He was listed as 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, but rumors abound that he’ll measure in shorter and lighter. Other rumors are that he’s already over 205, putting him over that Russell Wilson threshold.

There are also questions about his hand size, anything under 9 1/4” will turn a lot of teams off. If Murray does well at the Combine in these areas and puts on a show, he could go higher than eighth overall, which is good news for the Lions.

Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson:

What will his measurements look like? Much has been made about Ferrell’s lack of bend, but if we assume those concerns are warranted and he measures like he looks on tape, then we’re turning our attention to his other drills. Bradley Chubb was a top pass-rushing prospect who lacked bend, but Chubb made up for it with speed and explosiveness. If Ferrell can show out in those areas, where questions exist as well, then his lack of bend may not be as big of a concern to NFL decision makers.

Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia:

One of the top corner on many boards, there are very serious concerns about Baker’s speed and general athleticism. Baker is being projected as high as top 7 by folks like Pro Football Focus, but Lions fans are all too familiar with a corner who’s projected highly but lacks athletic traits, and we know how damaging that can be for draft value.

N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State:

There are concerns about what level of athleticism Harry actually possesses, specifically speed and agility, but he can be a very dynamic player.

Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan:

Rashan Gary is an edge player. Unless you think he’s an inside pass rusher. He seems determined to play outside, and rumors say he is stubborn on that. Regardless of where you play him, the man exhibited some pretty insane athletic testing at Michigan and, Michigan number fudging aside, is expected to be one of the top performers at the Combine.

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston:

Speaking of athletic freaks, we’ve got a possible contender for top RAS in Ed Oliver. Only one defensive tackle since 1987 ran a sub 7.00 3-Cone, and it’s not someone you would recognize, because he didn’t have much of a career. Still, guys like Aaron Donald, Geno Atkins, and Grady Jarrett didn’t come close to that level of bend. If rumors are true, be prepared for a historic Combine performance.

Josh Allen, DE, Kentucky: Will Josh Allen break 7.00 in the Cone, solidifying his status in the top 5?

Jachai Polite, OLB, Florida: Has he bulked up without losing his signature explosiveness?

Brian Burns, OLB, Florida State: Playing at 231 pounds at FSU, but reportedly now over 245, has he put on enough weight to keep teams interested? Can he play at that weight?

Noah Fant, TE, Iowa: Fant was rumored to put up better numbers than 2018 Combine superstar Mike Gesicki, who had one of the best Combine showings ever for a tight end. Another historic benchmark this week?

T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa: Hockenson is a good athlete, but is he good enough to maintain his soaring draft stock? No below average RAS athlete at tight end has ever been drafted in the first round, and only a small handful were below that elite threshold (including Eric Ebron and Brandon Pettigrew, former Lions first round picks).

Greedy Williams, CB, Louisiana State: Questions arose this week about his long speed, can he put that to rest?

Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State: Comparisons to Darius Slay are great, but can he back it up with similarly impressive numbers?

Devin White, LB, Louisiana State: White is one of the fastest linebackers in this class, but he’ll have to measure that way to keep his first-round hopes alive.

Devin Bush, LB, Michigan: Coming in at 5-foot-11 won’t crush his chances of being drafted early like it would have in years past, but Bush has to show out in nearly every drill to set himself apart in a linebacker class that most consider pretty weak.

Te’von Coney, LB, Notre Dame: Coney has some very impressive tape, but his speed is concerning. Can he show out?

The Running Backs: Can ANYONE step up and separate themselves from the pack? With no running back projected in the first round, an amazing showing by one of the top guys might be just enough to squeak into the latter half of the first round.

Is there anyone else you’re keeping an eye on during this week’s Combine? Are any of these concerns above unwarranted? Let us know in the comments and I’ll follow up after each day to see how your guys did.

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