If the 2014 scouting combine was food for thought for coaches, general managers and scouts, the NFL just had a feast.
Clearly, this is a loaded draft. It may not be the draft class of 1983 because the quarterbacks aren't anywhere near the talents of John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino. But this draft could challenge the 1996 class that featured Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis, Marvin Harrison and others, or the 1981 Lawrence Taylor, Ronnie Lott, Howie Long draft.
The workouts by most of the top players confirmed the raw skills of the prospects. The influx of 98 underclassmen makes this draft special. It can be argued that six or seven players of this draft could rate higher than the first pick from last year, tackle Eric Fisher. In fact, the top three tackles of this draft might have been taken ahead of Fisher, and that's not a knock on Fisher.
The great part of this draft is there is so much talent that it is going to create plenty of debates. Here are the five things we learned from the 2014 combine:
1. The DB class is as talented as billed: Eleven of the 31 cornerbacks who ran put up numbers in the 4.3 or 4.4 range. Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State was the fastest at 4.37. Phillip Gaines of Rice and Jason Verrett of TCU did 4.38s. Bradley Roby of Ohio State did a 4.39. Gilbert could challenge Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State to be the top corner. He's a little taller and slightly faster than Dennard, who ran a 4.51. The great news for teams is most of the best cornerbacks posted fast numbers.
The other bonus is the draft class offers corners with decent size and long arms. Many teams want to copy what the Seahawks have done with Richard Sherman and others. Going to a man-to-man scheme on the outside of a defense that uses a three-deep zone is going to be the trend if defenses can find the type of corners to run those strategies.
2. The debate at the top of the draft: The Houston Texans have plenty to think about from now until May 8. This draft class looked good enough that Jadeveon Clowney, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Sammy Watkins, Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews and maybe even Khalil Mack or Anthony Barr could be the No. 1 pick. Despite being the biggest tease of the draft, Clowney looks to be the best pick. Imagine Clowney rushing the quarterback along with J.J. Watt. If the Texans picked Clowney, he would draw single blocks because offensive coaches would double Watt, the league's best defensive lineman. A Watt-Clowney partnership would be bad news for division rivals, including Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. New Houston head coach Bill O'Brien must also consider Manziel and Bridgewater.