2024 NFL Scouting Combine: Interesting Storylines to Follow Before the Draft

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Once the Super Bowl ends, the next season in the NFL begins.

It is a long wait until September’s kickoff as we eagerly anticipate the thrill of playing at the top-rated sportsbooks.

The scouting combine in Indianapolis at the end of February has been an annual event going back to the 1980s. This is a chance for teams to meet the next batch of college prospects who will be taken in the draft in April.

More than 320 players have been invited in a draft class that has high expectations for the quarterbacks and wide receivers, and lower expectations for running back and defensive front 7 players.

We look at 5 storylines to follow going into the combine in preparation for this upcoming 2024 draft class. Keep in mind that player drills at the combine will be televised live starting on February 29.

Is Jayden Daniels the No. 3 Quarterback?

Look, Brock Purdy almost pulled off the unthinkable by winning a Super Bowl in his 2nd season after going last in the 2022 draft. Still, he didn’t get the ball last in overtime, and Patrick Mahomes did what Patrick Mahomes does.

Everyone in the NFL needs a quarterback who can go up against that guy, who just won his 3rd Super Bowl ring in his 6th season as a starter. Everyone always says “next year’s quarterback class will be better” but that does not seem to be the case in 2024. The expectations are currently low for 2025, so this 2024 class is the one to make a move.

Plenty of NFL teams need to make a move at quarterback right now.

Most experts have Caleb Williams (USC) going No. 1 overall to Chicago or anyone that trades up for that pick. Many also have North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye as the No. 2 quarterback in this class and a probable pick by teams picking high like the Commanders (No. 2) or Patriots (No. 3).

Beyond the Top Two

However, who is that No. 3 quarterback who could entice a quarterback-needy team like the Falcons (hold the 8th pick), Jets (10th), Vikings (11th), Broncos (12th) and Raiders (13th)? In fact, that’s a good argument for more than 3 quarterbacks going in the top 13 picks this year.

The player who just might step up is LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and a top-10 prospect in this class according to many draft sites.

In 2023, Daniels had a fantastic season where he completed 72.2% of his passes, threw for 3,812 yards, 40 touchdowns, 4 interceptions and ran for 1,134 yards and another 10 touchdowns. His per-play numbers were off the charts with 11.7 yards per pass and 8.4 yards per rush.

It will be interesting to see what Daniels chooses to participate in at the combine, but his dual-threat ability will make him a hot commodity among all these teams who need that franchise quarterback to seriously compete. The combine is a good spot for Daniels to get in front of NFL teams in interviews and start making contacts before this draft.

J.J. McCarthy’s Chance to Shine Among Crowded Quarterback Room

As we just established with Jayden Daniels, there are going to be many teams seeking a quarterback in this draft.

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy does not rank as a top 10 prospect or even a top 4 quarterback for many draft experts. Yet, he could be the Mac Jones of this draft class, who was taken as the 5th quarterback in 2021, with someone taking a chance for him on his pedigree from winning a national championship with Michigan.

McCarthy was 27-1 as a starting quarterback at Michigan.

That’s the best winning percentage by a Division I college QB in the last 50 years. He completed 72.3% of his passes in 2023 and averaged 9.0 yards per attempt, but he often was not asked to throw a lot.

McCarthy has shown decent athleticism and may test well at the combine in that regard. Certainly better than Tom Brady’s 2000 combine measures. Still, it will be interesting to see if a coach like Denver’s Sean Payton, looking to move on from the Russell Wilson recovery project, jumps all over a McCarthy that he can mold and shape from Day 1 to do his bidding on the field.

Before you say that’s crazy, do not forget about Payton’s love affair with making Taysom Hill a quarterback in New Orleans. Being “coachable” is a valuable attribute in the eyes of many successful coaches.

Do not be surprised to see McCarthy drafted much higher than the early mocks projected. A good combine would go a long way in helping his stock rise.

Which Pass Rushers Shine?

Pass rush is an integral part of team building if you want to win a Super Bowl. You saw it in Super Bowl LVIII with the 49ers having a star like Nick Bosa and the Chiefs had Chris Jones.

Last year’s draft had a few pass rushers at the top who were competing to be the 1st defensive player drafted. In the end, Will Anderson (Texans) edged out Jalen Carter (Eagles) and he did it again when it came to winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

However, this 2024 class may not have anyone of that caliber.

Dallas Turner (Alabama), Jared Verse (Florida State) and Laiatu Latu (UCLA) are among the top-ranked edge rushers in this draft class. They all have an invite to the combine.

We’ll see if any of them can light it up with their athletic measurements in the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical leap and broad jump.

One of those teams drafting high who will likely not take a quarterback could benefit from one of these rushers, including the Chargers and Giants.

Is It a Bad Running Back Class?

Running backs have fought an uphill battle at garnering big 2nd contracts in the NFL as most teams opt to run them ragged on rookie deals and move on with someone younger when that negotiation time comes around.

Still, that hasn’t necessarily stopped all teams from using high picks on the position. Just last year, we saw Bijan Robinson go No. 8 to Atlanta, and in a more surprising move, the Lions took Jahmyr Gibbs with the No. 12 pick.

The Gibbs pick was more heavily criticized of course, but the Lions made it work out well and by season’s end, he looked like their best back and helped the team reach the NFC Championship Game in literally the best Detroit season in the Super Bowl era.

Running Back Vacuum

However, the running backs in this 2024 class don’t even come close to the level of Robinson as a prospect. They won’t even come close to Gibbs, for that matter. Some big boards do not have any running backs among the top 60 prospects as we get ready for the combine.

These are some of the backs to keep an eye on as potential to be the 1st drafted in this class even if it’s not until the 2nd or 3rd round:

  • Trey Benson, Florida State: Scored 23 touchdowns over the last 2 seasons at FSU while averaging 6.1 yards per carry.
  • Blake Corum, Michigan: Finished 4-year run at Michigan with 3,737 rushing yards and 61 total touchdowns.
  • Jonathon Brooks, Texas: Rushed for 1,139 yards and 10 touchdowns as a 2023 sophomore, averaged 6.1 yards per carry and caught 25 passes for 286 yards.

Brooks could emerge as the favorite with his receiving skills and less tread on the tires than someone like Corum. Still, the backs will need to impress at the combine to move up the draft charts this year.

How Many Corners Elevate in Mock Drafts?

This class may be light on pass rushers and linebackers, but corner could be a strength with as many as 7 players having top-40 potential for April’s draft.

Here are those players and you can expect to see them test at the combine:

  • Terrion Arnold, Alabama
  • Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo
  • Nate Wiggins, Clemson
  • Cooper DeJean, Iowa
  • Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama
  • Ennis Rakestraw Jr., Missouri
  • Kamari Lassiter, Georgia

Corners are obviously still in high demand and you can never have too many.

Teams like the Lions and 49ers were let down a bit by the corner position in the playoffs. The Chiefs had an excellent corner tandem in L’Jarius Sneed and Trent McDuffie. However, with Sneed scheduled to become a free agent, that’s the kind of player you can see go to a new team for huge money, potentially leaving the Chiefs as a team that’s looking for one of these players late in the 1st round.

Still, you can never truly have enough corners to deal with these multi-receiver sets in today’s NFL. Look for the 40-yard dash times to elevate some of these corners who impress with their speed at the combine.