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10 storylines to watch at the NFL combine

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The NFL Scouting Combine runs from Feb. 29 to March 3. Some of the draft's most exciting prospects will undergo athletic testing, interviews, and medical evaluations at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Here are some of the storylines we'll be following.

All eyes are on the Bears heading into the combine. Possessing the Nos. 1 and 9 selections and presumably shopping quarterback Justin Fields around, Chicago should dictate the flow of the first few picks on draft night.

The combine is one of the few places where representatives from every team will be in attendance at the same time. Don't be surprised if reports about the Bears' plans begin to surface.

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Texas has a quartet of playmakers who will be under the microscope in Indy.

Jonathon Brooks is seen as one of the draft's better runners, with no true standout among this year's running back prospects. However, Brooks is recovering from a torn ACL and will need to lean on his interviews to improve his draft stock.

A strong showing could push Ja'Tavion Sanders to lock up the No. 2 tight end spot behind Georgia's Brock Bowers. The 20-year-old wasn't the focus of Texas' passing attack but still eclipsed 600 yards in each of the last two campaigns.

We'll touch on wide receivers Xavier Worthy and Adonai Mitchell shortly. Either player could solidify their status as a first-round worthy receiver with strong performances.

The Michigan signal-caller wasn't tasked with a ton of complicated work this past season thanks to the Wolverines' dominant rushing attack, but his traits are among the class' most interesting.

McCarthy leveraged play action and the strength of his offensive line to finish the season with an impressive 72.3% completion rate, at a reasonable 9 yards per attempt, with 22 touchdown passes against four interceptions. He also had 202 yards and a trio of scores as a runner.

The 21-year-old is one of several highly ranked quarterbacks who plan to throw in Indy, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. McCarthy could sneak up some draft boards if he can prove he's an above-average athlete in some of the event's other drills.

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It's unlikely that anyone will catapult past Ohio State's Marvin Harrison Jr., LSU's Malik Nabers, and Washington's Rome Odunze, but wideout rankings beyond those three are mostly unsettled.

Oregon's Troy Franklin, LSU's Brian Thomas Jr., Texas' Worthy and Mitchell, and Florida State's Keon Coleman are among a packed group of receivers vying to prove their worth.

Mitchell and Coleman fell short of eclipsing 1,000 yards in their final collegiate seasons, but the rest hit that threshold relatively easily. That group was also productive when it came to scoring. Excluding Worthy, they all found the end zone at least 11 times.

If you want to be an every-down back in the modern NFL, you have to contribute to the passing game. However, most of this year's top running back prospects weren't asked by their college programs to help much through the air.

Hauling in 56 receptions for 413 yards and four touchdowns in 2023, only Oregon's Bucky Irving was a true focus in his team's passing game among the runners expected to go within the first several rounds. Other standout backs like Michigan's Blake Corum (16/117/1), Notre Dame's Audric Estime (17/142/0), and Tennessee's Jaylen Wright (22/141/0) had the bulk of their production come on the ground.

Kentucky's Ray Davis, who recorded 323 yards and seven touchdowns on 33 catches in 2023, could leapfrog some of his contemporaries if he excels in those portions of his workout.

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Power 5 representatives dominate the combine, but the Group of 5 (and lower divisions) have sent plenty of standout performers in years past. Don't be surprised if Toledo's Quinyon Mitchell is this year's strongest Group of 5 performer and ranks among the top finishers in the 40-yard dash and agility drills.

But Mitchell won't be exclusively reliant on his athletic testing. He posted six interceptions and 37 pass deflections over his final two seasons with Toledo.

The 6-foot, 197-pound corner has already snuck up boards. The former Rocket's strong Senior Bowl performance, mixed with good results from the combine, could guarantee his early selection.

No off-ball linebacker in this year's class has separated from the pack yet. If Texas A&M's Edgerrin Cooper, Clemson's Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Michigan's Junior Colson, or another prospect put together a dominant showing, they could vault up boards.

Our top pick to put on a show is NC State's Payton Wilson. His medicals will be important, but Wilson could be the latest member of the Wolfpack to go in the first couple of rounds if his testing matches up with his 138 tackles (17.5 for loss), six sacks, and three interceptions in 2023.

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Latu should test well in whatever drills he participates in, but it's his medical results NFL teams will be most interested in. The 23-year-old medically retired from football before joining the Bruins and could be removed from some draft boards if his tests come back worrisome.

Latu could challenge to be the first edge rusher off the board if the results on his neck are clear. He racked up 13 sacks, 21.5 tackles for loss, and a pair of interceptions and forced fumbles in his final college season.

A few hamstrings will inevitably be sore after all of the 40-yard dashes, but we hope no one leaves Indy any worse than that.

The most serious injury during last year's combine came when offensive lineman Andrew Vorhees tore his ACL during drills. Vorhees still put up 38 reps on the bench press after the injury, but the tear dropped him to the seventh round.

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John Ross' lightning-fast 4.22-second 40-yard dash gets most of the attention when it comes to combine records, but Stephen Paea's 49 reps on the bench press and Byron Jones' broad jump of 12 feet and 3 inches were remarkable athletic feats in their own right. Jones' mark still stands as the unofficial world record for the standing long jump.

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