Jake Bugg at Brighton Dome
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Jake Bugg at Brighton Dome

Matthew Nicholls - April 19, 2018
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NFL Combine sees new stars emerge

It is that time of the American Football calendar once again when the new crop of college footballers flex their muscles in front of General Mangers and coaches alike in an attempt to be drafted into the NFL on April 27.

The Combine, a procedure not dissimilar to the preamble in cricket’s IPL auction, sees recently graduated college footballers take part in a variety of exercises aimed to show their speed, power and talent as managers and coaches from all 32 NFL teams watch on from the stands in anticipation of finding football’s next big star. Round the clock coverage from America’s dedicated NFL Network means that the Combine is a must see event in the footballing year as fans across the world eagerly anticipate April’s draft and Week 1 kick off in September.

This year’s Combine, held as always at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, saw the 40-yard dash record smashied by emerging wide receiver John Ross, out of Washington University. His time of 4.22 seconds across the 40-yard sprint beat the previous time of 4.24 seconds held by Rondel Menendez and Chris Johnson.

Being the fastest over 40 yards isn’t necessarily a sign that Ross is destined for footballing greatness however. For example Ezekiel Elliot, the Dallas Cowboy’s star running back, emerged out of the 2016 Combine with just 4.47 seconds to his name amid an average Combine. His 1631 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns in 2016 certainly showed the Combine is not the be all and end all of a college player’s career

In the rookie quarterback standings, Texas’ Trevor Knight showed outstanding performances in the vertical and broad jump tests, so much so that NFL teams may even draft him at wide receiver or safety, not quarterback, with his pace and elevation standing out above his throwing ability. With Deshaun Watson also standing out alongside Knight with his speed and accurate passing, coaches at Chicago, San Francisco and Cleveland, who are in desperately in need of a talented quarterback, will have been pleased to see some strong talent at this year’s Combine.

Away from Indianapolis, the free agency market sprung into life at the end of February. The decision by the Minnesota Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs not to take up extensions on Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles’ big money contracts respectively means two proven veteran running backs are now on the market. Their big wages and big profiles means teams will have to did deep into their wallets in order to sign one of these players, however with the New York Giants in desperate need of a quality running back, Peterson or Charles could see themselves at a new home at the Meadowlands.

Alongside Colin Kaepernick’s decision not to stay at the San Francisco 49ers for the 2017 season and with Tony Romo being released by the Dallas Cowboys, the free agency market is already shaping up to have some dominant names vying for attention of the big NFL teams this off-season.

With such promising talent being observed at the Combine and big names coming out of high profile contracts, the movements of players and teams between April’s draft and Week 1 in September will a fascinating battle between veterans, money and talent.

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