2024 NFL Combine Attendees With The Most To Prove

With the NFL Combine just two days away, there’s much to discuss. This year’s event in Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, will again be an important tool in scouting the 2024 NFL draft class. A few of the top prospects have decided not to participate, opening the window for players to upgrade their stock even higher than previously expected. In this article, I’ll go through a few first-round-projected Scouting Combine attendees with the most to prove.

NFL Draft Prospects With the Most to Prove at the Scouting Combine

1. JJ McCarthy – Quarterback, Michigan

No surprise here. JJ McCarthy is the player that draft analysts across TV networks and websites struggle to both fit in prospect big boards and mock drafts. It’s likely a year early for him to come out of the draft, but fresh off a National Championship and with Jim Harbaugh now in the NFL, one can make sense of it. Although the Wolverines did win it all this past year, the offense was rarely centered around its quarterback.

In 15 contests in 2023, McCarthy threw for 2,991 yards, 22 touchdowns, and four interceptions. On paper, those stats don’t look bad, but he was never truly given the keys by Harbaugh. During the most difficult six-game stretch of the season, McCarthy threw for less than 143 yards per game while only throwing four touchdowns over that period. Whether scared of McCarthy or just wanting to manage him, Harbaugh didn’t want McCarthy to screw it up. 

McCarthy has many positive attributes that teams look for in a starter, but the combine will be crucial for McCarthy so teams can get an up-close look at him both on the field and in meeting rooms. If he does well in both aspects, McCarthy could see himself rising to be a top-ten pick. 

2. Laiatu Latu – Defensive End, UCLA

For many different reasons than McCarthy, Laiatu Latu finds himself on the list of combine attendees with the most to prove. There’s no question about Latu’s ability. No one has to watch his tape for long to figure out why he’s been mocked in the first round since the beginning of the process. The lengthy Latu has a true pass rush grade of 94.5, easily one of the highest among top edge prospects. The Lombardi Award winner has an elite frame with a set of pass-rush moves that are refined beyond his years.

In 2023, Latu posted a defensive stat line of 49 tackles 13 sacks, two forced fumbles, and even two interceptions. It’s clear from his tape and statistics that he’s a game-wrecker. The only pause with Latu is his health. His medical history poses a significant risk to teams looking for their future cornerstone pass rusher. After starting his career off at Washington, Latu was forced to medically retire due to a neck injury suffered in the 2020 preseason, forcing him to give up on the sport for two years. 

Although UCLA medically cleared him to come back, there’s no telling what NFL team doctors will say until they check him out for themselves in just a few days. If he gets the thumbs up from team doctors, Latu likely becomes a top-16 lock. If not, there’s no telling how long he may slip. 

3. Quinyon Mitchell – Cornerback, Toledo 

He performed extremely well in the Senior Bowl, but can he do it again, on a bigger stage? Toldeo’s own Quinyon Mitchell showed that he can dominate against worse competition and can at least play up to better competition during the 2024 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. The NFL Combine will be a major deciding factor on whether Mitchell can outperform both top prospects at his position and at wide receiver.

The small school star played extremely well in 2023, almost reminiscent of Sauce Gardner’s last year at Cincinnati. Mitchell’s man coverage grade of 91.6 and proven reliability while in press, could have teams clamoring for another look at him. He mirrors receivers extremely well, something looked for more and more in cornerback prospects.

He possesses an above-average frame for the position at 6’0, 195 pounds. If he runs at or near his projected 40 time of 4.35 and shows the required agility, he could displace Terrion Arnold as most analysts’ CB1. 

Main Image:  Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

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