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NFL Draft

NFL Combine Notebook: Tale of the Tape Big on Day One

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INDIANAPOLIS — The big news of the NFL Combine on Thursday morning happened after Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray stepped on a scale and got measured.

Murray, one of the top quarterback prospects in the draft, had one big mark against him in his evaluations.

Or maybe, a small mark. Murray isn’t very tall. Of course, he was listed on the Oklahoma roster at 5-foot-10, but the problem with that is that college lie — all the time.

They lie so often when it comes to the height and weight of their athletes that it became generally accepted that Murray was going to — literally and figuratively — come up short.

But that turned out not to be the case, as the two-sport star measured out at 5 feet, 10 1/10 inches. The fact that Oklahoma was on the money this time means Murray will likely be rolling in the money, and not regretting his decision to forgo his first-round draft status in Major League Baseball, shortly after the draft.

Other teams seemed to have their measuring instruments properly calibrated, as well. All six Penn State players checked out at the same height and close to the same weight as their college program.

But not every team is so honest.

Qadree Ollison, the lone Pitt representative, shrunk from 6-foot-2 to 6-foot-1. West Virginia wide receiver Gary Jennings also lost the same inch. Wide receiver David Sills and tight end Trevon Wesco were both downgraded from 6-foot-4 to 6-foot-3. Mountaineers cornerback David Long had his 5-foot-11 height check out, but weighed in at 221 — 27 pounds heavier than his listed playing weight from last fall.

Those are just the examples from around the region.

It’s not a trend that’s likely to end any time soon, so the first day of the NFL Combine will continue to be one where the attention gets turned to the tape measure and the scale.

PUMPING IRON

The other big event on Thursday was the bench press, as most of the combine’s offensive linemen and running backs grabbed the rack and got to business.

The biggest early total came from a small school. Lineman Iosua Opeta from Weber State, a small FCS school in Utah, put up 39 repetitions. According to NFL.com, that’s the most repetitions from an offensive lineman at the combine since records have been kept.

The combine record in the bench press was set by Oregon State defensive tackle Sitiveni Paea. Paea got picked in the second round, but had to retire after seven seasons due to knee injuries. Washignton defensive tackle Vita Mea put up 41 reps last year before going to Tampa Bay with the No. 12 overall pic and Buffalo Bills third-rounder Harrison Phillips performed 42 repetitions.

The second-best performer wasn’t a lineman at all, as Kansas State running back Alex Barnes did 34 reps.

Of local interest, Ollison put up 19 reps at 250 pounds and Sanders, a Woodland Hills alum, counted 30 bench press repetitions. Both backs will perform running drills on Friday.

NFL

Report: NFL to Make Significant Changes to Combine Due to COVID-19

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Major changes to the 2021 NFL Scouting Combine are expected amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a report by Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, plans of hosting the combine as traditionally constructed are “dead” following a conference call between league officials Friday. It is becoming increasingly likely that the medical and performance-based portions of the event will be held separately.

A number of alternatives are being considered, including regionalized medical checks, standardized pro days and interviews conducting via Zoom.

With regards to the regional medicals, the NFL could set up shop and administer the examinations at hospital in states where a large number of players are conducting their workouts and preparation, such as Arizona, California, Florida and Texas.

The intent would be to limit travel for players, where as the team physicians conducting the examinations would likely have already received their vaccinations.

Other aspects of the medical process can be accomplished virtually, such as reviewing injury histories.

As for the pro days, NFL or individual team personnel would put players through drills at their respective schools, but standardize each workout to ensure prospects are going through the same exercises as they would in Indianapolis. Measurements and result would then be distributed league-wide as they normally would be.

League officials will continue to meet over the coming days, according to Breer, but a finalized plan is expected later this coming week.

The NFL has also weighed the option of postponing the combine until April, but still holding it in Indianapolis. While it is on the table, the move would likely requirement the 2021 NFL Draft to be postponed as well.

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NFL Draft

Steelers Clinch No. 24 Pick in 2021 NFL Draft

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Following their opening round playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers now know where they will be selecting in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Pittsburgh now owns the No. 24-overall selection in April’s draft.

A number of needs and questions plague the Steelers as they enter the offseason and turn their attention toward the draft process, with multiple directions they can go with their first round pick. Offensive line, running back and cornerback all appear viable options for the Steelers at No. 24.

The Steelers have not had a first round selection since trading up to draft inside linebacker Devin Bush with the tenth-overall pick in 2018. Pittsburgh did not have a first rounder in last year’s draft, sending it to the Miami Dolphins in 2019 to acquire safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.

The draft is scheduled to be held from April 29 to May 1 in Cleveland, Ohio, though it’s unclear if that will come to pass or if the draft will once again be held virtually, as the 2020 NFL Draft was.

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NFL Draft

Mic Drop: Adam Zielonka of Washington Times on McFarland, Brooks

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Instead of trading for a proven running back like Leonard Fournette, the Steelers simply drafted a rookie with their 4th round pick. That rookie is Anthony McFarland out of the University of Maryland. To fully explain what McFarland brings to the table, Mike Asti was joined by Adam Zielonka, who is a sports reporter for the Washington Times. Zielonka also touched Antoine Brooks, the other Maryland product drafted by the Steelers.

Click here to also watch Mike and others discuss if the Steelers should have instead traded for Leonard Fournette on Pittsburgh Sports Live.

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