INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Johnny Manziel and Michael Sam will be the headliners at the NFL's scouting combine.
Workouts for the league's pre-draft event begin Saturday.
The most important aspects of the combine are often the ones that get
the least publicity -- players measuring in, going through the medical
checks and the team interviews that could put many questions to rest or
raise an entirely new set of concerns. So with more than 300 NFL draft
hopefuls attending the second biggest offseason event on the NFL
calendar -- and the only that draws team owners, team executives, league
officials, coaches, agents and potential future stars to the same
venue-- this week will be far more than just a two-man show.
Here are five things to watch this week in Indianapolis.
JOHNNY BE GOOD: Manziel is a dynamic player who may have more on the
line this week than anybody else in town. After two sensational years at
Texas A&M, he's trying to position himself to be considered the
first overall pick by the Houston Texans. While the 2012 Heisman Trophy
winner has said he will not work out next weekend, scouts will be
looking at Manziel's height and weight to determine if he can hold up
against the NFL's bigger, faster, stronger defenders. Coaches and team
executives also will be eager to see how he handles the private
interviews -- the one part of the combine outsiders never see -- to
determine whether he's the guy they want as the face of their franchise
for the next decade.
MICHAEL SAM: Last week, Sam became the first NFL draft prospect to
acknowledge he is gay. This week, he'll face a media circus in Indy. He
also has some questions about his physical ability to answer. The SEC's
defensive player of the year was listed last season at 6-foot-2, 255
pounds, meaning Sam must demonstrate he has the speed and the agility to
change directions to make it in the NFL. The heavy shift to 3-4
defenses has put a premium on heavier defensive ends, forcing lighter
players to make the move to linebacker. If Sam demonstrates he's quick
enough to be a pass-rushing end in a 4-3 front or athletic enough to
move to rush linebacker in a 3-4 front, his draft stock should improve.
THE NO. 1 QUESTION: Manziel is only one part of the equation at the
top of the draft. And if Manziel doesn't go No. 1, who will? That answer
probably won't be settled after this weekend, though most analysts
believe a quarterback will once again be taken with the first pick. If
the choice is not Manziel, it could be Blake Bortles or Teddy
Bridgewater. The Texans recently hired Central Florida's former college
quarterback coach, and Bridgewater was considered the front-runner to be
No. 1 throughout most of the college season. A year ago, at this point
the odds-on favorite to go No. 1 was Utah defensive tackle Star
Lotulelei. So a lot can change between now and May's draft, and don't
rule out a possible resurgence by South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon
JUNIOR JAM: A record number of college players (102) have given up
their remaining college eligibility to jump into this year's NFL draft.
While the first-round is sure to include plenty of underclassmen
draftees, led by the likes of Manziel and Clowney, dozens of other
early-entry draft hopefuls must show they're worthy of being drafted. If
the underclassmen do well and go high, the trend of seeing more and
more underclassmen enter the draft could continue in future years.
CHARACTER COUNTS: The toughest job this week goes to any of the
players having to answer questions about their character. The list of
indiscretions includes everything from arrests to drug-related
suspensions to the use, or misuse, of Twitter. What scouts and team
execs will try to do is sort fact from fiction as they attempt to figure
out whether these were simple youthful missteps or a pattern of
behavior that could continue to cause problems in the future.