The NFL combine returns this week after a one-year pandemic-related hiatus.
But it’s also possibly the last to be held in Indianapolis, which has hosted the event since 1987. The NFL, in its never-ending quest to monetize the heck out of everything, is considering moving the combine to different sites, with Los Angeles, Dallas and Indianapolis all bidding for the event in 2023.
Not that where the combine is held necessarily matters to anyone other than the coaches, players, agents and scouts who annually have migrated to Indy for an event that in many ways signals the official kickoff of the NFL’s offseason.
So what do local fans need to know about the event?
Here are four things to watch.
Seahawks to talk Wednesday
One of the main attractions of the combine from a media perspective are interview opportunities with most of the league’s coaches and GMs.
That includes Seattle coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider, each scheduled to talk Wednesday — Carroll at 10 a.m. PT and Schneider at 1 p.m.
For Carroll, it will be the first time he has talked since his end-of-season Zoom news conference Jan. 10.
It will be the first time Schneider has talked to the media at large since the end of the 2021 draft.
For each, there will be plenty to talk about.
Since Carroll last talked, he fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. and passing game coordinator Andre Curtis and promoted defensive line coach Clint Hurtt to replace Norton. Carroll also brought in outsiders Sean Desai and Karl Scott as associate head coach for defense and defensive passing game coordinator and defensive backs coach, respectively.
Do the coaching changes really mean what on paper appears to be the most significant potential shift in defensive philosophy since Carroll became coach in 2010? Carroll will address that, as well as firing offensive line coach Mike Solari and replacing him with Andy Dickerson.
Each will also presumably get asked about the future of quarterback Russell Wilson. That there was no combine last season was one reason the Seahawks appeared to have radio silence on all things Wilson last offseason. Neither Carroll nor Schneider addressed the issue last year until draft time.
QB rumors figure to dominate
While there continue to be rumors about Wilson’s status, even if there doesn’t appear to be much substance to any of them, Seattle’s QB is far from the only one who will be discussed in Indianapolis.
In fact, Monday was barely six hours old when the agent for Arizona’s Kyler Murray released a statement saying Murray wants a new, long-term contract.
That salvo was fired a day before Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim are scheduled to talk Tuesday.
Also talking are the likes of Tampa Bay’s Bruce Arians, Green Bay’s Matt LaFleur and San Francisco GM John Lynch, all with interesting quarterback situations.
Not to mention reporters getting their first shot to talk to Kansas City’s Andy Reid since the days after the Chiefs’ shocking loss in the AFC title game.
All of which means that Wilson will be far from the only QB talked about in Indy.
Local players represent
Seven players from Washington and Washington State are schedule to attend the combine.
The four Huskies are cornerbacks Kyler Gordon and Trent McDuffie, tight end Cade Otton and offensive lineman Luke Wattenberg.
Of that group, McDuffie and Gordon figure to get the most attention. McDuffie is generally considered a likely pick in the late first round — he’s eighth on Pro Football Focus’ Big Board — while some have speculated Gordon could turn in workouts that could help his stock and have him stamped as one of the winners of the combine. Gordon is typically considered a likely second-day pick.
But it’s also a key event for Otton, generally regarded as a potential second-day pick — Pro Football Focus rates him as the fourth tight end available of 121 on its big hoard.
The three WSU players attending are running back Max Borghi, right tackle Abe Lucas and cornerback Jaylen Watson.
Borghi may be the biggest name of the three. But he also might have the most to prove. Borghi is just 202nd on PFF’s Big Board due in part to the thought that his best fit is as a third-down/two-minute back, something teams usually don’t have to reach too high for in the draft to obtain.
Lucas, meanwhile, may draw the most attention of any of the WSU players, considered a possible second-day pick (and it’s not as if the Seahawks couldn’t use a young tackle).
The future of the combine
Hovering over the future of the combine is not only its location but whether it is even needed. No combine was held last year, yet the draft seemed to go as usual, with teams getting the info they needed on players from pro days and other avenues.
It became apparent that some question the use of the combine when it was announced last week that players would be confined to a bubble and allowed only one vaccinated “medical support person” — many players have multiple trainers and other assistants as part of their group — to try to minimize risk of spreading COVID-19.
Agents of more than 150 players threatened to boycott all events at the combine other than the medical exams as a result, and combine organizers eventually relented, requiring masks for air travel and during medical exams — which are as important as anything that happens at the combine — but allowing players to leave the bubble during free time.
Still, that so many key players appeared willing to not take part in the 40-yard dash and some of the combine’s other marquee events seemed to indicate that they didn’t think skipping those events would harm their draft stock. And Monday, three top prospects — Alabama OL Evan Neal, LSU CB Derek Stingley Jr. and Ole Miss QB Matt Corral — made it known they won’t work out (Corral suffered an ankle injury in the Sugar Bowl).
Conversely, as noted earlier, the NFL is hoping to turn the event into even more of a moneymaking and attention-getting machine, meaning there’s zero doubt the event will continue to be held and players will continue to be enticed to attend.