NFL Scouting Combine

Patriots Hosting Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy

The closer and closer we get to the 2024 NFL Draft, the more certain it seems that a run of quarterbacks will start the event. What continues to be entirely uncertain is the pecking order of passers following USC quarterback Caleb Williams. One popular name who continues to see his stock rise is Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy, who is set to visit the Patriots over the next two days, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.

McCarthy originally entered the pre-draft process as a likely candidate to be selected outside of the first round. The former starter of the reigning College Football Playoff champion Wolverines, McCarthy flew up draft boards as the pre-draft process went on, essentially cementing his status as a likely Day 1 pick. As he’s continued to impress at the NFL scouting combine and Michigan’s pro day, McCarthy’s draft stock has risen even more, making a case not only to be a top-four draft pick, but also to be the No. 2 overall selection after Williams.

Following the Bears’ No. 1 overall pick, the Commanders and Patriots follow at Nos. 2 and 3. McCarthy visited Washington earlier this week, and now he’ll get out to New England for a visit with the Patriots. McCarthy has come a long way from being in danger of falling outside of the first round and is now garnering attention from two teams at the top of this month’s draft.

It’s not all up to McCarthy, though. LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels and North Carolina passer Drake Maye have long been in the conversation for the those second and third picks, as well. Maye saw the Commanders and Patriots comprise the largest NFL contingents at his pro day. Daniels, though, is seeming to be the favorite to be picked by Washington. If Daniels is, indeed, the choice at No. 2 overall, this weekend’s trip to New England could do a lot to affect the Patriots’ intentions at No. 3.

Of course, there’s always a chance that the Patriots could choose to trade back out of the third overall selection, not taking Maye, Daniels, or McCarthy, but that’s a very unlikely scenario. According to Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston, the price for New England to move out of the top three is likely going to be too high for any team to accomplish a move up into their draft slot.

So, McCarthy’s visit looms large. The 21-year-old will reportedly have dinner tonight with team officials before spending tomorrow in Foxborough for his visit. He’ll be the last out of himself, Daniels, and Maye to meet with the team, but if he can leave the best, lasting impression, he could find himself as the preferred option at No. 3, if he doesn’t get chosen by Washington at No. 2, of course.

Texas WR Xavier Worthy Sets Combine 40-Yard Dash Record

Records are meant to be broken, and we just saw John Ross‘ seven-year record for the 40-yard dash fall. Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy set NFL history today. After watching Worthy deliver the day’s top 40 time of 4.25 seconds on his first run, the internet took notice. Worthy decided to challenge Ross’ record and ended up besting his first run with an unofficial time of 4.22 seconds, tying Ross’ long-standing record. Matt Miller of ESPN was the first to report Worthy’s official, record-breaking time of 4.21 seconds.

Top 40 times have been a mixed bag over the years. Sprint times like that don’t typically take a relatively unknown prospect and turn them into a first-round pick, but rarely does speed like that not improve a player’s draft stock. Players already seen as Day 1 picks may climb a little further up the board. Fringe top prospects could push their way into the first round. Mid-round prospects could work their way up to Day 2, late-round up to mid-, and undraftable prospects either sneak their way into the late rounds or became priority free agents.

The previous record-holder fell into that first group. Already considered a top wide receiver prospect following a redshirt junior year at Washington that saw him catch 81 passes for 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns, Ross found himself getting selected in the top 10 draft picks. Injuries and an inability to crack the starting lineup in Cincinnati hindered Ross’ first two years in the league, though he proved effective as a redzone target in his sophomore season, catching seven touchdowns. He had a career-high of 506 receiving yards the following season, but ultimately, his rookie fifth-year option was declined, and after a one-year stint with the Giants and a futures deal with the Chiefs, the speedy receiver announced his retirement this past November.

Worthy falls into the second category of the prospects listed above. ESPN’s Mel Kiper lists him as the ninth-best wide receiver prospect in the draft, while Dane Brugler of The Athletic slots him in as the 10th-best wideout and the 46th-best prospect overall. In theory, that would land him securely in the second round of this year’s draft. With today’s record-setting performance, there’s a chance that some teams may be sliding him up their draft boards. It may not be enough to move him into Day 1, but if he interviews well and satisfies in other workouts, he could earn himself a fifth-year option.

Worthy proved in his first two seasons with the Longhorns that he could score, catching 21 touchdowns over the two-year span. He lost some touchdown catches to teammate Adonai Mitchell in 2023, with Mitchell snagging 11 touchdown grabs, but Worthy led the team in receiving yards and receptions every year he played in Austin. Mitchell is widely expected to be a first-round selection this April, and after today’s strong showing, Worthy may just join him there.

NFL Draft Notes: Harrison, LSU, Texas, DeJean, Bowers

We truly are starting to see a new era of pre-draft football in the NFL. On a day in which we saw every quarterback in the first group of passers except for Notre Dame’s Sam Hartman opt out of running the 40-yard dash, we continue to report on prospects who are seeing the NFL’s scouting combine as less and less of a priority.

According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, star Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. will not be participating in any of the testing at the combine. It doesn’t stop there, though, as Harrison has made the decision to not even train for those types of drills in the runup to the draft. Harrison will continue to work on pure football drills, allowing his tape to do the talking.

Players like Harrison have the luxury of this approach. For the last two years, Harrison has widely been considered the top wide receiver prospect in this year’s crop. He only solidified that status with a second straight stellar season with the Buckeyes. He has a fairly good idea of where he’s going to fall in the draft, so he doesn’t feel the need to display his full set of abilities in an attempt to up his draft stock. Instead, he will focus on team interviews and preparing for the more practical aspects of NFL readiness. Breer also informs us that Harrison will head to the league without an agent, joining another recent trend.

The combine and pro days remain a crucial part of the pre-draft process for many of the mid- to late-round prospects, but for top players, workouts like these are beginning to become more and more superfluous.

Here are a few other draft rumors as the combine continues:

  • On the topic of non-participants, LSU Heisman-winning quarterback Jayden Daniels and his wide receiver Malik Nabers have both opted out of their workouts in Indianapolis, choosing to work out at their pro day, instead. Today we found out that both players are also skipping the measurements portion of the combine, as well, per ESPN’s Field Yates. The two Tigers will submit to measurements at their pro day before workouts.
  • One name that’s been climbing draft boards of late is Texas defensive tackle Byron Murphy. Murphy’s versatility across the line has scouts excited and makes him a fit for pretty much every squad. Reflecting this, Murphy reportedly had 25 official interviews set up at the combine, according to Tony Pauline of Sportskeeda. Pauline also reports that the Raiders, Colts, Seahawks, and Vikings have all scheduled to bring him in for an official-30 visit. The list of suitors for the Longhorn defender likely won’t stop there.
  • Another top Texas prospect, running back Jonathon Brooks continues to make his way back from ACL surgery that ended his final season in Austin. The top rusher on both ESPN’s Mel Kiper’s and Dane Brugler of The Athletic’s boards, Brooks is reportedly “healing well and as expected,” per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. While he obviously won’t be participating in any pre-draft workouts, he’s expected to be cleared for training camp.
  • Iowa cornerback Cooper DeJean‘s leg injury continues to hold him out of football activities in the leadup to the draft. After already learning that he wouldn’t be available to workout at the combine, Greg Auman of FOX Sports informs us that DeJean will also not participate in physical activities at Iowa’s pro day. DeJean claims to be fully cleared from the fracture in his lower leg and that he will work out at some point before the draft, but it looks like scouts will have to make personal trips out to Iowa City in order to workout DeJean.
  • Finally, one more top draft prospect made the decision not to workout at the combine this year. Georgia tight end Brock Bowers, the top prospect at his position per both Kiper and Brugler and a likely top-10 pick, will not work out in Indianapolis. Scouts interested in seeing this Bulldog in action will have to make their way out to Georgia’s pro day.

Alabama CB Kool-Aid McKinstry Sitting Out Combine With Injury

Projected first-round cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry, born Ga’Quincy, appeared in Indianapolis today prepared to measure and work out at the NFL scouting combine. Unfortunately, though, McKinstry discovered in a combine medical evaluation that he had a Jones fracture in his right foot, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Due to the injury, McKinstry made the decision not to work out with the other defensive back prospects today.

A Jones fracture is a fairly common foot injury, and it’s not uncommon for athletes to be unaware that they have one. The only symptom of the issue tends to be soreness on the outside of the foot, a sensation athletes frequently experience and often shrug off as normal. That also makes it an easy injury to play through, which explains why McKinstry is only now discovering the fracture.

Due to poor blood supply to the area, Jones fractures do not tend to heal well on their own, making surgery a necessary requirement in order to heal. Surgery now would prevent McKinstry from working out for scouts at all in the leadup to the 2024 NFL Draft, so it appears he will hold off on surgery for now. McKinstry will regroup with his coaches and trainers back in Tuscaloosa and plans to work out for scouts there at his pro day.

Following that workout, McKinstry will get the procedure to repair the fracture. The expectation for recovery sees him ready to return with plenty of time for NFL training camps, so today’s discovery is unlikely to hurt his draft stock much, if at all. McKinstry measures out as a prototypical NFL cornerback and showed strong attributes on film this year. A strong workout at Alabama could help make up for a lack of statistical production at the college level and solidify his first-round status.

RBs A Priority For Ravens In Offseason

We noted something similar back in February, but the Ravens have made it clear lately that additions to the running backs group will be a priority in the offseason. Whether that comes through re-signing expiring deals, signing veteran free agents, or pursuing a rookie prospect, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic’s quote from general manager Eric DeCosta says it best: (they) need more than two running backs.

The Ravens have lots of work to do in the coming weeks with expiring contracts all over their 2023 roster, but DeCosta is fully aware of which potential departures leave them most bare. Both former undrafted veteran Gus Edwards and former second-round pick J.K. Dobbins are set to hit free agency this spring, as will late-season addition Dalvin Cook and practice squad backs Melvin Gordon and Owen Wright, though Wright, an undrafted rookie, has signed a futures deal with the team. That leaves only Justice Hill and another undrafted rookie in Keaton Mitchell as the only two running backs with in-game experience on the roster moving forward.

Hill signed a two-year deal a year ago and will now play out the final season of that contract. He had the best season of his career in 2023 but has still failed to surpass 400 rushing yards or 4 touchdowns in a season. He expanded his role this year by adding 206 receiving yards. Mitchell was a pleasant surprise as a rookie, touting an outstanding 8.43 yards per carry average in eight games played. The diminutive back flashed elite speed and play-making ability when healthy, but a torn ACL midway through December leaves the team without their explosive second-year player for likely the entire offseason.

In our previous discussion on the subject, we laid out the cases for Dobbins and Edwards. Dobbins showed incredible upside as a rookie but has since struggled mightily to stay on the field. Edwards had been a reliable short-yardage and goal-line back in the early days of Jackson’s career, backing up Mark Ingram before teaming up with Dobbins and Hill. The big-bodied back with the nickname “Gus the Bus” has six years under his belt but showed no signs of slowing with a career-high 990 scrimmage yards and 13 rushing touchdowns this season. At the NFL scouting combine DeCosta made it known that the organization has not shut the door on the idea of bringing the two back. In fact, DeCosta claimed the team was “hopeful (they) can get something done with those guys,” per Ravens staff writers Clifton Brown and Ryan Mink.

We also explored the idea of free agency in our previous post. There are a number of big names hitting the open market this offseason, and Baltimore has already been connected to a few. Titans bell-cow Derrick Henry has been linked to the team since the days of the trade deadline. Other notable names like the Giants’ Saquon Barkley, the Raiders’ Josh Jacobs, and the Cowboys’ Tony Pollard have been mentioned, as well.

In the draft, there a couple intriguing names to look at like Michigan rusher Blake Corum or Texas running back Jonathon Brooks, but Wisconsin’s Braelon Allen is a name that has been making the rounds in Baltimore. If the team fails to sign any of the above veterans, expect the Ravens to pursue one of these players early in the draft. If a big name puts pen to paper, though, Baltimore will likely be content to take a late-round addition or even peruse the undrafted dregs once again.

Regardless, additions are going to be necessary in 2024. Especially with Mitchell coming back from a serious injury, the team can’t well expect to find success with only him, Hill, and Wright heading into the 2024 NFL season. Whether they bring back Edwards or Dobbins, sign a big-name in free agency like Henry or Barkley, or draft a high-end prospect, somebody will have to join the three currently in the running backs room.

Caleb Williams Will Not Throw At Combine

The importance of the NFL Scouting Combine continues to be called into question two years after stringent COVID-19 rules nearly caused a mass boycott of the event in 2022. The topic of the boycott brought attention to how important the combine is for late-round, fringe, and small school prospects while potentially serving as a negative for some of college football’s best. Those debates may crop up again with recent news that USC quarterback Caleb Williams plans not to throw at next week’s combine, according to Jordan Schultz of Bleacher Report.

To clarify, Williams still plans on attending the event in Indianapolis, according to Ian Rapoport. He’ll be available to interview with any interested teams. It’s unclear if he’ll perform in any of the other workouts of the combine, but we know for sure that he will not throw. Rapoport informs us that Williams’ plan is to wait until his pro day, where he will throw and workout for scouts.

There will be pundits chirping on both sides of the story. Some will support the decision, claiming that he has nothing to gain from throwing at the combine. He’s already expected to be selected at No. 1 overall and plans to throw on March 20 at the Trojan’s pro day. What good can be done by working out twice?

The other side will point to character issues that have persisted in the media throughout his junior year of college. Williams’ mentality and leadership took hits late in the year from the media after the quarterback refused to speak to reporters following what ended up being his final game of college football. Rapoport himself seemed to call out the 22-year-old citing Joe Burrow as an example of how a quarterback should handle his role and responsibilities. His refusal to work out among the other quarterbacks is sure to draw criticism from those who already believe that “off-field concerns” exist for the young passer.

In reality, there are advantages to working at the combine, namely the officiality of the measurements and the additional opportunity to work with NFL coaches. Sure, he will get to perform workouts at his pro day, but the results of timed exercises will be hand-timed. Also, while some coaches will choose to attend USC’s pro day, the combine serves as an additional opportunity to work with NFL staff. Some will look down on Williams’ decision to reject that opportunity.

So, yes, there are advantages, but are they minimal for someone with his current draft stock? That’s difficult to answer. We have certainly seen bad combine performances affect draft stock. Most recently, free agent tight end Isaac Nauta went from first-round prospect to seventh-round pick in 2019. Similarly, Bengals offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. fell to the third round after what is classically seen as one of the worst combine performances of all time. Still, there are examples of players like Terrell Suggs, who, despite a terrible combine performance, still turned out to be a top-10 pick.

Could Williams be the next to fall victim to the combine? Probably not. He isn’t expected to deliver anywhere near that poor of a performance and, even if he did, his current stock is simply too high to warrant a drastic fall. Still, when he’s already at the top of most prospect rankings, there’s nowhere for him to go but down. It’s hard to blame him for choosing not to take any chances heading into the 2024 NFL Draft.

His announcement has, obviously, caught headlines, though. In the time between the Schultz’s initial report and this one, both Schultz and Rapoport have reported on a number of other prospect’s intentions. So far, South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler, Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., Oregon’s Bo Nix, and Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy have all made it known that they intend to throw next week. Only LSU’s Jayden Daniels has joined Williams in announcing his intentions to wait until his pro day, per Rapoport. The other four passers will have the opportunity to not only work out at the combine in front of NFL coaches but also to do so in direct comparison to their competition, with the lone exceptions (so far) of Williams and Daniels.

NFL Draft Rumors: Williams, DeJean, Newton

This week we got news that USC quarterback Caleb Williams, widely expected to be the No. 1 overall draft selection this April, will reportedly enter the NFL without representation, per Mike Florio of NBC Sports. This isn’t totally unheard of as we’ve seen quite a few NFL players of late accomplish new deals without an agent, but the situation is a little different for a potential top pick.

We’ve seen defenders like Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, and, more recently, Roquan Smith sign new contracts while representing themselves. More in the realm of Williams, we recently saw Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson go through both the draft process and his first major extension without an agent.

Jackson was selected 32nd overall, while Williams is expected to be picked much earlier in the night. That means the deal that Williams will negotiate for himself will be worth quite a bit more money than Jackson’s rookie deal was worth. Still, rookie contracts are fairly restricted in how they can be built, so there shouldn’t be a ton of wiggle room in which Williams may mess something up.

Where Florio thinks the lack of representation could hinder Williams is in the leadup to the draft. He suggests that the agents of other quarterbacks or draft prospects hoping to supplant Williams’ top draft positioning will “spend the next two months trying to get teams to take their clients instead of Williams,” a process that can get dirty with negative framing being used to lessen the appeal of Williams. With a lack of representation, Williams would lack an advocate to appeal against the negative things being used against him.

Here are a few other recent rumors concerning the 2024 NFL Draft:

  • Scouts and draft pundits will be disappointed to learn that Iowa cornerback Cooper DeJean will not be participating in the testing at next week’s NFL Scouting Combine, according to Dane Brugler of The Athletic. DeJean is reportedly still working his way back from a leg injury he sustained late in the season. Widely expected to be selected on Day 1 of the draft, he is considered one of the more athletic prospects in the class and likely would have drawn lots of eyes in Indianapolis. Instead, DeJean plans to work out for teams much closer to the draft at the end of April.
  • Brugler reported that another likely first-round pick will not be working out at the Combine. Illinois defensive tackle Johnny Newton will sit out next week as he continues to recover from a January surgery that he underwent in order to repair a partial Jones fracture in his foot. He had been able to play through the injury through the second half of the 2023 season but, obviously, wished to repair the injury before heading to the league. Newton is expected to be cleared in time for an April pro day.

Utah TE Dalton Kincaid Cleared Before Draft

This year’s draft class is extremely deep at the tight end position, and one of the top prospects faced the additional challenge of a recent injury. Despite a back injury suffered late in the season, Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid has officially been cleared for football activity prior to the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Dr. Robert Watkins sent an email to NFL teams fully clearing the 23-year-old. “Dalton Kincaid sustained a back injury while playing football on 11/26/2022,” the email said. “Subsequent MRIs have shown appropriate healing, and he has been asymptomatic with no pain and no limitation of function for at least 3 months. He is cleared to play football with no restrictions.”

The injury caused him to miss the Senior Bowl and NFL scouting combine, and a shoulder injury forced him to miss time earlier in the year, as well. The injury issues don’t help concerns about his smaller frame for an NFL tight end. Yet, Kincaid is still a stellar pass-catching option who caught at least eight touchdowns in four of five college seasons (the fifth being the COVID-shortened season).

The full clearance is big for Kincaid, who is expected to be selected in the first round later this month. He and Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer are widely anticipated to go on Day 1, while Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave and Georgia’s Darnell Washington have a chance, as well. With such a deep class, a nagging back injury could’ve really hurt Kincaid’s draft stock; a full clearance should keep Kincaid with his status as a consensus top two tight end in the draft.

With injury concerns out of the way, Kincaid has had several visits planned with NFL teams. The Ute met with the Bengals and Patriots this past week and has plans to visit the Packers in the week to come. Prior to those visits, Kincaid had spent time with the Texans, Raiders, Chargers, Jaguars, Titans, Lions, Chiefs, and Cowboys.

Jaguars Looking At OL Ekwonu With Top Pick

We wrote a bit in January about NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu potentially being the best offensive lineman in the draft. Well, he certainly thinks so, as he told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine Thursday that he’d “definitely deserve” to be drafted No. 1 overall, according to Darryl Slater of

He’s not totally off base in his thinking. ESPN’s Mel Kiper mocked Ekwonu to Jacksonville in his latest mock draft just before the Combine. According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, many at the Combine, including ESPN’s Todd McShay, expected Ekwonu to blow up in Indianapolis.

There’s already been a bit of talk connecting Ekwonu to the Jaguars. General manager Trent Baalke has a tendency to prefer explosive linemen and Ekwonu demonstrated his explosiveness in field drills including an impressive sub-5.00 second 40-yard dash. Baalke and new head coach Doug Pederson will be looking to put together a group at offensive line that can protect former No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence and create holes for running backs James Robinson and Travis Etienne.

Jawaan Taylor is expected to compete with Walker Little for the right tackle job. Captain Brandon Linder should return to form at center after MCL and ankle injuries forced him to miss a large part of the 2021 NFL season. Andrew Norwell is expected to hit the free agent market and Cam Robinson could join him if the team decides not to utilize their franchise tag on Robinson for the second straight year. Veteran sixth-man Tyler Shatley was recently re-signed and Ben Bartch could help out at guard. So the versatility of Ekwonu could line him up as the perfect choice for Jacksonville’s current situation, where lots of question marks surround the depth chart. Even so, the Jaguars could also fall in love with Evan Neal, who is largely seen as the top pure tackle in the draft.

Still, the redshirt sophomore out of Raleigh is a young, talented prospect with the ability to dominate at tackle or guard. Even if he slips past Jacksonville at No. 1 overall, don’t expect him to be available after both New York teams get a chance to draft. Ekwonu will aim to be only the third Wolfpack offensive lineman in history to be picked in the first round, the highest-drafted Wolfpack prospect since Bradley Chubb in 2018, and, above that, the first top overall pick out of NC State since Mario Williams in 2006.

NFL Combine Changes Bubble Rules, Boycott Avoided

Crisis averted. The NFL Combine announced that they have changed their bubble policies and will allow prospects outside of restricted areas, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter). Per Mike Florio of (on Twitter), the boycott has been avoided.

[RELATED: Latest On The NFL Combine]

“As has been the case throughout the pandemic, we continue to evolve our Combine policies and procedures in consultation with medical experts,” the National Invitational Combine said in a statement (via ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Twitter). “While masks continue to be required for air travel and during medical exams at the Combine (players and medical personnel), wearing a mask at other times while on site is recommended, but not required. We encourage all players to remain within the secure Combine areas at all times for your safety. However, if you would like to leave the secure areas during free time in your schedule, you are now permitted to do so at your own risk.”

This is a sudden change in philosophy, but it’s not particularly surprising following the news from earlier today. Due to the former restrictions, agents who represent more than 150 draft prospects were organizing a boycott of all testing, on-field workouts, and interviews at the Combine. Tony Pauline of tweets that some compromise was likely reached, allowing the event to proceed.

Schefter tweeted a remark from a source earlier today who indicated that agents were not planning a boycott but were simply “advising the players en masse to hold off on workouts until Pro Day.” Either way, it sounds like the threat worked.