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O'HARA: Takeaways from the 2017 Combine

INDIANAPOLIS –Final thoughts and takeaways from the NFL Combine – the Detroit Lions looking ahead, The Most Interesting Young Man at the Combine, ups and downs and parsing winners and losers in the measurements and drills, and a final word from Bill Polian on the flap over Oklahoma's Joe Mixon not being invited to the Combine:

1.  Changing gears: GM Bob Quinn expected to be back at the Detroit Lions Allen Park headquarters today, with

another day left in the Combine. It's not that Quinn had his fill of testing and interviewing prospects, but the compacted schedule forced front-office executives to manage their time.

The free-agent signing period begins at 4 p.m. on Thursday. The so-called "legal tampering" period, when teams are allowed to contact certified agents of players who are scheduled to become free agents on Thursday, begins Tuesday, two days earlier.

Here's my take: Year 2 in free agency under Quinn will be a lot like Year 1. The Lions will go more for solid roster-fillers to build depth as opposed to big-money free agents. One exception last year was the quick signing of wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. to fill the vacancy created by the expectation that Calvin Johnson would retire, which proved to be the case.

2.  Lining up: Quinn followed through on his pre-draft statement last year that games are won in the trenches. He drafted three offensive linemen and two defensive linemen.

Two starters on the offensive line are due to be free agents – right guard Larry Warford and right tackle Riley Reiff. Quinn said in his Combine interview last week that he does not want to turn over the offensive line to all young players.

"You can't have all rookies and second-year players on your offensive line," Quinn said. "I think that's something that's a philosophy of mine. In terms of our two guys (Reiff and Warford), we've had discussions with both of them."

He was "working toward" getting agreements with the two players, Quinn said.

"I'm excited to kind of see what the offensive line looks like next year, because inevitably the team's going to be different," Quinn said.

The bottom line: Whatever happens in free agency – who re-signs, who departs – has an impact on the draft. The fact that this is not considered a deep draft for offensive linemen likely will have an effect on negotiations.

What hasn't changed is that wherever they get it, the Lions need to add playmakers on defense and have a legitimate running back on offense.

3.  Jabrill Peppers: He has my vote for the most interesting player at this Combine. He has everything but the better commercial.

Peppers was a playmaker in his two full seasons at Michigan, but the question as he moves to the next level is where he plays.

Is he a safety, a cornerback, a combination safety-cornerback, or a linebacker? Or is he just a football player that teams will have to find a place for – somewhere.

A person closely connected to the Michigan football program who was part of the Maize and Blue brigade that invaded the Combine with the 14 Michigan players invited talked about Peppers' football IQ.

That term – football IQ and other versions for other sports – gets thrown around a lot, but it seems to fit Peppers. Peppers apparently has a photographic memory – or something close to it – when it comes to his ability to recall, process and react to what he's been told without having it diagrammed for him.

That should impress the scouts and evaluators in Peppers' interviews.

4.  Peppers – measuring up: For whatever this is worth, Peppers checked in at 5-11 and 213 pounds.

Why is that important? It probably isn't. But ... in 2003, the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted safety Troy Polamalu of Southern Cal 16th overall. In 12 seasons Polamalu was All-Pro four times, made eight Pro Bowls and played on two Super Bowl champions.

He was measured at 5-10 and 213 pounds.

5.  On the run: LSU running back Leonard Fournette had ups and downs, but the end result had his draft arrow definitely pointing up.

He raised questions when he weighed in at 240 pounds, about five pounds over his playing weight, and managed a vertical jump of only 28.5 inches. Had he gotten soft and out of shape in the offseason?

Those questions were erased when he was clocked in at 4.51 seconds in the 40. For a 240-pound back, Fournette's time was historically fast – more than enough to cement his status as the top running back prospect.

6. QB, game of inches:  First he came to Indy as Mitch Trubisky, then he left as Mitchell Trubisky after making it known that he wants to be known by his given name.

More important for launching his career as one of the top quarterbacks prospects is that Trubisky was measured at an even 6 foot 2.

What's in a name for a quarterback prospect? Not much, really. What does an inch, or two, or half an inch, mean? Quite a bit, apparently, to the NFL scouts.

Trubisky would not have gone undrafted if he'd have been an eighth of an inch or more shorter, but 6-2 is a height threshold that has some meaning. The bar has to be set somewhere, and 6-2 is the standard for a quarterback being able to see over the rushing linemen.

A bigger question for Trubisky in the competition to be the first quarterback drafted is how he performs in drills and personal interviews to show that he can overcome having only 13 starts at North Carolina.

"That's a question everyone's asking," Trubisky said. "I think I definitely have enough experience. I only have 13 starts, but I played in 30 games."

Trubisky completed 82 of 125 passes as a backup his first two years at North Carolina. In 2016 he started all 16 games and completed 304 of 447 passes, with 30 TDs and six interceptions. North Carolina was 8-4 in the regular season in 2016 and lost to Stanford in its bowl game.

7.  QB, Game of Throws: Deshaun Watson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner from Clemson, was measured at 6-3 and 221 pounds. He was an inch taller than Trubisky.

Watson had a 33-3 won-lost record as a starter at Clemson and led his team to the NCAA championship game against Alabama the last two seasons. Clemson lost in 2016 and bounced back to win the rematch this year in two of the most thrilling games in college history.

In his three years at Clemson, Watson completed 814 of 1,207 passes, with 90 TDs and 32 interceptions.

I would think Watson's attempts, completions, TD passes and won-loss record are worth more than an inch.

8.  The last word: The buzz this week is that a large majority of front-office executives agree with Bob Quinn's opinion expressed last week that Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon should have been invited to the Combine.

It's a hot-button issue, and no one is condoning Mixon's action when he slugged a young female in a confrontation in 2014. That got Mixon suspended by Oklahoma for the 2015 season, and the NFL banned him from this year's Combine under the league's roles governing conduct of potential invitees.

One strong – and vocal – supporter of Quinn's opinion is Bill Polian, a Hall of Fame front-office executive and ESPN commentator.

"I agree with Bob," Polian said in a one-on-one interview. "I'm not questioning the idea that these acts ought to be disciplined. I question how it's being done.

"The Combine is here for the benefit of the clubs, not to do anything else. It's here to allow the clubs, most importantly to do the physicals, and secondarily to do their interviews (with the players).

"And third only are the on-field tests. You do it at the Pro Day. Why penalize the clubs for something the player did? Penalize the player."

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