2024 NFL Scouting Combine: What to watch for at the NFL Scouting Combine

T'Vondre Sweat is listed at 6'4", 340 pounds by Texas.
T'Vondre Sweat is listed at 6'4", 340 pounds by Texas. / Tim Warner/GettyImages

The NFL Scouting Combine is upon us. Most of the league has descended on Indianapolis to talk trades, contract extensions and free agents. They will also be evaluating, interviewing and medically assessing the 321 draft prospects in attendance. On-field drills begin Thursday, but there is plenty to pay attention to beyond just the workouts. With so much to keep an eye on this week, we have narrowed it down for you to the biggest talking points.

J.J. McCarthy, Michael Penix Jr. and Bo Nix throwing

Let's be clear, there is not a ton to gain from watching quarterbacks throw without pads on to receivers they likely don't know, but these are three potential first-round picks who will take center stage during these drills. With Caleb Williams, Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels all sitting out drills this week, all eyes, at least on the field, will be on McCarthy, Penix and Nix.

T'Vondre Sweat's weigh in

Perhaps this is unfair to the big man, but Sweat turned some heads when he declined to weigh in at the Senior Bowl. It has led to a lot of unfounded speculation about his weight. Sweat is going to be one of the heaviest players in this draft class. However, there are concerns about his stamina. If he weighs in close to 400 pounds, there are going to be some teams that balk at the idea of drafting him in the first two rounds. He dominated the Senior Bowl and should test well at the combine, but this will be a very important piece of the puzzle for him.

Carlton Johnson's and Chau Smith-Wade's 40 times

Johnson is far from a household name as an undersized corner coming out of Fresno State. However, he posted the fastest time record by Zebra at the Senior Bowl, topping out at 22.17 mph, which was almost a full mile per hour faster than any other prospect in attendance. Smith-Wade was also flying around Mobile. Zebra has him with the top max acceleration rate at the event, covering 6.12 yards/second². The Washington State safety could be in line to post one of the best 10-yard splits in the 40-yard dash. It is always one of the premier events of the combine and these two players seem poised to put on a show.

Measurable for Graham Barton and Troy Fautanu

Every year, there are at least a handful of college offensive tackles that wind up making the switch to interior offensive line at the NFL level. Fautanu and Barton are both expected to be top-50 selections come April. Neither were at the Senior Bowl last month, so we do not have measurements for these two players yet. The belief is that both will line up at guard or center in the NFL, but I wonder if either will have longer arms than expected and force teams to consider keeping them at tackle. Quality offensive tackle play is so hard to come by in the NFL these days. Arm length, hand size and wingspan will be significant for both of them. It is unlikely to hurt their draft stock at all, but it could raise it slightly.

Buzz around Laiatu Latu's physicals

If you watch Latu's tape, you will see elite production and the most polished pass rusher in this draft class. That is only part of the story with Latu. Three years ago, he medically retired at Washington due to a neck injury. UCLA was willing to clear him for action. Latu repaid the Bruins' faith with 23.5 sacks and 34 tackles for loss over the past two seasons. He will undergo physicals with team physicians around the league this week. It will go a long way to determining his draft stock. He has the talent and production to warrant going in the top 15, maybe even be the top defensive player drafted. However, we saw Jaelan Phillips in a similar situation in the 2021 draft. He had a long history of concussions and was advised to retire at UCLA of all schools. He transferred to Miami and wound up being selected No. 18 overall in the 2021 draft. The injury history probably pushed him down a few slots, but the reports seemed to be largely positive. Latu will be hoping for the same thing, but it will be a huge talking point in Indy.

Xavier Leggette's and Keon Coleman's 3-cone and shuttle times

Rewind to 2019. A jacked Ole Miss receiver lit up the combine, running a 4.33 40-yard dash at 6'3", 228 lbs. His arm length, wingspan and bench press all ranked in the 98th percentile. His broad jump and vertical jump ranked in the 97th percentile and 93rd percentile respectively. Then the wheels fell off. D.K. Metcalf posted brutally slow times in the 3-cone and 20-yard shuttles, ranking in the 3rd and 4th percentile respectively. Those times raised all sorts of questions about Metcalf's ability to separate at the NFL level, dropping him out of the top 50 and almost out of the second round. Legette has drawn comparisons to Metcalf, although that was largely before we got his measurements from Mobile, and there are some questions about Coleman's ability to separate. In a loaded receiver class, both need to do whatever they can to avoid the same pitfalls Metcalf ran into.

Will a running back separate themselves from the pack?

This is one of the weakest running back classes in nearly a decade. It would not be a surprise if the first running back came off the board in the third round. Jonathan Brooks out of Texas has drawn a lot of praise, but he is coming off a torn ACL and will not test at the combine. Blake Corum is coming off a great career at Michigan. Maybe a strong showing will push him to the front of the line? Bucky Irving and Jaylen Wright also figure to see a boost in their stock as good testers. There are several teams with their starting running back set to hit free agency, the Titans, Giants, Raiders and Cowboys to name a few, so there should be teams with clear running back needs, but this group as a whole needs to have a big week to shift the narrative.