The NFL's National Scouting Combine got underway Wednesday in Indianapolis, and it was a packed day of press conferences with head coaches and executives from teams around the league.
Broncos Head Coach Gary Kubiak, Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson and Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert all talked with the media. For the college prospects, the offensive linemen, running backs and specialists all made their way through the media room as well.
Here's an overview of what we learned from the first day at Lucas Oil Stadium:
- Colbert kicked off the podium sessions at the combine early Wednesday morning, and he had some praise for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco during that 15-minute session. Colbert was asked about players making the jump to the NFL from small colleges, and he pointed to Flacco's success as evidence that players can make that leap. "We've seen a player like Joe Flacco playing at the University of Delaware who is obviously a great NFL quarterback," Colbert said.
- The Steelers have arguably the best recent track record of any team in the league when it comes to drafting wide receivers. Colbert has drafted dynamic receivers like Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace and Martavis Bryant in the last seven years, but he said there's no secret method when it comes to finding playmakers at that spot. "I don't know if there's any formula for it. We evaluate the receivers just like any other position," Colbert said. "Can he run? Can he separate? Can he make the contested catch? Can he make the big, tough catch in the end zone? Can he run after the catch? If he can check off all those boxes, chances are he's going to be a pretty good player."
- The NFL could be making changes to some of the traditional drills at the combine. Colbert pointed to the 40-yard dash as something that could change in future years. "The 40 has been in the game for a lot of years. Is it really necessary for an offensive lineman? Probably not," Colbert said.
- The Cleveland Browns have yet to hear from the NFL about wide receiver Josh Gordon's application for reinstatement, Jackson said. If the dynamic receiver is reinstated after serving a one-year suspension for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing drugs, it's unclear whether the Browns would absolutely welcome him back on their team. "It has to be the right fit," Jackson said.
- Jackson reiterated that the Browns will be moving on from quarterback Johnny Manziel. "His future on the team will be addressed very soon," Jackson said.
- Several coaches and general managers were asked about the challenge in evaluating offensive linemen today as college offenses have changed greatly in recent years. The use of spread offenses and no-huddle systems are much more prevalent in the college game compared to the NFL, and that makes life hard on personnel evaluators. "It is more difficult, I think, because of the types of things they're doing [in college]," Kubiak said. "Especially watching them in the run game when they're in the spread, it's a little different type of run game."
- Tennessee Titans General Manager Jon Robinson gave no indication about what he plans to do with the No. 1 overall pick, but he did speak about the importance of protecting quarterback Marcus Mariota with a strong offensive line. "The quarterback is the most important position on the team," Robinson said. "It is imperative we keep him upright." Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil is a popular mock draft pick for the Titans at No. 1.
- Kubiak praised Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh and General Manager Ozzie Newsome for what he learned from them in his one season in Baltimore. "I watched how John handled his football team and watched how Ozzie went about things. I took a lot of things with me. I really felt like I learned a lot."
- How difficult is it for teams to repeat as champions in the NFL? "We're fixing to find out," Kubiak said.