Here are three thoughts as I get ready to head to Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine:
*How will the Combine impact the draft stock of Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes? Clemson's Deshaun Watson, North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky, and Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer seemingly have drawn a little bit more of the pre-draft discussion than Mahomes. One reason is that NFL teams no doubt have concerns about Mahomes coming from the Red Raiders' Air-Raid offense, which has a history of producing quarterbacks who don't transition well to the next level. But what likely will impress scouts is seeing how well Mahomes, at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, looks the part of a pocket passer. He also figures to win them over with his exceptionally powerful arm. Depending on the type of accuracy he shows during drills, Mahomes probably will generate every bit as much buzz as any QB at the Combine, if not more. Put him on the list of potential Buffalo Bills.
*One player who emerged out of nowhere to become one of the pleasant surprises during Senior Bowl Week in January was Conner Harris, a linebacker from Division II Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo. At 5-foot-11 and 241 pounds, he hardly looked the part of an elite athlete ready to make the jump (gigantic leap?) to NFL competition. Almost everyone around him was taller and more athletic-looking. The other linebackers were simply more imposing figures who, to the naked eye, belonged in a showcase for a spot on an NFL roster. Harris was someone who made you assume he was simply invited to participate because of a shortage of bodies. But once practices began, he showed he was right at home with some of the best players at the collegiate level. Scouts loved his exceptional quickness and ability to almost effortlessly chase down plays sideline to sideline. There was a reason Harris made collegiate history by being credited with 663 career tackles. This is another one to put on the list of potential Bills.
*There might not be a more intriguing prospect than Utah offensive tackle Garrett Bolles. For starters, he's 25, which is two to three years older than typical college prospects. Nothing is typical about Bolles. Rather than play football after high school, he went on a mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After that, he spent two years playing football at tiny Snow College in Central Utah, then transferred to the University of Utah last year, his only season as a major-college player. Despite his inexperience against big-time competition, Bolles looks to have remarkable blocking skills, aided greatly by a nimbleness that belies his 6-5, 297-pound frame. He also is a highly aggressive player, showing a nasty temperament that NFL teams like their offensive linemen to have. Bolles' mindset is more about knocking down defenders rather than merely stopping them. It's easy to picture this guy fitting in nicely on the Richie Incognito-led Bills line.