GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 02: Andrew Luck #12 of the Stanford Cardinal throws a pass against the Oklahoma State Cowboys during the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on January 2, 2012 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The NFL Combine is starting this week in Indianapolis, and as expected the top story line involves a couple of quarterbacks.
The 2012 NFL Combine is finally here.
The first crop of NFL draft prospects are arriving in Indianapolis on Wednesday, but we won't see any actual workouts until Saturday morning. Players will arrive grouped by position -- offensive linemen, tight ends and special teams on Wednesday -- and they'll be tested medically and mentally in their first couple of days in Indy before the workouts start.
There are plenty of story lines with the Combine this year (and every other year). This is a league centered around quarterbacks, so it's fitting that the top story line at the Combine is...
Luck is considered by almost everyone to be the superior prospect right now. He has the look, the experience and the mental and physical ability to lead a franchise. Most people would take him No. 1 overall, as the Colts likely will do in April. Luck probably won't throw at the Combine.
But there has to be some curiosity with RG3. He's so athletic, so good with the deep ball and he plans to "wow" teams in the interview room.
The Combine is made to make guys like RG3 look good. He may not throw this weekend but he'll show off his track star athleticism, which will undoubtedly have some teams drooling. Will it be enough to move him past Luck? Probably not. But he could inch his way to the No. 2 pick. There's some team out there -- Browns? Redskins? -- that already likes Griffin right now that will soon start falling head over heels for him, potentially creating a trade-up scenario.
Justin Blackmon's 40-Yard Dash
The 40-yard dash is the most popular workout at the NFL Combine. Fans probably put more into it than league personnel, but it's still a good gauge of how fast a player really is (...not wearing pads...which he'll never do in a game).
This year, the spotlight will be on Justin Blackmon in the 40-yard dash. He's considered the top receiver on the board and should be a top 10 pick. There are, however, some concerns about his speed. A solid showing in the 40-yard dash could solidify him as a top five pick. A bad showing, though, and it'll make some teams question whether he's really worth a high pick.
How Do The Offensive Linemen Shake Out?
Offensive linemen picked early in the draft are usually pretty safe. Not always, but a lot of the time. USC's Matt Kalil is the top offensive tackle available, and mock drafts have him going within the top three. That's probably about right, barring any mistakes leading up to April.
But how do the rest of the offensive linemen fit in?
Iowa's Riley Reiff is in consideration for the second offensive lineman off the board, as is Jonathan Martin out of Stanford. Perhaps even Mike Adams of Ohio State springs up draft boards and pushes for a top 10 spot.
The curveball would be David DeCastro out of Stanford. He's a guard that has the potential to be picked in the top half of the first round, which is pretty high for an interior lineman.
Ryan Tannehill's Injury And His Rising Stock
The top two quarterbacks are, without question, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. The third one is becoming clearer by the day -- Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill. He's recovering from a foot injury so he won't throw at the Combine, but teams will get their medical staff to check him out, which is very important, and he'll also be in Indy for team interviews. A good showing in both can improve his stock this weekend even without him throwing the ball.
Quarterbacks are always in demand and many of them are picked higher than they should be because it's a premium position. That very well could be the case with Tannehill in the 2012 NFL draft. He needs a solid showing medically and mentally at the Combine to demonstrate to teams that not only is he worthy of a first round pick, but a pick early in the first round. Some teams are desperate for quarterbacks, and they're looking for any reason to fall in love with a guy. Tannehill could be the beneficiary of that this year. Top 10? Not out of the question. He's going to hope it's him, and not someone like Brandon Weeden, who should be the third quarterback off the board this year.
The Vontaze Burfict Character Questions
Once considered a potential top 10 pick, Burfict seems to be plummeting down draft boards (at least in the public eye). NFL Network's Mike Mayock said he's not a first round pick. Other teams may agree. Burfict's work ethic has been in question, as has his penchant for penalties. He seemed invisible at times last year when he wasn't in a one-on-one situation. Some say he doesn't have good instincts.
His first opportunity to explain his situation and prove guys like Mayock wrong will come this weekend when he goes through team interviews. The Combine isn't all about the physical aspects anymore. The mental aspects are high-valued, which means interviews with the various teams will be important for him.
Finalizing The Draft Order
Believe it or not, the final draft order is not totally set. Two pairs of teams were tied in their final record and strength of schedule -- Panthers and Dolphins at 6-10 and Chiefs and Seahawks at 7-9. To break the tie, there will be a coin flip on Friday morning to determine draft position.
The winner of the Panthers and Dolphins coin flip will draft eighth, and the loser will draft ninth. The Chiefs and Seahawks coin flip winner will draft 11th, and the loser will draft 12th.