NFL combine primer: Jayden Daniels, J.J. McCarthy and more names to watch at every position

Contributing NFL writer

The 2023 season and Super Bowl are in the rearview mirror, but the NFL calendar never, ever, ever stops. As the Eye of Sauron of the general NFL fan moves its gaze from Usher and Mecole Hardman’s touchdown in Las Vegas to free agency and the draft, we reach our next checkpoint: the combine.

Next week, the NFL’s personnel follow NBA All-Star Weekend and head to Indianapolis for their de facto convention and annual foray into scouting, interviewing and networking (and way too many pictures on X/Twitter of shrimp cocktails).

I put together an NFL combine primer of where each position group of prospects stacks up and who to keep an eye on as the testing (or opting out) begins in Indianapolis.

2024 NFL Scouting Combine TV/workout schedule

(All times ET on NFL Network)

Thursday, Feb. 29: Defensive line/linebackers, 3 p.m.

Friday, March 1: Defensive backs/tight ends, 3 p.m.

Saturday, March 2: Quarterbacks/wide receivers/running backs, 1 p.m.

Sunday, March 3: Offensive line, 1 p.m.


There’s plenty of star power at quarterback in Indy with two former Heisman Trophy winners in USC’s Caleb Williams and LSU’s Jayden Daniels, plus several quarterbacks from College Football Playoff participants and another top-tier prospect in North Carolina’s Drake Maye.

Williams is a strong favorite to be the No. 1 pick — at -1200 with BetMGM; Maye is second favorite at +700 — either by the Chicago Bears or somebody at this point in time, but Maye and Daniels have fans around the league and there’s jockeying at every spot in the hierarchy. How many of the quarterbacks throw or work out in general is anybody’s guess — Williams and Daniels both reportedly won’t throw — but the interview and medical processes will still be paramount in helping teams arrange their board at the signal-caller position, with the week of the league’s top brass converging in one location bringing clarity (or more chaos) to the potential 2024 home for Justin Fields as well as the final order for the draft.

Players to watch

J.J. McCarthy (Michigan) and Jayden Daniels (LSU). The weigh-in numbers for Daniels and Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy will be important, as evaluators can have hesitations with quarterbacks below 210 pounds because of durability and ability to deliver consistently in the pocket (although smaller-statured Bryce Young went No. 1 overall just a year ago). McCarthy’s performance in general, whether throwing amongst his peers and or via the interview process with coaches, could cement him as a player that certain quarterback-hungry teams with Shanahan influences in their coaching staff outside of the top five target (like the Falcons, Vikings, Broncos and Raiders). I have McCarthy graded as more of a second-rounder, but it is the ultimate premium position and it only takes one team to fall in love.

Other storylines to watch

The race for the best QB outside of the media consensus top three of Williams, Maye and Daniels. Oregon’s Bo Nix and Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. both underwhelmed during Senior Bowl practices. Can they help straighten their stock? South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler has fans among evaluators (the arm talent is hard to ignore), and can he continue to help himself with teams after a Senior Bowl MVP and a good week of interviews?

Read the full Yahoo Sports article.