Starting this Thursday, the eyes of the football world will descend onto Indianapolis. The 2014 NFL Scouting Combine is set to take place at Lucas Oil Field, as over 300 players will hit the field in hopes of impressing the league's coaches and executives.
Once an 'inside the beltway' type of gathering for the NFL's scouting community, the combine is now a made for TV event, as the NFL Network will show hours of live coverage all week as prospects are put through the gamut of physical and mental evaluation.
For the Texans, this week continues to add to the foundation of their draft decision process, a place to not only watch the league's future stars, but to also interview them. Not only will they be look at players for the top overall selection, but also for the remaining picks they have throughout the draft.
New England Patriots quarterback and sure future Hall of Famer Tom Brady was famously taken in the sixth round of the 1999 NFL draft, and the pictures of him from that year's combine have become a part of his legend. Several players that will go on to become impact players in the NFL will solidify their draft status during this weekend in Indianapolis.
Going into this week's combine, what are the biggest stories for Texans fans to look out for? I've compiled a short list of what will likely be some of the more important stories you'll see come out of Indianapolis?
1. How tall is Johnny Manziel?
While the stigma surrounding 'short' quarterbacks has somewhat dimmed in the past few years (thanks in large part to Russell Wilson), the height of the former Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner will likely be one of the most talked about issues the whole weekend. While one inch doesn't seem like a lot, should Manziel be measured at 5-11 instead of 6-0, expect to hear lots of questions about how that could affect his draft status.
As I mentioned in an article a few weeks ago, there aren't many comparables in past NFL history to Manziel. While some 'shorter' quarterbacks have had success (Vick, Brees, etc.), that can still be a sticking point, and certainly a talking point for the media.
2. Can Jadeveon Clowney run a 4.4?
Former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has said that he plans to put a show at this week's NFL combine. Clowney, who has faced criticism for his lack of on field production this past season, will likely be one of the most impressive athletes among the group in attendance. He also said he hopes to run a 4.4 40-yard dash, which if he does so would quickly become the talk of Indianapolis.
According to research done by SB Nation, the fastest ever 40-yard dash time run by a defensive end was a 4.43 by Manny Lawson. Lawson is now a linebacker. For comparison's sake, Texans star J.J. Watt ran a 4.84.
For Clowney to even be talking about a 4.4 is amazing in itself. If he actually runs it, expect to hear about it on a loop until May's draft.
3. Which 'unknown' will shine?
The NFL combine is not just about the top players. The beauty of the event is that everyone (for the most part) competes in the same drills, giving an equal opportunity to everyone on the field. For players from smaller schools, this can be the only chance they have to match up against the biggest names in college football.
Often players you hadn't heard of prior to Indianapolis make a name for themselves during workouts, putting their athletic ability front and center for the entire league to see.
How many people had heard of ECU running back Chris Johnson prior to his 4.24 40-yard dash at the combine? That sprint put Johnson on the radar in a big way, and parlayed into him being selected in the first round of that following draft.
Back in 1995, then Boston College player Mike Mamula became a national phenomenon after putting up great workout numbers at the combine. He went from a possible third or fourth round selection (according to draft experts) all the way up to the seventh overall selection.
Tons of news will come out of Indianapolis this week. Our entire Texans team will be on hand, getting interviews and writing stories as the event unfolds. You'll be able to follow all the action here, or on our official Draft Central page. Should be fun.