INDIANAPOLIS -- Medical testing dragged long into the bitter cold afternoon at the NFL Scouting Combine. As a result, potential No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston was prevented from his first public media appearance in more than a month and a half.
That might have been disappointing -- especially to those in Tampa Bay, Nashville and even New York -- but it allowed the other star quarterbacks in the 2015 NFL Draft a few more minutes on the podium and in the spotlight before they get dissected by clubs on the FieldTurf of Lucas Oil Stadium.
"Any player would stand in front of you and tell you they're confident in their abilities, and I'm no different," Marcus Mariota said in the highest attended session of the week so far. "What I've been able to do at the University of Oregon and what I've learned has prepared me for this."
Mariota, last season's Heisman Trophy winner, might wind up the darling of the draft depending on who picks him, but it was his fellow quarterbacks jockeying to be the third guy at the position taken who really impressed Thursday. Baylor's Bryce Petty and UCLA's Brett Hundley each made it a point to address concerns about them, saying that just because they played in spread offenses doesn't mean they can't be great NFL signal-callers.
"You're going to get a guy who is very passionate about football, who loves football," Petty said. "It's almost like I'm a little kid in a candy store when I start talking about NFL offenses, because of the lack of, I guess, NFL style that I've been in in the past. Getting to talk to these GMs and coaches the way we have is different than what I've always done. So it's a blast. I love it, and I could really do it all day."
Hundley waxed poetic about the intricacies of various NFL offensive systems, and why he could be the next Russell Wilson for some franchise despite potential flaws in his game that scouts have been bringing up the past few weeks.
Some quarterback-needy team will need them to step up. It might be this week in Indianapolis when NFL clubs will become convinced they've found the right guy, despite the fact neither dropped back and huddled in college as much as some would like.
2. Epic matchup. Considering Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker torched Florida State for 214 receiving yards on eight catches in an Oct. 30 game last season, it might have surprised many that Parker named FSU cornerback P.J. Williams as the toughest matchup he saw at the college level. But a closer look at Parker's signature performance of an injury-shortened 2014 season reveals that Williams didn't exactly play the goat role that day.
Parker did most of his damage against others in the FSU secondary, although Williams wasn't entirely spared. Parker caught three passes against man coverage by Williams for 11, 24 and 33 yards -- not bad production, given the mix of coverages he saw -- but Williams also broke up two passes intended for Parker and generally maintained tight coverage.
"It was just the techniques he uses. He bumps with better technique," Parker said. "He just changed it up a little bit, so I had to re-adjust to what he was doing."
Given that both players are considered among the very best draft prospects at their positions, it's a good bet that NFL clubs will rely heavily on their head-to-head matchup in evaluating them. That especially goes for Parker, who played in only six games on the year.
3. Scherff comfortable sliding inside. Who will be this year's version of Dallas Cowboys first-round pick Zack Martin? A lot of analysts believe it will be Iowa offensive lineman Brandon Scherff, who is one of the top tackles available for teams in the 2015 NFL Draft. Despite his ability to set the edge and protect a quarterback's blindside, the prospect is comfortable if teams want to move him inside to guard. "I don't know if there would be a challenge," he said. "I think it would be a smooth move for me."
4. Duke is a bit Shady. Miami (Fla.) tailback Duke Johnson was one of the most electrifying players in college football and is hoping to keep that going as he transitions to the NFL. To that end, he said he models his game after the Philadelphia Eagles' LeSean McCoy and hopes to have similar breakaway ability for some team.
5. Gurley not expecting a Peterson-like recovery. Todd Gurley appears to be on track with his recovery from an ACL tear he suffered last year, but is not expecting a miracle when it comes to racing back. "I'm not Adrian Peterson. That guy is a freak of nature," Gurley said.
6. Explain yourself. Gurley was asked about how he will explain his four-game suspension last season for profiting from autographed memorabilia when he interviews with NFL clubs this week. He pointed a thumb rather than a finger.
"I'll just man up to my mistakes. I made a dumb mistake, and I was stuck with the consequences," Gurley said. "I have to move on from that, but (I will) just show them I am a great person at the end of the day."
7. Coates mum on drops. Auburn receiver Sammie Coates had plenty to say about how well he could potentially run the 40-yard dash at the combine, noting his best previous time is a 4.3. But his words were a bit shorter when quizzed about scouting concerns regarding his hands. "Just a lack of focus" was all Coates could muster about the dropped passes that could damage his draft stock.
Hopefully, Coates had a more in-depth explanation for the NFL clubs asking the same question this week.
Coates caught 34 passes on the season, but dropped five balls among 39 targets. By contrast, Alabama's Amari Cooper dropped six of 130 last year. According to NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt, Coates caught 10 of 11 deep balls (passes 20 or more yards downfield), meaning Coates lost the handle on four of 28 catchable passes inside that range -- roughly 15 percent.
8. DGB on former coach. Wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham expressed a high level of respect and appreciation for former Oklahoma assistant coach Jay Norvell, who was fired by OU after the season. But when asked about a report from NFL Media's Albert Breer that Norvell's departure was the impetus for his decision to enter the draft as an underclassman, Green-Beckham wouldn't concede.
"None of this is because of anything that happened at OU," he said.
9. Greene backs Winston. Florida State receiver Rashad Greene was one of several of players who stuck up for former teammate Jameis Winston at the combine.
"Jameis is a great guy in my opinion. He's like a brother to me," Greene said. "He's always so positive and enjoying himself. There was not a day that went by in practice, or any type of situation, where he wasn't smiling or being himself and positive to everything around him."
Greene also noted that he's finally 100 percent after dealing with a knee injury (bruised cartilage) that hampered him most of last season and kept him out of the Senior Bowl.
10. Bell names toughest challenges. Kenny Bell has seen his fair share of top cornerbacks during his time at Nebraska -- Prince Amukamara in practice, Darqueze Dennard in a game, among others -- but he labeled Buffalo Bills corner Stephon Gilmore as the best he played against in college.
11. Perriman sitting out. Central Florida wide receiver Breshad Perriman, the son of former Detroit Lions receiver Brett Perriman, will not work out at the combine because of an injury, according to NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt. But while some prospects are facing pro-day workouts a little more than a week after the combine ends, Perriman will have nearly a month to be ready for his next opportunity. UCF's pro day is scheduled for March 25.
12. Brown, Wayne are idols for USC star. Receiver Nelson Agholor entered the combine as a potential second-round pick, and that's pretty good for a pass catcher who primarily played running back in high school. He noted that he went to USC out of Florida largely because of the school's reputation for developing players at wide receiver and because of their pro-style offense. As a result, he not only wants to take after former teammates such as Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, but also has been breaking down the games of Reggie Wayne and Antonio Brown in order to emulate them at the next level. Agholor mentioned Brown, in particular, several times as a comparable player for what he can do between the lines.
13. Halliday medical reports will be key. Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday set an FBS record during his final season by passing for a whopping 734 yards in a game and was set to rewrite most NCAA passing records before his senior season was ended prematurely by a broken leg. While he is not yet 100 percent recovered from the injury, he is doing some light jogging and taking three-step dropbacks during his training sessions for the NFL and is aiming to compete at the Cougars' pro day next month. The medical tests at the NFL Scouting Combine will play a big role in his draftability, but Halliday also noted most of the questions he was getting from teams centered on making the transition from Mike Leach's Air Raid offense to the NFL.
14. Bench marks. Miami offensive lineman Ereck Flowersled his position group on the bench press Thursday with 37 repetitions with 225 pounds on the bar. Flowers, viewed by some as a potential first-rounder in the 2015 NFL Draft, is believed to be the only prospect in attendence at the combine without an agent.
Sean Hickey of Syracuse finished second with 35. One who didn't fare as well was Iowa's Brandon Scherff. Scherff, a massive left tackle who could be moved to guard at the pro level, bench pressed 23 reps, which tied for 24th among participants. Other bench press results for some top offensive linemen: Pittburgh's T.J. Clemmings (22), LSU's La'el Collins (21), Texas A&M's Cedric Ogbuehi (23) and FSU's Cameron Erving (30).
15. Choosing Cardale. Ohio State receiver Devin Smith handicapped **Cardale Jones** as the frontrunner for the Buckeyes' starting quarterback job in 2015, a topic of heavy speculation on the Columbus, Ohio, campus with veteran starter Braxton Miller and 2014 starter J.T. Barrett both returning from injury. Jones, of course, led OSU to a 3-0 postseason record en route to winning the national championship after being pressed into starting duty by Barrett's fractured leg.
"If I had to guess, I would say Cardale just because he has the momentum right now," Smith said, while also noting that anything could happen in that competition.
16. Petty also defends Winston. Baylor QB Bryce Petty has been training for the combine in San Diego along with FSU's Jameis Winston, who is a popular projection to be the No. 1 overall pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although there are questions about Winston's off-field behavior, Petty indicated those concerns don't spill over into Winston's training habits.
"That kid comes to work. I love him. Every day he comes to work, and we push each other," Petty said.
17. Show of speed will have to wait. Tevin Coleman isn't running at the combine, but he has big plans for his pro day. The Indiana running back is sitting out every drill except the bench press in Indianapolis as he recovers from toe surgery -- he rushed for more than 2,000 yards last year playing through a painful toe injury for more than half the season -- but he said he'll be 100 percent for his April 16 pro day. Coleman is believed to be one of the fastest players in this year's draft, and he said he's aiming to run a blazing 40-yard dash of 4.39 or 4.4 seconds during his pro-day workout.
18. Insurance compensation could be coming Ogbuehi's way. The Texas A&M offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi might be the first to benefit from a school using its Student Assistance Fund to protect a player with a loss-of-value insurance policy. Before last season, Texas A&M used the fund to help sway Ogbuehi to return to the Aggies for his senior season by paying more than $50,000 for a policy that protected Ogbuehi from a slip in the draft because of injury or illness. The strategy began to catch on, and other schools utilized the rule in the same way for top prospects. Florida State also took out a policy for Jameis Winston.
Ogbuehi said Thursday that he believes he will receive compensation via the policy should he be drafted lower than he was projected to go a year ago, when he received a first-round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board. There is potential for him to slip after a season in which he briefly moved inside to guard and suffered an ACL tear in the Aggies' bowl game. Ogbuehi is only participating in the bench press at the combine (he put up 23 reps Thursday) because of the injury, but he said he should be ready to go by training camp. As for whether he has any regrets about returning for another year with the Aggies, Ogbuehi said he has none. "I don't look back," he said. "No point."