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Scouting Combine Report: Elway and Fangio open up on day one

(Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

The 2020 NFL Scouting Combine has begun! Each year, I cap off my “All-Star Road Trip” by journeying to Indianapolis, Ind. for the Combine.

After traveling to college all-star games, I get to reconnect with prospects I’ve talked to earlier in the year. I also get to meet underclassmen I have yet to talk to. I’ll catch up with friends in the scouting community, including team executives and head coaches. It’s a great time and an important (and often misunderstood) stop in the pre-draft process.

This is the 10th Combine for Broncos general manager John Elway. I’ve been here for every one of his Combines as an executive with the team and Elway has learned a lot on the journey. After a decade of coming to this event, Elway is clear on what he likes most about the Combine.

“I think it’s exciting for us too because we get to see actual numbers on all these guys. I think up to this point and time our scouts have done a good job with background and trying to figure out what the numbers are. We get the true numbers. Not only that, we get the medical side testing done and everything. It’s an exciting week because it kind of puts everything in process and the fact that we start building a team and looking to the next year. This is when we start building it,” Elway said.

Many things are in motion at the Combine. There is draft news, injury updates and even some trade talk or free-agent discussion. I’m all over it, and happy to report to you every day on The Fan.

Here is my day one recap from the Combine.


Uncertain on Flacco, Certainty from Mariota

Elway seemed uncertain about the future of quarterback Joe Flacco. He said in a private interview with the local media in attendance that he prefers a veteran backup to Drew Lock, but he didn’t know if Flacco was that guy.

At the podium on Tuesday, Broncos head coach Vic Fangio had a comment about Flacco.

“I’m not sure. Joe still hasn’t been medically cleared. We think he will be. Then, we’ll see where he’s at versus where we’re at moving forward,” Fangio said.

In my most recent “Mile High Monday” here on, I suggested the Broncos take a look at former first-round pick Marcus Mariota as a potential backup for Lock. Mariota has a ton of starting experience with the Titans, but he lost his job to Ryan Tannehill last year (in a game against the Broncos) and is now set to be a free agent.

When I ran into some of my Titans sources at the Combine, I had to ask them about my idea – but it was quickly shot down. While Mariota is a great teammate, I was told that he’s looking for at least a chance at a starting job in 2020. That’s not going to happen with the Broncos. Some team like the Bears would interest him more than a team like the Broncos where Lock is the clear-cut starter.

I guess I’ll go back to the drawing board to see if I can dig up which veteran quarterback (Case Keenum redux?) for the Broncos as a primary backup to Lock.


Can You Be More Natural?

Fangio revealed an opinion on running back Phillip Lindsay that made me turn my head. It was a statement that has made me stop and think the rest of the day.

Can you learn how to be more natural?

That’s the question that keeps going through my head after hearing this from coach Fangio. Lindsay was a dangerous receiving weapon in college, snaring 76 passes over his final two seasons with the University of Colorado. In two years with the Broncos, Lindsay has caught 70 passes (35 each season) but he needs to show better skill as a receiver in 2020 and beyond.

The Broncos are going to have an aggressive passing attack with new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. Running backs in his system are known for catching not 35 passes a year, but 50, 60, 70 or more. In fact, during the 2018 season, Giants running back Saquon Barkley caught a whopping 91 passes under Shurmur. Lindsay is unlikely to catch that many balls, but if he could get at least 50 quality receptions then that would help.


No Throw Burrow

The biggest story from around the Combine is what’s going on with potential No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow. The LSU quarterback first sparked controversy (sarcasm) because of his 9-inch hand size.

At least Burrow has a sense of humor about how some are making a big deal out of nothing. The hand size thing is just ridiculous, but the fact that Burrow is not going to throw at the Combine is a bit more of a concern.
He’s in line to be the No. 1 overall pick to the Bengals, and Burrow shot down any rumors that he doesn’t want to play in Cincinnati on Tuesday. Okay, so he’s likely to be the first-overall pick, but that doesn’t mean Burrow should shy away from throwing at the Combine.

It’s not right, but there will be some in the scouting community who question his competitive spirit. Scouts want guys who love ball and want to do nothing but compete. Burrow already turned down an opportunity to compete at the Senior Bowl earlier this year. That’s expected, as guys like Matt Ryan did not participate in that game when projected to be a top-5 pick. However, Ryan did throw at the Combine, where there were questions about his arm strength – just like those same questions today about Burrow.

There is an ever-so-slight chance that Burrow is not the No. 1 pick. Oregon’s Justin Herbert is getting a lot of buzz as a player on the rise in the top-10. Burrow could have ended any sort of debate or discussion by throwing – and throwing well – at the Combine this week.

At the end of the day, this is not a big deal in my opinion. However, I would have liked to see Burrow get out there and throw. Yes, he doesn’t have a rocket arm, but we already know that from film study. What he does have is eery accuracy and incredibly pass placement when throwing downfield. I would have liked to have seen some of those gems in Indianapolis.


Line Him Up Anywhere

University of Colorado wide receiver Laviska Shenault is one of the most-versatile players in the game today. He is a wide receiver, but he can line up outside or inside from the slot. Shenault can also line up in the backfield and take handoffs like a running back. In addition, Shenault can also play wildcat quarterback if need be.

On Tuesday, Shenault talked to the media and revealed that many of the teams he’s talking to envision him as a slot receiver – and he wants to show he’s more than that.

Shenault is clearly confident in his abilities and I love that mindset. He’s got first-round talent, but his medical reports at the Combine need to return a positive result.

Shenault is not going to do all of the drills at the Combine as he continues to deal with the groin injury, which won’t require surgery but did hamper him down the stretch. Instead, Shenault is going to run the 40-yard dash to show off his explosion and speed. We’ll see if the former Buffaloes star can cement his place in the first round with a good performance at the Combine – in the 40-yard dash, during the interview process and in his medical checks.


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