NFL Combine Takeaways Day 3: Baker Mayfield, Jalen Carter, and JuJu Smith-Schuster

What were the takeaways from Day 3 of the NFL Scouting Combine, with Baker Mayfield, Jalen Carter, and JuJu Smith-Schuster generating buzz?

Day 3 of the 2023 NFL Combine brought the first workouts to take place as the defensive lineman took to the field of Lucas Oil Stadium to begin testing. Yet the major news taking place outside the city of Indianapolis reverberated throughout the halls of the convention center where the event is taking place. Here are a few of my takeaways from Thursday at the Combine.

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NFL Combine Takeaways From Day 3

Jalen Carter’s Draft Stock in Flux

The stunning news over arrest warrants being issued for Jalen Carter due to his part in a car crash, which resulted in the death of a teammate, sent shockwaves through the Combine on Wednesday.

Carter left the Combine and returned to Georgia to answer the warrants, then turned right back around and came back to Indianapolis on Thursday to finish team interviews. There was a lot of speculation about what will happen and how this affects Carter’s draft stock, but it’s all speculation. According to ESPN, an arraignment hearing in the case was set for April 18.

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If legal questions continue to linger come the draft weekend and the situation is not completely resolved in a court of law, Carter’s draft stock will likely plummet. The unknown will adversely affect a prospect’s draft stock more than anything else, whether that’s an unknown medical history, unknown background information, or unknown legal situations.

This incident reminded me that just days before the 2015 NFL Draft, reports leaked that police in the state of Louisiana wanted to speak to the former LSU tackle La’el Collins about the shooting death of a pregnant woman he once dated. Collins went from potential top-40 pick to undrafted free agent in a heartbeat despite his lawyer even saying “he’s not a suspect” after questioning.

Getting back to Carter, questions about his trustworthiness will be a topic of discussion between the defensive lineman and teams considering selecting him in the draft. Among reports, it’s claimed that Carter changed his story when questioned by police. This is a massive situation to watch unfold in the next seven weeks.

Brian Flores Lawsuit Update

While the situation surrounding Jalen Carter was the major storyline yesterday, the news of Brian Flores’ lawsuit going to trial registered just a small blip on the radar screen. Judge Valeria Caproni issued a decision that Flores’ suit can proceed instead of going to arbitration, saying “This case shines an unflattering spotlight on the employment practices of National Football League teams. Although the clear majority of professional football players are Black, only a tiny percentage of coaches are Black”.

Talking to people Wednesday night into Thursday morning, the lawsuit could be disastrous as well as embarrassing for the league. Though the league didn’t want the possibility of arbitration, the decision allows a jury trial. This was desired by Flores.

If no settlement is reached and the case goes to trial, it’s conceivable that league commissioner Roger Goodell, Giants co-owner John Mara, and executives within the New York Giants, Denver Broncos, and Houston Texans, who were all named as part of the suit, will be forced to take the stand and answer questions under oath.

Could Baker Mayfield Cash In?

For weeks now, the conversation at the quarterback position has focused on Aaron Rodgers and Derek Carr while Baker Mayfield waits in the wings. After getting cut by the Carolina Panthers midway through the 2022 season, Mayfield eventually signed with the Los Angeles Rams and played reasonably well down the stretch.

So what’s next for the former first pick of the draft?

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Once Rodgers and Carr are settled on where they will be playing this season, the situation with Mayfield will take shape. Members of Mayfield’s team told me Wednesday night they intend on surveying the landscape once the big two quarterbacks firm their plans. All options are on the table, including Mayfield resigning with the Rams in a backup role.

They hope to avoid a situation of having Mayfield sign with a franchise in a rebuilding mold.

What’s JuJu Smith-Schuster Next Contract Look Like?

Recent headlines focus on the social media battles of JuJu Smith-Schuster and a few members of the Philadelphia Eagles, but the conversation at the Combine is about the big payday the wideout is about to receive in free agency.

After signing a one-year deal for $3.76 million with the Kansas City Chiefs last March and then producing one of the better seasons of his six-year career, the figures being thrown around for Smith-Schuster at this point are in the range of $13 million annually. Speaking with members of Schuster’s team as well as media people who cover the Chiefs, the wideout would like to remain with the organization if they can find salary cap room.

Presently, Smith-Schuster and Jakobi Meyers of the New England Patriots are considered to be the top receivers available once free agency begins on March 13.

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