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What we learned at NFL Combine: Broncos to visit with Mayfield

INDIANAPOLIS -- Denver Broncos general manager John Elway took just a little mystery out of the club's 30 pre-draft visits with prospects Wednesday, suggesting that Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield will be among them. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner is among the 2018 NFL Draft's most intriguing stories, a mix of prolific talent with a few concerns about his height and character. Mayfield is slightly shorter than 6-foot-1, which would make him one of the shortest starters in the NFL, and he's also drawn criticism for an overly brash on-field demeanor.

Elway, for one, doesn't seem too bothered by either.

"I saw him at the Senior Bowl but I didn't get a chance to talk to him. We'll spend some time with him. We'll probably have him to the complex for one of our 30 visits to get a chance to get to know him and ask those questions," Elway said. "What I've seen, obviously there are some things I'm sure he'd want to take back. But a lot of times you get tied up in the emotions. I like to see a guy with that kind of passion."

While Elway didn't get a chance to speak with Mayfield at the Reese's Senior Bowl, Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien did. The Texans staff didn't coach Mayfield's Senior Bowl squad, but did get a late-week chance to sit down with the former Sooners star.

"We met with them the last day. We kind of switched teams, so coaches could talk to guys from the other team, which is a pretty unique thing there. (Senior Bowl executive director) Phil Savage does a great job with that," O'Brien said. "I really enjoyed talking to those guys. Baker and Josh (Allen) had great energy about them. They were smart, they had good questions, they remembered things well from their own offenses that week."

Here are eight other things we learned Wednesday at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine:

2. Deep up front. One after another, an assortment of NFL general managers answered a common combine question -- where is the draft deepest? -- with the same answer: interior offensive linemen. Tampa Bay Buccaneers GM Jason Licht, Packers GM Brian Gutekunst, Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin, Titans GM Jon Robinson and Colts GM Chris Ballard all echoed that sentiment. Tobin, in fact, had the highest of praise for the consensus best of the bunch: Notre Dame OG Quenton Nelson.

"Guards are getting paid a lot in free agency. We found that out last year with (Kevin) Zeitler. Whether or not they change your fortunes as a team is the debatable point," Tobin said. "Quenton Nelson is a fine a college football player as I've seen in a long time. He's as complete as I've seen. And I'm not sure he can't play any of the five spots up front. ... He's certainly earned his way to the top of this draft."

3. Licht likes Davenport.Buccaneers GM Jason Licht made no secret of the Bucs' need for a pass rusher, and sees a high ceiling for one of the draft's best in UTSA DE Marcus Davenport.

"I've looked at every pass rusher you can probably think of," Licht said. "Coming from a school that's not known to put out a lot of NFL players yet, he's pretty impressive. He's raw, but he's very explosive, strong, plays hard. I like the fact that he's raw, because there's big upside with him."

Davenport's practice week at the Senior Bowl drew a similarly impressive review from NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock.

4. Griffin impresses Spielman. UCF LB Shaquem Griffin is attempting to do something unprecedented in the modern era -- make an NFL team as a one-handed player. But while his amputation at the left wrist unquestionably complicates his evaluation, at least one GM said it won't factor into the club's willingness to draft him.

"Very unique player. He is very exciting to watch on film because he plays with his heart, with passion, and he gives you everything he has on every snap," said Vikings GM Rick Spielman. "I don't think that should be a factor because he's shown he can be productive at a high level against some high-level competition. Each team will make its own determination, but we think he's a heck of a football player and that won't be a factor for us."

Griffin will be a busy man when he works out at the combine on Sunday. Per NFL Network's Kimberly Jones, Griffin will do DB drills after he completes his LB drills.

5. The key to Key. LSU pass rusher Arden Key admittedly had a forgettable season last year, but the spectacular sophomore season he enjoyed (12 sacks in 2016) still makes a case for him as one of the draft's most promising pass rushers. Detroit Lions GM Bob Quinn said getting to the root of a player who has shown that kind of inconsistency requires strong relationships with college staffs.

"We've got to take the really good things they do on tape and ask questions of their staff members and people around the player, 'Why wasn't this consistent?' You've got to have trusting people on the (college) coaching staff you can call and get good information (from)," Quinn said. "(They might say) hey, he was injured these four or five games, or he had something going on in his life. You've got to put the puzzle together before you make a selection for a guy like that."

6. Driver's seat. The Indianapolis Colts are in an enviable position not only with the No. 3 overall pick, but because they already have a proven quarterback -- albeit one returning from injury -- in Andrew Luck. That combination could make GM Chris Ballard's phone ring a lot this spring, as teams look to move up in the draft for a quarterback. And if a quarterback or two is drafted ahead of the Colts, that just forces a better player into their options. Still, Ballard said it's yet to be determined how much leverage the club will ultimately hold. "It's too early to say. You don't know what's going to happen at No. 1 and 2. Then you have to know how does everyone else view the quarterbacks in this draft. Do we think we're in a pretty good spot? Yes," he said.

7. Pass pro progress. NFL coaches often lament the transition offensive players must make from the typical college spread offense, but the college emphasis on the passing game apparently has its benefits, too. Running backs are entering the NFL with a better understanding and skill for pass protection. "It's a little easier to do those evaluations. You don't have to search for those snaps as much as you did five, seven years ago," said Detroit Lions GM Bob Quinn.

8. Quotable. "There is an inordinate number of receivers in this draft who are first-, second-, third-round players. But there's not a great group of easily identifiable franchise-type receivers." -- Steelers GM Kevin Colbert on the 2018 wide receiver class.

9. Quick hitters. Nobody can say Jacksonville Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell doesn't know the talent from his own backyard. South Carolina TE Hayden Hurst is a Jacksonville native, and Caldwell made an unsolicited mention of that while answering a question about Hurst's age and maturity. The two-year starter for the Gamecocks will be 25 by the time his rookie season gets underway, thanks to a two-year detour through pro baseball. ... Oklahoma OT Orlando Brown, the son of the late former nine-year pro of the same name, checked in at 6-foot-7 7/8 and 345 pounds at the combine weigh-in, but surprisingly, he wasn't the tallest of the combine O-linemen. UCLA OT Kolton Miller measured 6-8 5/8 as well. ...The Jaguars have enjoyed a top-five pick for six consecutive drafts, but with an AFC title game appearance this year, Jacksonville now finds itself drafting No. 29 overall. "We have to look at a lot more players, that's for sure," Caldwell said.

*Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter **@ChaseGoodbread*.

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