This week, hundreds of hopeful NFL prospects will work out at Lucas Oil Stadium in front of scouts, coaches and front office personnel from every team in the league.
The Carolina Panthers are looking as keenly as any team at this crop of young NFL hopefuls. With four top-100 picks in this year’s draft, including No. 8 overall, they’re in great position to pick up players who could impact the team immediately.
Here are five items on the Panthers’ NFL Combine to-do list:
1. Find the team’s next feature running back.
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From LSU’s Leonard Fournette to FSU’s Dalvin Cook to Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and a veritable legion of others, this year’s running back class is loaded with talent. Finding a game-changer could be what kick-starts the Panthers’ offense in 2017, and you can be sure grilling these players to determine their football IQ, their maturity and how they might fit in with the team is a top priority for Carolina this week. There are many, many points of evaluation that will go into whoever Carolina picks at No. 8, and as many questions about what that player is like off the field as on it.
2. Evaluate the edge-rushers.
This year’s crop of defensive ends is just as strong as the running backs, and good thing for the Panthers, they need both. Salivating over projected top pick Myles Garrett is fine, but trust Carolina to put players such as Stanford’s Solomon Thomas and Michigan’s Taco Charlton through their paces. The Panthers could also dig in the bargain bin for promising, yet unpolished-on-the-field talent such as Villanova’s Tanoh Kpassagnon, who caught general manager Dave Gettleman’s eye during Senior Bowl week.
3. Be realistic about offensive linemen.
This offensive tackle class is not a strong one this year, but some late-round-level talent exists and it’s never too early to start stockpiling one of the most important positions on the field. Gettleman loves his “hog-mollies,” but shouldn’t spend too much time hoping for miracles from this group.
4. Mingle with agents.
Every agent in the league will be in Indianapolis this week, so it’s a perfect time for team GMs to do business. A big one for Gettleman? Drew Rosenhaus, who represents left tackle Michael Oher (and the mystery surrounding his lingering concussion and health status), and receiver Ted Ginn Jr., who is an upcoming free agent that the Panthers need to lock down.
5. Don’t forget about free agency.
The Panthers have a list of free agents to lock up other than Ginn Jr., and shopping season (and the new league year) starts on March 9. Carolina could pull in big targets in free agency, including much-needed fortitude on the offensive line and options in the secondary – including at nickel cornerback. How Carolina’s free agency goes will heavily influence the draft in April.
2017 NFL scouting combine schedule
DAY 1 ARRIVALS: Group 1 (PK, ST, OL), Group 2 (OL), Group 3 (RB)
Tuesday – Hospital pre-exam & X-rays, orientation, interviews.
Wednesday – Measurements, medical examinations, interviews.
Thursday – Psychological testing, NFLPA meeting, PK/ST workout, media, bench press, interviews.
Friday – On-field workout.
DAY 2 ARRIVALS: Group 4 (QB, WR), Group 5 (QB, WR), Group 6 (TE)
(Quarterbacks are split into different groups so that they can drill with receivers and tight ends)
Wednesday – Hospital pre-exam & X-rays, orientation, interviews.
Thursday – Measurements, medical examinations, interviews.
Friday – Psychological testing, NFLPA meeting, PK/ST workout, media, bench press, interviews.
Saturday – On-field workout.
DAY 3 ARRIVALS: Group 7 (DL), Group 8 (DL), Group 9 (LB)
Thursday – Hospital pre-exam & X-rays, orientation, interviews.
Friday – Measurements, medical examinations, interviews.
Saturday – Psychological testing, NFLPA meeting, PK/ST workout, media, bench press, interviews.
Sunday – On-field workout.
DAY 4 ARRIVALS: Group 10 (DB), Group 11 (DB)
Friday – Hospital pre-exam & X-rays, orientation, interviews.
Saturday – Measurements, medical examinations, interviews.
Sunday – Psychological testing, NFLPA meeting, PK/ST workout, media, bench press, interviews.
Monday – On-field workout.