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NFL Scouting Combine

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O'HARA: What we learned from the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine

INDIANAPOLIS – The NFL Scouting Combine is fertile ground for planting and nurturing speculation and trade rumors. All 32 teams proclaim themselves "open for business" to trade up or down in the draft.

And, incidentally, draft prospects run, jump, lift, take medical exams and do interviews with teams and media at the Combine to showcase themselves in the best possible light to maximize their draft position.

What we learned – again – at this year's Combine is that teams at the top of the draft say they are open for business in the trade market.

That includes the Detroit Lions, who are in a pivotal and desirable position with the No. 3 pick overall. From what we learned from the performances at the Combine, the Lions are in the middle of a rich pool of quarterbacks and defensive players.

Overall, the individual stars and position groups that were rated highly before the Combine lived up to that rating with their performance.

We also learned that there was surprising praise for a University of Michigan defender from a competitor on another team, and in the Last Word a prominent former NFL head coach has an alternative opinion to the theory that a team (Detroit Lions) can't pass on drafting a franchise quarterback (Tua Tagovailoa).

We start with who's open for business at the top of the draft, and what it means to the Lions:

1. Cincinnati Bengals: Quarterback Joe Burrow of LSU ended any speculation about whether he'd play in Cincinnati at the beginning of his media interview. His words are worth repeating and remembering.

"I'm not going to not play," he said. "I'm a ballplayer. Whoever drafts me, I'm going to go show up."

Impact on Lions: Locking in Burrow as the No. 1 pick means edge rusher Chase Young of Ohio State is still on the board. One down (Bengals), one to go (Redskins) for Young to fall to the Lions.

2. Washington Redskins: New head coach Ron Rivera said all the right things in his Combine interviews.

Dwayne Haskins, drafted in the first round last year by the previous regime, has not been "anointed" as the starting quarterback.

Rivera intends to look at Burrow and Tagovailoa.

"Everything's an option," Rivera said.

Impact on Lions: They're at Washington's mercy to get Young.

3. Detroit Lions: They're in a great spot if Young is on the board at No. 3 because of their primary need for a pass rusher. And they're in a good spot if Young is gone.

One man's opinion: Seven players have an impact on the Lions to either stay at No. 3 or trade down.

Three are quarterbacks – Burrow, Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert of Oregon.

Four are defensive players. All are rated No. 1 at their position – Young, defensive tackle Derrick Brown of Auburn, cornerback Jeff Okudah of Ohio State and linebacker Isaiah Simmons of Clemson.

Impact on the Lions: They have the flexibility to trade down three or four spots and still get an opening-day starter.

A case can be made that Brown might be a better fit for the Lions than Young because of his ability to dominate the interior

4. New York Giants: They're projected to take an offensive tackle -- likely Mekhi Becton of Louisville or Jedrick Wills of Alabama -- to protect second-year quarterback Daniel Jones.

GM Dave Gettleman said the Giants are willing to deal.

"Absolutely; we're open for business," he said.

Impact on the Lions: None.

Depth positions: Running back and wide receiver are strong positions where the Lions could draft a player for depth and develop in the second or third round – or lower for a wide receiver, given the depth.

Offensive tackle also could be a Day 2 possibility because of Combine performances.

This is where a trade down makes an impact. Extra picks in the second, third and fourth rounds provide draft flexibility.

And it's why teams really are open for business.

Shout out for Josh Uche: Wills didn't hesitate to say Uche's name when asked who was the toughest pass rusher he faced. It might sound strange – an opponent on a team Alabama beat, 35-16, in the Citrus Bowl.

But the logic is in the details. Alabama ran 80 plays – 43 runs, 37 passes – more than enough for Wills to get a feeling for a player he respected.

Last Wordfranchise QB: Former Lions and 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci was asked at the Combine what he thought of the theory that a team can't pass on the chance to draft a franchise quarterback.

The question was in reference to the debate on whether the Lions should take Tagovailoa with the third pick.

"You can – if you already have one," Mariucci said.

The answer was clear. The Lions have a franchise quarterback in Matthew Stafford.

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