INDIANAPOLIS -- On-the-field workouts for non-specialists begin on Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium. The trickle of prospects into town continues. The formal interviews with clubs, 15 minutes each, last late into the night.
Because we're so closely tracking the quarterback position in the event the Patriots take one this spring, it's worth noting where they sit late into the NFL Scouting Combine week. They arrived on Wednesday and began medical exams, which continued into Thursday. They were measured on Thursday, meaning people who like to cluck cluck about quarterback hand size had something to cluck cluck about by the time they hit the shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo. Interviews occurred on both days.
On Friday, the quarterbacks will take part in a media-availability period. On Saturday, they'll finally perform on the field and then leave town.
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But for these quarterbacks, many of whom have logged years of tape and hundreds upon hundreds of throws leading their respective offenses, how much can they really help themselves by what they do or say in Indy?
After speaking with coaches, evaluators, one quarterback coaching guru and media experts, here are some of the things the Patriots might be looking for from the quarterback class if they're digging for The Next Guy.
Josh Allen, Wyoming: Allen is one of the few quarterbacks whose on-the-field workout might actually mean something. (Same goes for Lamar Jackson, who we'll get to.) He has been so erratic in each of the last two seasons that he can't show up to Lucas Oil and totally fall flat on his face when it comes to the throwing portion of the workout. Teams will understand if he's inconsistent if it looks like he's tried to alter any of his mechanics, but they'll want to see progress. To impress a team like the Patriots, who so highly values accuracy at that position, Allen will want to show he's moving in the right direction -- even if it is in a t-shirt and shorts.
Sam Darnold, USC: Darnold is considered the cleanest quarterback prospect in the class and the likely No. 1 overall pick, but his game is not without its warts. What the Patriots may be interested to see with him is where his head was at for a handful of his 13 interceptions last season. He threw nine picks in his first six games last fall. Does he value the football? He'll in all likelihood be long gone by the time the Patriots select. Darnold is not planning on throwing in Indy.
Luke Falk, Washington State: Most of the questions surrounding Falk are about his arm strength. He is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in this class, and he gets the ball out relatively quickly, but the feeling is that there are a handful of throws every Sunday that a quarterback has to drive into a tight spot . . . and multiple people I've spoken to have questioned whether or not he has the requisite arm strength to do that. The Patriots could have a close eye on any deep-outs Falk is asked to throw on Saturday just to see how the football looks coming out of his hand. The other important piece of the combine for Falk will be the medicals. He played through a broken wrist last season, and he has taken a handful of scary shots to the head over the course of his career. He says he's had just one documented concussion. Falk is an efficient mover inside the pocket, but he's not the athlete that others are at his position, which may have led to him taking more hits than NFL clubs would've liked.
Lamar Jackson, Louisville: Jackson's on-the-field workout will be interesting to watch because teams may want to see that he's been tinkering with his delivery. He showed in college that he is capable of making incredible throws occasionally. Consistency in terms of placement, however, was not a strong suit. Some believe that if he can widen his base -- in college he launched with his feet close together -- that will prevent him from sailing passes over his intended targets. Has he been working on that? Even if he's not pinpoint in the on-the-field drills, if he's shown a willingness to tinker, that could go a long way with teams that see a passer who has improved his completion percentage numbers each of the last three seasons.
Kyle Lauletta, Richmond: One evaluator who has watched Jimmy Garoppolo closely over the years told me that Lauletta might be the closest thing to the former Patriots backup and current Niners franchise arm. Lauletta is accurate, which he showed both with the Spiders and at the Senior Bowl. He has a release that isn't quite as quick as Garoppolo's, but is adequate and could improve with some work. He's a quick student, which he showed working under four different coordinators in four years. And off-the-field he's as clean as they come -- a leader, intelligent, someone teammates can rally around. If the Patriots are looking for The Next Guy, they may have to work to find any glaring reasons not to draft Lauletta, whose father Joe Lauletta played quarterback at Navy in the 1980s while Bill Belichick's father Steve was on the staff. I've heard buzz around Lauletta that he could be valued as highly as a second-rounder in this year's class. On Thursday, he measured in at 6-foot-2 5/8 inches, 222 pounds and with 9 6/8-inch hands.
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma: The interviews will matter for Mayfield. He's already arguably the most accurate quarterback in the class. He's athletic enough to extend plays and make strong throws inside and outside of the pocket. But does he love the game as much as teams would like him to? Does he want to be a great quarterback, or does he want to be a celebrity quarterback? He had enough go on during his time at Oklahoma that teams could try to use their 15 minutes with him to try to get under his skin and see how he handles it. He'll also likely be long gone by the time the Patriots make their first pick.
Josh Rosen, UCLA: Rosen's teammate at UCLA Kolton Miller wondered why his guy had drawn as many question marks as he had. Miller was peppered with queries about Rosen and did his best to defend Rosen, who comes into Indy with some character concerns. "Josh came in No. 1 high school guy, a little cocky, of course you hear off campus stuff about him, but as the years went on he really matured, he's really well-rounded, he doesn't try to be more than what he has to be, a really good leader." Will teams see that? And if the Patriots are interested, even if Rosen is expected to be gone inside the draft's first 10 picks, what will they be able to glean about what makes Rosen tick? It's worth noting that the Patriots had character coach Jack Easterby make the trip to Indianapolis. If they're interviewing quarterbacks, a position that is so heavily dependent on the intangible aspects of the position, it would make sense if Easterby were involved. The medicals will also be critical for Rosen, who has dealt with both shoulder and head injuries in college.
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State: Getting Rudolph "on the board" may be where he could really improve his draft stock. He comes from a system where he was rarely required to huddle, where the plays came in from the sidelines, and where he had the benefit of throwing to some NFL-quality receivers who may have made him look good. How quickly can he pick up pro concepts? What kind of information might he be able to retain in the brief meetings he'll have with teams this week? There are questions about Rudolph's arm strength, but if teams can get a better grip on how he'll digest an NFL offense, he could work his way from the second-round conversation and into the first.
Mike White, Western Kentucky: No concerns about White's arm strength. The former high school baseball star has one of the strongest arms in the class. He's played in a few different systems, having transferred from South Florida to Western Kentucky, and then playing under two different head coaches with the Hilltoppers. White's release isn't as quick as that of some others in this class, and teams may want to try to gauge just how quickly he's dissecting everything he's seeing. He absorbed a lot of punishment last fall, which some believe was mostly due to a weak offensive line. But he may have been able to think his way through those situations to help himself get out of those pressure spots. The interview rooms will be important for White if teams feel like they can test his ability to process. He's thought to be a Day 2 selection.