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NFL scouting combine starts

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 05:52 AM


NFL scouting combine starts

Zach Berman, Inquirer Staff Writer

Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2013, 2:17 AM

INDIANAPOLIS - The NFL scouting combine has started in Indianapolis, and the event is annually one of the biggest in the NFL's offseason. It's a chance for draft prospects to showcase themselves, for coaches and executives to convene in the same space, and for NFL news to return to the forefront. Here's a cheat sheet of what to expect:

Who are the top players? The big names are not the quarterbacks this season, although if you want to know who the top quarterbacks are, start with West Virginia's Geno Smith and Southern Cal's Matt Barkley.

This is a draft that's deep on the offensive and defensive lines. The two prospects that will most often be discussed as the top player are Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel and Alabama guard Chance Warmack. Utah defensive lineman Star Lotulelei and Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore are also high on most lists.

There are not many elite skill-position players in this draft, with Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner likely the only one expected to go among the top picks.

What is the biggest story? Manti Te'o, the star Notre Dame linebacker who most recently secured headlines because he was involved in a hoax with a fake girlfriend, will meet with teams at the combine. The question about the hoax will almost assuredly be a topic with coaches as it will with reporters.

Another player with off-field questions to answer is cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, who was one of college football's top players before drug use caused a suspension from Louisiana State's football team and an arrest.

Whom will the Eagles be watching? With the No. 4 pick, the Eagles will be in the market for one of the draft's top players. Big names such as Joeckel, Lotulelei, and Milliner will be linked to the Eagles throughout the week and the predraft process.

But the expected change in the Eagles' defensive scheme from 4-3 to 3-4 could prompt them to look for pass rushers, and Oregon's Dion Jordan - once a standout under new Eagles coach Chip Kelly - will generate buzz.

The Eagles have other needs to be addressed, including safety. The Eagles have whiffed on safeties in the second round in recent drafts, and they might look to Florida's Matt Elam or Florida International's Jonathan Cyprien to fix those problems.

Which local prospects will get the most attention? Florida defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd, a graduate of George Washington High in Northeast Philadelphia, is one of the draft's top prospects and could see his stock continue to ascend in Indianapolis. "I bang the table for him," said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock.

Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, a Malvern Prep product, is also among the top players at his position. Rutgers cornerback Logan Ryan, who played at Eastern, will generate attention when the defensive backs work out next week.

What else, besides the draft, will everyone gossip about? Coaches and personnel executives flood lobbies and restaurants throughout Indianapolis, and they will talk about more than the draft.

Free agency begins next month, and big-name veterans including Dwight Freeney, Richard Seymour, and Charles Woodson definitely will be on the market. This is also the period when teams can apply the franchise-player tag, and no free agent will be discussed more than Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, the Super Bowl MVP and Audubon native.

New coaches will also present themselves in a public forum with a different logo on their wardrobe. Kelly is in that group, as is Chiefs coach and former Eagles coach Andy Reid.

Contact Zach Berman at zberman@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @ZBerm.

Zach Berman
Inquirer Staff Writer