The NFL Draft season starts to heat up this week as prospects, coaches, evaluators and executives gather in Indianapolis for the Scouting Combine.
Players will meet with teams, media and showcase their skills — now on primetime television — as teams will begin compiling draft boards and gain a better sense of which prospects interest them as they gear up for the draft in April.
The combine also serves as a hotbed for front office executives to meet with one another and lay the groundwork for potential draft-day trades, as well as other offseason moves that could be in the works.
With the sports world turning its focus back toward the NFL this week, there will surely be plenty of buzz and new developments to come.
Last year, much of the attention centered around Kyler Murray with questions about his height and commitment to football over baseball weighing his draft stock. He was eventually taken No. 1 overall by the Arizona Cardinals and the combine was the first step into making that happen.
Here are the storylines to watch for this week at the NFL Scouting Combine:
Does Joe Burrow Want to Play for the Bengals?
There is no debate that LSU quarterback Joe Burrow will be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft come April, but there is a sliver of doubt that the team he will play for will indeed be the Cincinnati Bengals. Burrow, who is coming off arguably the greatest college football season by a quarterback, raised a few eyebrows last week that suggest he may not be committed to playing for the Bengals.
“I do have leverage,” Burrow told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “[The Bengals] have their process and I have my process. We haven’t even gotten to the [NFL] combine yet. There’s a lot of things that happen leading up to the draft and a lot of information gathered.”
The fact that Burrow, an Ohio native, would not come out and flatly say he wants to be a Bengal certainly adds an extra layer of buzz at the combine this week. The Heisman Trophy winner will likely meet with the Bengals, as well as several other quarterback-needy teams, and he will most likely be bombarded with questions about this when he meets with the media. Could Burrow really try and force his way to another team, a la Eli Manning and John Elway? We should have a better sense if that is likely by the end of the week.
How Healthy is Tua Tagovailoa?
Before Burrow, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was supposed to be the No. 1 pick this year. But Tagovailoa’s season came to an unexpected end when he fractured and dislocated his hip, resulting in season-ending injury.
Tagovailoa will not throw or participate in any work outs this week, but he will be evaluated by team doctors from around the league. While Tagovailoa is still regarded as a top-five pick and the next-best quarterback on the board after Burrow, that could change if his medicals reveal any red flags. The question then becomes: how far will Tua slip?
Of course, if his medicals come back clean and there is optimism he will return to form when healthy it will only ramp up trade speculation from interested teams.
Are the Redskins All-In on Chase Young?
Aside from Burrow and Tagovailoa, Ohio State defensive end Chase Young is likely the next most interesting player. The pass rusher is widely expected to be the No. 2 pick off the board and go to the Washington Redskins, unless a team like the Dolphins comes knocking on the door with multiple first-round picks to offer for a chance to move up and get Tagovailoa.
Redskins new head coach Ron Rivera, as well as the team brass, will likely speak with reporters this week and be asked about their commitment to Young and holding onto the No. 2 pick. If they are adamant about keeping the No. 2 pick, it should only strengthen their chances of selecting Young. If they do, however, seem open to trading the pick speculation will continue to run rampant up until the day of the draft.
Will There Be Any Tom Brady Developments?
While most of the focus this week will be on the draft, there will surely be some sort of Tom Brady news to surface with media, coaches and executives all gathered in one place. Every day there seems to be something new to come out about the 42-year-old quarterback — some legitimate, others not so much — but with free agency set to start in just three weeks, there may be stronger and more substantive indications of where things at least stand between Brady and the Patriots. One thing is for sure — he will definitely make a headline at some point this week.