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NFL Combine preview: 5 things to watch

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More than just WR and CB.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 26 Cheez-It Bowl - Cal v TCU Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the 2020 NFL Combine set to take place this week, teams are getting ready to add another chapter in hundreds of scouting reports. While the Combine is hardly the only piece of the puzzle, there is no doubt that strong performances can make a prospect millions of dollars for themselves. Eyes will be tightly fixed on the events in Indianapolis this week and players will be bringing their best efforts.

For the Eagles, here are a few aspects of the week the team should key on.

1 - Just how deep does this wide receiver class go?

Much fanfare has been made about the top end of this year’s draft class as it relates to pass catchers. Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, CeeDee Lamb, Laviska Shenault Jr., Jalen Reagor, Tee Higgins and maybe even KJ Hamler are all projected to go in the first round. The numbers for those guys will be important, but their draft potential is clearly evident on tape too. I am interested in ASU’s Brandon Aiyuk making himself some money this week. The speedster tore up the Pac-12 in 2019 and he should absolutely burn at the Combine. It will also be intriguing to see how productive receivers like Justin Jefferson, Tyler Johnson and Antonio Gandy-Golden test. They certainly have the college careers to warrant draft attention, but impressive athletic testing will make this class look even richer than it currently does.

2 - Can the Eagles play the value game at cornerback?

It is evident the Eagles need to add competition to their secondary. While there are young guys with high expectations already in the group, the pressure is on for the team to have a real playmaker at the back end of their defense. This class has very good cornerbacks in Jeff Okudah, Kristian Fulton and CJ Henderson. There isn’t established depth behind them, however. If the Eagles want to get immediate help in this draft, current belief is they would need to spend a first round pick. There are some prospects who could emerge as day two gems or maybe late first rounders who could be in range for Philly. Alabama’s Trevon Diggs figures to have a nice week given that his athleticism is certainly one of his strengths. I am curious to see how TCU’s Jeff Gladney, Notre Dame’s Troy Pride Jr. and LA Tech’s Amik Robertson perform. It would be nice if there was some comfort about cornerback depth so the Eagles don’t have to force a pick in the first round that could be a reach.

3 - Who emerges as the “second tier” first round defensive linemen?

Chase Young and Derrick Brown are more or less locks to go in the top three and top ten respectively. Young is a potentially generational player while Brown is a blue chip defensive tackle prospect. I am curious to see what the combine reveals about the other “top” defensive linemen this year. Javon Kinlaw has been rising up boards since the late fall and a strong showing this week might cement him as this class’ exciting interior pass rushing prospect. The competition between AJ Epenesa, K’Lavon Chaisson and Yegur Gross-Matos for Edge Two in the class should heat up this week. Also fringe first rounders like Neville Gallimore, Ross Blacklock, Curtis Weaver and Terrell Lewis will have a chance to strengthen their stock. This defensive line class has been all about Young and Brown, but me thinks that there is a lot more in the first round that teams (especially) the Eagles should stay excited about.

4 - Is this Antoine Winfield Junior’s big week?

I have been surprised how little Antoine Winfield Junior has been talked about as the potential best safety in the class. Winfield finally had a healthy season and was dominant in Minnesota at safety. He lined up everywhere for the Golden Gophers and produced huge numbers. He’s physical with great ball skills and a non-stop motor. Health will be a big question for the decorated defender and that will no doubt be a topic of discussion around him this week. However, Winfield can establish himself as a true top forty player in the class if he shows well this week. He is one of my favorite players in the class to watch, so I have to be honest in that I’m rooting for him.

5 - Does this offensive line class have gems?

The top end of this offensive line class is going to make a few NFL teams very happy. Jedrick Willis, Josh Jones, Andrew Thomas and Tristian Wirfs could all be high first round picks. The Eagles don’t need immediate offensive line help, but they can benefit by spending one of their many picks boosting the depth and continuing the youth movement they’re having up front. No doubt they will have their eyes peeled for some day two and three prospects who impress and can add something to the offensive line group.