Tampa Bay Buccaneers

What to Watch For at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine

The onfield workouts at the Scouting Combine begin on Thursday (and will be televised by NFL Network), and viewers should pay attention to 40-times, small-school prospects and the quarterback shakeout

Bench Press area at the 2022 NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Tuesday, March 1, 2022. (AJ Mast/AP Images for NFL)

The first day of the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine was mostly about the state of the league's 32 teams and what they would be focusing on over the week to come. Most of those teams' general managers and head coaches took to the podium for their annual Combine interviews before a throng of media from all over the country. There was some discussion of 2022 draft prospects, but most of the topics veered towards players and situations already in the NFL. For instance, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will give Kyle Trask a shot to earn their suddenly-available starting quarterback job, and they sincerely hope Trask will have Chris Godwin as one of his targets.

On Wednesday, attention will shift to the reason that all of those GMs and head coaches are in Indianapolis, along with most of the league's scouts, player personnel pros and medical staffs: the 324 draft prospects who were invited to come show their stuff. From the first player media availabilities on Wednesday through the final on-field workouts on Sunday, each of those 324 invitees will go through a four-day process that also includes medical examinations, measurements, bench press sessions and, perhaps most importantly, private meetings with various teams during the Combine evenings.

Most of that is beyond public purview, but the on-field workouts will be broadcast in their entirety by NFL Network. Those begin on Thursday, March 3, with the quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends getting the first look. Here's when you should tune in each day if you want to catch all the workouts:

  • Thursday, March 3: Quarterbacks, Receivers and Tight Ends, beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET
  • Friday, March 4: Running Backs, Offensive Linemen, beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET
  • Saturday, March 5: Defensive Linemen, Linebackers, beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET
  • Sunday, March 6: Defensive Backs, beginning at 2:00 p.m. ET

Scouts and analysts alike will be poring over the workouts and 40-yard dashes to see if certain prospects can raise their so-called draft stock. As is often the case, this will play out most intriguingly at the quarterback position. This year's class of passers does not yet have a consensus first choice and there is no obvious blue-chip prospect like Trevor Lawrence last year, but as many as five quarterbacks could come off the board in the first round.

Complicating matters will be the potential decisions by some invited players, including quarterbacks, to skip the onfield workouts due to injuries or other concerns. In fact, Mississippi quarterback Matt Corral has reportedly already chosen not to throw. Corral joins Liberty's Malik Willis, Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett, Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder and North Carolina's Sam Howell as potential first-round quarterbacks this year.

The Buccaneers recently found out that Pro Bowl guard Ali Marpet has elected to retire at the age of 28. Marpet memorably impressed Tampa Bay's brass at the 2015 Scouting Combine, prompting Tampa Bay to trade up in the second round and make the Hobart produce the highest-drafted Division III player ever. Marpet's career arc is another type of story that begins at the Scouting Combine. Each year there are a few – but not too many – small-school prospects invited to the Combine to put their skills on display in direct comparison to all the Alabama and Ohio State products.

This year, 303 of the 324 invited draft prospects come from FBS schools, including 82 from the SEC. Georgia leads the way with 14 invites, followed by 11 each for Alabama and Oklahoma. That leaves room for just 18 FCS prospects, two Division II invitees and one player from an NAIA school. The NAIA prospect is offensive lineman Andrew Rupcich from Culver-Stockton College in Missouri. Given the Buccaneers' recent prediliction for small-school linemen, Tampa Bay fans might want to keep an eye on Rupcich.

And then there is the Combine's signature event, the 40-yard dash. Since 2003, 14 players have officially logged a 40-time better than 4.3 seconds. Wide receiver John Ross holds the record in that interim with a 4.22-yard 40-yard dash in 2017. Running back Chris Johnson is next with a 4.24-yard 40 in 2008. A great 40-yard dash time won't guarantee a Combine attendee a high draft pick, but it will certainly cause teams to take a bit more notice.

And that's the goal of each of the 324 prospects coming and going from Indianapolis this week. First, prove to the assembled scouts that you simply belong by performing to a certain level in every drill. And if that first part is a foregone conclusion, then try to stand out above the crowd and convince at least one team you're worth a first-round pick. The evaluations have already begun at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, but the truly fun part is just a day ahead.

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