NFL Nation: NFL scouting combine preview

NFC combine preview: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

NFL Nation previews the 2013 scouting combine by identifying the most important thing for each team to learn about its greatest area of need.

Denver: The Denver Post reported that the Broncos plan to let Nate Irving and Steve Johnson battle for the middle linebacker job. But this is a strong class and I think Denver will closely be watching the movement of the middle linebackers at the combine. It could start with Manti Te’o. He clearly has a lot of damage control to do after the fake girlfriend fiasco. If Te’o falls down the board at the combine, Denver could have a decision to make at No. 28. Football-wise, Te’o would be a great value at that spot. Also, Denver will be watching fellow Mike linebackers Alec Ogletree of Georgia and Kevin Minter of LSU. Both are rising stars. Ogletree, though, was recently arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, and that will be a major topic at the combine. It will be interesting to see if the performances of the middle linebackers at the combine sways Denver from committing to the competition between Irving and Johnson.

Kansas City: It’s the biggest question of the combine. Will a quarterback impress the Chiefs enough to tempt them to use the No. 1 pick on him? Right now, the odds are against it. Top quarterback prospect Geno Smith of West Virginia plans to throw at the combine. If he excels, Smith could put himself in the conversation for the top pick. If not, the Chiefs will likely find their new quarterback on the veteran trade or free agency market. Another top prospect, Matt Barkley of USC, is still not healthy enough to throw at the combine because of a shoudler injury. Still, the Chiefs will likely talk to him with the idea of possibly using a second-round pick on him.

Oakland: The Raiders are in a position of strength in the draft. They are simply going to let the draft board come to them with the No. 3 pick. Oakland has massive defensive needs across the board. It will very likely take the best defensive player available at No. 3. Fortunately for the Raiders, this draft is loaded with defensive talent at the top of the draft. So Oakland is just going to watch the combine and stack its defensive board. It's a good place to be for Oakland.

San Diego: The Chargers need a left tackle badly. The problem is, the position isn’t deep at the top of the draft. The top left tackles are Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel, Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson. Joeckel will surely be a top-five pick, and Fisher and Johnson were stars at the Senior Bowl. If both players shine at the combine, the Chargers may have to worry that both will be gone by the time they pick at No. 11. So it’s almost as if they’ll hope Fisher and Johnson don’t have mind-blowing performances at the combine.

NFL scouting combine preview: NFC North

February, 19, 2013
NFC combine preview: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

NFL Nation previews the 2013 scouting combine by identifying the most important thing for each team to learn about its greatest area of need.

Chicago: The Bears have a glaring hole at left tackle, but with the No. 20 pick, they likely aren’t in a position to select any of the consensus top players at the position (Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel, Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson). The combine is another step in solidifying and ranking their targets among the second tier of left-tackle prospects for first- or later-round consideration. If the Bears don’t feel there is a draftable prospect with starting credentials for 2013, they could find a player in the tackle-rich free-agent market.

Detroit: With the No. 5 pick, the Lions can narrow their focus to a handful of prospects. Since Kyle Vanden Bosch has been released and Cliff Avril is a free agent, the Lions must hone in on the crop of top pass-rushers available and decide whether one is worth the substantial investment of the fifth pick. Taking a player such as Bjoern Werner, Damontre Moore or Barkevious Mingo would soften the blow of potentially losing Avril, and the combine will give the Lions a better sense of what each offers as a replacement. Team president Tom Lewand recently suggested the Lions need to find rookies who can contribute immediately, and being in Indianapolis will allow them to seek a pass-rusher who fits that mold.

Green Bay: There’s a shortage of top-rated running backs available in this draft, and the Packers discovered a bargain find in DuJuan Harris late last season. But there’s still room to upgrade the position, and the Packers need to search for a high-upside back who can be had in the middle rounds perhaps due to a lack of polish or concerns about an aspect of his game. Four of the top seven rookie rushing leaders from 2012 were drafted in the sixth round or later. There’s backfield talent to be had past the first round, and the Packers will head out to survey the landscape of mid-round running backs available.

Minnesota: Adrian Peterson stomped to nearly 2,100 yards in 2012 for an offense without a vertical passing game (or much of a passing offense at all), and finding a speedster to take the top off a defense would make one of the scariest sights in the NFL to an opposing defense even more frightening. The ability of defenses to stack the box helped to mildly contain Peterson; more space would open up if a vertical passing threat is on the field to stress the safeties in coverage. When the wideouts are running their 40s, the Vikings will have their stopwatches ready and be on the lookout for players who project as downfield receiving threats. Regardless of what the team decides to do with slot maven Percy Harvin (GM Rick Spielman recently shut down talk of a trade), adding a vertical receiver is a premium need for Minnesota this offseason.


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