As it always does in late February, the NFL world has descended on Indianapolis. The 2020 NFL Scouting Combine is upon us, with seven days packed with weigh-ins, measurements, medical exams, media availability, team interviews, and on-field workouts. Of course, the action on the field or inside interview rooms is only a small part of what is annually the largest gathering of team executives, coaches, scouting personnel, and player representatives on the NFL calendar.
The real action is what takes place in and around the various restaurants, bars, and hotels as team personnel, agents, and even media members meet, mingle, and discuss free agency and the NFL Draft – with each conversation based on varying degrees of truth.
As the week goes on, Pro Football Network will have you covered with all of the news and rumors making their way around Indianapolis. And with what promises to be one of the most interesting NFL offseasons in recent memory, it’s a good thing that both PFN NFL Draft Analyst and Insider Tony Pauline and PFN NFL Insider Benjamin Allbright will be in Indianapolis all week for the 2020 Scouting Combine, sharing all of the latest buzz.
The latest news and rumors from the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine
2:45 PM ET (via Tony Pauline): Malcolm Perry just one example of frustration with new Combine schedule
To further my story on the frustration of many players with the new workout schedule, which was posted earlier, take the experience of Malcolm Perry from Navy.
Perry, who played quarterback for Navy, was working out with the second group of wide receivers on Thursday night. He arrived at Lucas Oil Stadium six hours before his group took to the field. Since Perry has no true position in the NFL just yet, scouts wanted him to drill in several areas, including both as a receiver and running back as well as field punts. After completing his vertical and broad jump, Perry ran the forty, did position drills at receiver, fielded punts, and then ran his shuttles and three-cone.
Teams then wanted to put Perry though a battery of running back drills, the position I project him to at the next level. There was one problem – the clock was closing in on midnight and scouts felt it was too late to start Perry on those running back drills.
2:00 PM ET (via Tony Pauline): Jets bidding against themselves for Conklin?
Numerous reports from Indianapolis state that teams expect offensive tackle Jack Conklin to end up with the New York Jets once free agency opens. Sources tell me that no other franchise interested in Conklin is willing to pay him the same money the Jets are ready to offer. As one source told me, “The Jets are the only team willing to give Conklin the money he wants.”
However, it should be noted that while the Jets will throw the bank at Conklin, it is not known if he will simply sign with the highest bidder or pick a team that is the best overall fit for him.
1:30 PM ET (via Tony Pauline): Concerns around Grant Delpit?
I’m hearing a lot of concerns about LSU safety Grant Delpit and many of those concerns run parallel to the criticisms of Greedy Williams from last year. For Delpit, he is being criticized by many as not being tough or a good tackler – and I would agree with the latter.
Before the Combine began, I was told that Delpit was likely not going to test well. As we know, he ended up pulling out of Combine workouts with an ankle issue. It will be interesting to see what his marks are once he runs for scouts.
12:15 PM ET (via Tony Pauline): Two corners expected to impress today
Two corners to keep an eye on today would be UCLA’s Darnay Holmes and Michigan State’s Josiah Scott. Holmes had a solid season at UCLA and then turned in a terrific week of practice at the Senior Bowl. He’s expected to turn in solid testing numbers and if he posts decent shuttle times and a good forty (low 4.4’s), Holmes will cement himself as a late day two selection.
Many were surprised Scott entered the draft, but he came in a little bulkier than many expected and I’m told he’s supposed to be super-fast today. Scott is a late day three selection who projects as a dime at the next level.
12:05 PM ET (via Tony Pauline): Lots of grumblings from players and agents about new Combine format
The NFL decided to move the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine workouts to prime time for the first team. And the early feedback is not positive, as players, agents, and scouts (just to name a few) are unhappy with how the week unfolded in Indianapolis. Much more on that in my report that has just published.
10:00 AM ET (via Tony Pauline): How will cornerback draft boards shake out?
After Jeffrey Okudah, it’s anybody’s guess at the cornerback position. If he runs well, teams believe Trevon Diggs will be the second corner taken – and I expect Diggs to run well (low 4.4’s). He possesses great cornerback size and terrific ball skills. The only issue with Diggs in the past has been injuries.
Kristian Fulton, C.J. Henderson, and Damon Arnette round out the top five, though scouts are digging deep into potential off-the-field concerns for each of those three corners.
7:45 PM ET (via Tony Pauline): Jets’ OL options in free agency
On Thursday, when I initially reported the New York Jets’ interest in Jack Conklin, I also mentioned Halapoulivaati Vaitai as an option if the Jets don’t land their top guy. I’ve confirmed both names with numerous sources over the past two days.
I can also say the Jets are looking at Seattle Seahawks tackle George Fant as another contingency if the Conklin plans don’t shake out. Fant, a former basketball player, is the best athlete of the three yet has started just 24 games the three years he’s been on the field. His athleticism would be a perfect fit for Adam Gase’s offense, which will include wide splits between offensive linemen this season.
6:15 PM ET (via Tony Pauline): A disappointing FA market for receivers?
On Tuesday, I detailed how the free agent market at the wide receiver position may shake out at the top. Sources here at the NFL Combine tell me that many of the free agent wideouts will be disappointed in the contracts offered as teams will happily turn to the NFL Draft to select one of the talented receivers available this year. Last night (and below), I mentioned a similar dilemma that veteran free agent running backs are expected to face.
5:00 PM ET (via Tony Pauline): A new RB1 for some teams in the NFL Draft?
I know of at least three teams who presently grade Jonathan Taylor as the number one back in the draft. It’s partly because of the game-breaking speed he proved on Friday night, as well as the fact he fits best as a feature runner compared to the other top backs in this year’s draft.
4:30 PM ET (via Tony Pauline): Who are the Browns eyeing in the NFL Draft?
Tristan Wirfs was the offensive tackle most coveted by the Cleveland Browns but he is assuredly out of their reach in round one now after his sensational workout on Friday night. So where do they look?
It’s still very early but a source today further confirmed what I posted on Friday – the Browns likes Ezra Cleveland so trading down 8-to-10 slots in round one and then selecting the Boise State junior would be a contingency option.
1:00 PM ET (via Tony Pauline): Salary cap increase coming
As I first reported during The Draft Insiders podcast several weeks ago, the 2020 salary cap is expected to rise to $200 million. If the CBA is approved by the players, which most expect, I’m told there is an expectation that the cap will rise 2% to $204 million.
11:25 AM ET (via Tony Pauline): Davis-Gaither to undergo surgery
Appalachian State linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither won’t be working out at the Combine and will not test before April’s draft. The Senior Bowl participant has a stress fracture in his foot, an injury he played with all season long in 2019. Surgery will be required to fix the stress fracture and they are likely to insert a screw to stabilize the injury.
Davis-Gaither was a player I mentioned several times last season and listed him as a riser during my weekly column. Testing in the forty won’t be an issue, as the linebacker displays terrific playing speed on film.
10:00 PM ET (via Tony Pauline): Wills sliding while Thuney’s market expected to explode
Additional sources confirm my earlier report that several teams have moved Jedrick Wills off their tackle board and are now grading him as a guard.
Earlier this week I mentioned the huge market developing for veteran guard Joe Thuney, soon to be a free agent. That market, and any contract Thuney may sign, will explode further once the Washington Redskins sign Brandon Scherff to an extension or place the franchise tag on him, as is being reported.
I mentioned during the Senior Bowl that the New York Jets are one of the teams seeking Thuney’s services and someone today told me, “they want him,” in reference to the Jets’ ambitions of signing the offensive guard.
With Thuney being courted by so many teams, the question is this – does he want the Jets? A team official I spoke with said signing Thuney will be tough for the Jets, so they’ll have to be creative.
One way they may be able to bring Thuney to Gang Green is by offering a contract similar to the one Kirk Cousins signed; a shorter but guaranteed contract. The idea of a three-year deal with a high average annual salary may be appealing to Thuney, as he’ll be just 30 years old once the contract ends and could potentially be in line for another huge deal.
8:20 PM ET (via Tony Pauline): Are the Redskins in on Philip Rivers?
Executives here at the Combine say they believe a domino effect will be created once Tom Brady signs his free agent deal. While there are just a few teams expected to court Brady, the result of his signing will have an effect on several big named free agents.
While expectations have the Indianapolis Colts ending up with Philip Rivers, sources at the Combine tell me they expect the Washington Redskins to make a bid for the quarterback. The same sources say it will be tough for Washington to sign Rivers and it will likely take a massive contract.
7:15 PM ET (via Tony Pauline): The free agency RB market
Sources here tell me that the running backs slated to be free agents in a few weeks will not be getting paid huge contracts. According to many, this means it will be much easier for the Tennessee Titans to re-sign Derrick Henry, who’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent once the market opens.
Teams feel they can get by selecting a running back during the second and even third day of the draft versus shelling out big bucks for a free agent at the position.
5:30 PM ET (via Ben Allbright): A QB trade on the horizon?
Sources tell Ben Allbright that the Chicago Bears and Cincinnati Bengals have had discussions regarding Andy Dalton. A little over a week ago, Allbright had reported that the Bears were quietly interested in the likes of Derek Carr and Dalton. If/When another QB is brought in, the expectation is that Trubisky would enter training camp as the starter but would be on a short leash if he won the starting job. For reference as to how the situation may play out, think of the Tennessee Titans and the Marcus Mariota/Ryan Tannehill situation.
2:45 PM ET (via Tony Pauline): A shift in wide receiver rankings?
There’s a shift in the wide receiver rankings as teams in Indianapolis all say Justin Jefferson, Denzel Mims, and Chase Claypool were the big winners from Thursday night’s workout. As a result, the trio will watch their draft stock rise.
Jefferson ran much faster than anyone thought as teams wondered if he was a true vertical threat and he’ll now get consideration in the late part of round one.
Mims capitalized on a great week of Senior Bowl practice with a sensational Combine workout. During my Senior Bowl postscript, I mentioned that teams were saying if Mims performed well at the Combine, he would move into the second round. That is assured at this point.
Finally, Claypool’s workout from Thursday night is reminiscent of former Notre Dame WR Miles Boykin from a year ago. Entering the draft, some wondered if Boykin would have to move to tight end.
Several teams were also very impressed with Michael Pittman Jr., who could now move into the draft’s top 60.
On the contrary, there were also several prospects who disappointed at the 2020 NFL Combine. Let’s begin with CeeDee Lamb. Teams leave the Combine with as many questions about his speed as they had when they arrived in Indianapolis.
Additionally, Laviska Shenault Jr. will now struggle to find a spot in the first round. He not only ran poorly but also got injured. This has been a prevalent issue for almost two years now.
And while some may think that Jalen Reagor slipped out of the first round, don’t throw dirt on those possibilities just yet. Reagor’s times on Thursday night were disappointing – no doubt – but he was also 14 pounds heavier than his playing weight.
Last season, Reagor played between 192-195 pounds. However, he weighed in a musclebound 206 pounds at the Combine. I’m told in the weeks leading up to the Combine, Reagor posted a laser time of 4.32 seconds at 195 pounds.
TCU’s pro day hits the calendar in late March, around the 27th of the month. While everyone will be watching Reagor’s testing times, be sure to also keep a close eye on his weight.
11:33 AM ET (via Tony Pauline): Latest buzz on the offensive linemen
The offensive linemen take to the field at Lucas Oil Stadium this evening and here are the expectations of teams after the interviews and spending significant time with the blockers.
Boise State tackle Ezra Cleveland continues to move up draft boards, as I expected he would. He completed 30 reps on the bench press yesterday and just missed finishing rep number 31. Expect fast times from Cleveland today, as he could potentially get under 4.9 seconds. Speaking with several people, it seems the Cleveland Browns like Cleveland (no pun intended) a lot. I could see the Browns trading a few slots down in round one if one of their higher-rated tackles is not available when they are on the clock to then select the Boise State junior. Cleveland won’t be available to the Browns in the second round.
Presently, Andrew Thomas and Tristan Wirfs are drawing high praise from several teams who have them one-two on their tackle board. Moving in the other direction is Jedrick Wills, as teams are concerned about his ability to mentally process a complex blocking scheme. Some teams now project Wills to guard.
Center Keith Ismael is drawing praise and his goal is to hit 30-30-30 before the draft; 30 on the Wonderlic, 30 reps on the bench, and 30-inches on the vertical jump.
9:00 AM ET (via Ben Allbright): Washington and Detroit bluffing?
There has been plenty of talk about the Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions possibly selecting a quarterback in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. However, sources at the NFL Combine tell PFN Insider Ben Allbright that both the Redskins and Lions see an opportunity to potentially trade down with a QB-needy team (such as the Dolphins or Chargers), multiply their picks, and still get top talent. Neither are interested in drafting a quarterback but are leaking this information to try to generate interest.
8:45 AM ET (via Ben Allbright): Eagles looking to trade up?
It is no secret that the Philadelphia Eagles are in need of wide receiver help. In fact, there are many rumblings that they will draft one in the first round. However, sources tell Ben Allbright that the Eagles are worried they may not be in line to get the wide receiver they covet. Because of that, they have started exploring opportunities to trade up and get ahead of the Denver Broncos.
6:25 PM ET (via Tony Pauline): Hunter Henry in Chargers’ long-term plans
I reported from the Senior Bowl that word was the Los Angeles Chargers intended to keep tight end Hunter Henry and were considering the transition tag to keep their options open. The growing sentiment from the Combine is that the Chargers intend to work on a lengthier contract with Henry in the hopes of keeping him in fold long-term.
5:41 PM ET (via Tony Pauline): Marcus Mariota being courted by several teams
Keep this in the back of your mind – with all the uncertainty surrounding Tom Brady, the New England Patriots are showing interest in soon to be free agent quarterback Marcus Mariota. The former first-round pick is being courted by several teams who may have an open competition at quarterback. I’m told the Indianapolis Colts have also shown interest in Mariota – just in case.
4:08 PM ET (via Tony Pauline): Injury updates on a few prospects at the Combine
Offensive tackle Prince Tega Wanogho of Auburn, who missed the Senior Bowl with a minor knee issue, will not work out the combine or at Auburn’s pro day, which is March 6. Rather, he’s shooting for a personal pro day in April.
Tennessee linebacker Darrell Taylor, who played with a stress fracture last season, is in a similar position and also hoping for a personal pro-day in April.
Yetur Gross-Matos, who has been testing through the roof, has a minor hamstring issue and will be a game-time decision on Saturday when the defensive ends and linebackers work out.
2:30 PM ET (via Tony Pauline): Byron Jones in high demand
The market for Byron Jones is enormous, as the soon to be former Cowboys cornerback is in high demand. Without getting into team particulars I can tell you: 1) Jones is universally graded as the top free agent cornerback; 2) the contract he eventually signs will be larger than anything people presently project; and 3) the ultimate situation will come down to where Jones wants to play moving forward, as he will have several suitors offering huge contracts.
1:23 PM ET (via Tony Pauline): Thuney and Conklin on the move?
Two free agent offensive linemen are in huge demand and have created a big market for themselves during discussions at the combine. The first would be soon to be former New England Patriots guard Joe Thuney, as almost two dozen teams (20 to be exact) are showing interest in his services. The belief is Thuney will get a lot more money than initially expected as there will be a bidding war to sign him.
The other is Jack Conklin, who’s also expected to sign a huge contract. I have confirmed that the offensive line needy New York Jets are in hot pursuit of Conklin. If the Jets don’t land Conklin, their back-up plan could include Halapoulivaati Vaitai of the Philadelphia Eagles, who general manager Joe Douglas is familiar with. Vaitai is a versatile offensive lineman that’s played several positions for the Eagles and as someone from the organization told me he can be a “solid starting right or left tackle” in the NFL.
1:00 PM ET (via Tony Pauline): CBA likely to be approved?
The belief from the agent community is the proposed CBA will be approved by the players. Someone today told me they feel it’s “100%” the players approve the deal. Additionally, someone different told me yesterday that the NFLPA would not schedule a vote if they didn’t have the votes necessary to pass the measure.
11:45 AM ET (via Tony Pauline): Raiders eyeing receivers early in the draft
Word at the Combine is the Las Vegas Raiders will go receiver heavy in the draft with some people telling me the team could use both first-round picks on the position. As usual, the franchise will look for speed at the position. While most believe they will target Jerry Jeudy, what will Las Vegas do if the Alabama junior is not available to them?
Keep a close eye on TCU wide receiver Jalen Reagor, especially with that second selection in the first round. I’m told the team really likes Reagor and he is expected to test through the roof, running incredibly fast with a vertical jump that will be at least 39-inches.
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