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Indianapolis Combine Primer: SEC Dominates, Quarterbacks Merely A ‘Solid Group’

The NFL Combine is the next big thing during the offseason, and now that the league completely caved on its proposed idea of restricting prospects within some bubble after facing the possibility of a boycott, everything gets underway in earnest on Tuesday.

That’s the day coaches, general mangers, scouts, some owners, medical personnel, agents and hundreds of top prospects start work in Indianapolis in what is essentially the NFL’s biggest convention.

Stuff happens at the Combine, folks.

Trades get initiated at the Combine because general managers talk.

Contract extensions get negotiated at the Combine because the agents aren’t there merely to protect the interests of their college prospects. They’ve got business to do for their veteran clients as well.

And, of course, teams form opinions on the prospects — and not just because of what the players do on the bench press, how they run or what they do in on-field drills.

“I go to the Combine every year with questions for guys I’ve watched play and on tape all year long,” one NFC scout told OutKick. “I used to write down one question I’d ask all the guys to see how everyone handled the same question.

“But the last decade or so, I’ve started to tailor my questions to each individual. And I can tell you on more than one occasion, I’ve gotten a disappointing answer or an outright lie from a kid and it completely affects how I view him, no matter what the tape has told me.”

No wonder prospects prepare in advance for both their physical workout and their interview sessions with the various team personnel.

Almost everyone also takes a crack at meeting with reporters — prospects, coaches, general managers.

Here’s the schedule for the Combine invitees to speak with reporters.

National champion Georgia is the most represented school at the Combine this year with 14 players invited, including linebacker Nakobe Dean, edge rusher Travon Walker and defensive tackle Jordan Davis.

Alabama and Oklahoma are tied for the second-most players invited with 11, followed by LSU and Texas A&M with nine, and Cincinnati, Arizona State, Michigan, Ole Miss and Penn State with eight.

The SEC, the NFL’s most direct pipeline to talent, has 83 invitees at this year’s Combine. That is the most of any conference.

The Big Ten will send 54 invitees, the Pac-12 will send 36, the Big 12 will send 35 and the ACC will send 34. A total of 324 prospects were invited this year.

There are 16 quarterbacks expected to attend next week’s Combine. None are likely No. 1 overall selections, which would mean the 2022 draft would be the first since 2017 that a QB was not selected No. 1 overall.

Mississippi’s Matt Corral, North Carolina’s Sam Howell, Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett, Cincinnati’s Desmond Rider, and Liberty’s Malik Willis are expected to attend the Combine.

“Tell me which one is better than Mac Jones?” an AFC East scout asked rhetorically. “Serious question. Jones had a good rookie season and was a solid guy coming out last year, but he wasn’t any type of generational prospect.

“And I’d say to you he’s as good a prospect or better than any of the guys you just mentioned. This is just a solid group, but nothing spectacular. It may not play out that way once one of these guys is in the league. One of them might surprise me. But that’s the point. It would be a surprise if one of these guys is better than a Mac Jones.”

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

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