NFL Draft News & Analysis

2024 NFL Scouting Combine: One prospect at every position with the most to gain

2TANM08 December 01 2023 Las Vegas, NV U.S.A. Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9)looks for the deep pass during the NCAA Pac 12 football conference championship game between Oregon Ducks and the Washington Huskies. Washington beat Oregon 34-31 at Allegiant Stadium. Thurman James / CSM (Credit Image: © Thurman James/Cal Sport Media) (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)

Michael Penix Jr., Washington: Penix has the opportunity to answer a lot of questions about his medical status, and the fact that he is going to throw gives him the opportunity to put on a show.

Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo: The competition level has held some of his hype back, but the Toledo product impressed at the Senior Bowl. If he can impress in drills and show teams that the athleticism is there to go with his college production, perhaps he can still force himself into that CB1 conversation.

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The history of the NFL scouting combine is filled with players who increased their draft stock with big — sometimes record-breaking — performances on the field in Indianapolis.

Former Washington receiver John Ross blazed a 4.22 40-yard dash back in 2017, which sent him rocketing up draft boards and ultimately got him drafted in the top 10. More recently, Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson dominated every single drill he participated in last year, which solidified his status as a top-five pick.

Here is one player at every position who has the most to gain this week.

Quarterback: Michael Penix Jr., Washington

The battle to be the fourth quarterback taken in the 2024 NFL Draft hasn’t even fully heated up yet, but that could — and perhaps should — change this week in Indianapolis.

Penix has the opportunity to answer a lot of questions about his medical status, and the fact that he is going to throw gives him the opportunity to put on a show.

The Washington signal-caller recorded more big-time throws than any other quarterback in the nation this past year, with his 91.1 PFF grade good for eighth among the nation's quarterbacks.

Running Back: Jaylen Wright, Tennessee

Wright is the second-ranked running back on the PFF big board heading into the combine and is coming off a season that saw him earn a 91.0 PFF grade.

The 5-foot-11, 210-pound back can put on a show in drills this week, which could vault him into the RB1 conversation when the 2024 NFL Draft rolls around at the end of April.

Tight End: Ja'Tavion Sanders, Texas

We know Brock Bowers will be the first tight end off the board in April’s draft, but the big question at the position is who comes off the board second.

Sanders averaged 7.7 yards after that catch in 2023 and has the potential to wow people with a strong showing at 240 pounds. It’s hard to see anyone else being TE2 in this class if he does.

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Wide Receiver: Troy Franklin, Oregon

After Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers and Rome Odunze, it’s a crowded battle to be the next receiver off the board.

Franklin was incredibly productive in 2023, trailing only Nabers and Harrison with a 3.32 yards per route run average. He can put on a show in Indianapolis, prove himself as a separator at the next level and push himself further up draft boards in the process.

Offensive Line: Kingsley Suamataia, BYU

The consensus on Suamataia seems to be that he would benefit from a season to sit and learn in the NFL. The 6-foot-6, 315-pounder earned just a 66.4 PFF grade in 2023, which is why he is generally viewed as a second-round prospect.

He can open a lot of eyes at the combine, though. A big performance in drills could see him vault himself into the discussion toward the end of the first round — where multiple teams could be looking for a left tackle of the future.

Defensive Interior: Byron Murphy II, Texas

Murphy is coming off his best season in college, having earned a 91.1 PFF grade. He comes in at No. 12 on the PFF big board heading into the combine this week. His athleticism isn’t going to surprise anyone, but he still has the opportunity to make himself a consideration at the back end of the top 10 by impressing in drills after such a productive season.

Edge Defender: Laiatu Latu, UCLA

Medicals will be key for Latu, who suffered a serious neck injury in college. His production in 2023 was almost unmatched, though, as he earned a 96.3 PFF grade in his final season at UCLA.

If teams can be comfortable with where he is medically, they will feel much better spending a top-15 pick on him.

Laiatu Latu's average draft position on the PFF Mock Draft Simulator.

Linebacker: Payton Wilson, NC State

Right now, it’s hard to see a linebacker going in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft, but if anyone can, it’s Wilson.

It will take an impressive showing in Indianapolis, though, both in medicals and drills. He absolutely has it in him to run in the 4.4s, and if he can do that and get teams comfortable with his health, he can be a consideration in the late 20s come the end of April.

Cornerback: Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo

From a PFF grades perspective, Mitchell should be right there with Terrion Arnold, Cooper DeJean and Nate Wiggins as the top cornerback options in the draft.

The competition level has held some of his hype back, but the Toledo product impressed at the Senior Bowl. If he can impress in drills and show teams that the athleticism is there to go with his college production, perhaps he can still force himself into that CB1 conversation.

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Safety: Javon Bullard, Georgia

The battle for S1 is pretty crowded at this point, but Bullard has the record of production to hear his name called first.

The 5-foot-11, 195-pound safety produced an 88.4 PFF coverage grade and a 26.9% forced incompletion rate in 2023. He has the versatility to cover in the slot, too, and if he can open some eyes by testing better than expected, he could be a highly coveted player heading into the draft.

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