Who wants to run the 40? I'll get my watch.

Who wants to run the 40? I'll get my watch.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Philly football fan’s guide to watching the NFL Combine

Track who the Eagles might draft. Follow how the Temple and Villanova players will do this weekend. Run a 40 yard dash in your basement. It’s the Combine!

The NFL Scouting Combine hits Indianapolis this week, with prospective players set to be poked, prodded and pressured on and off the field, all in a grand effort for scouts and general managers to get some validation for what they see on game film before drafting some of these guys come April.

Is a player worth a first-round pick, or do his measurables not meet the standard? Can he run fast? What’s his 40 time? Is he agile? How are his hips? Are they tight? Is his wingspan sufficient? How big are his hands?

These are the very important bits of information teams are looking for this week — in addition to how the prospects answer tough personal questions, and whether they display professional-level football savvy — and the science of football is on display this week at an event that has become so popular the whole shebang is televised. The on-field drills and interviews, at least.

Eagles QB Carson Wentz threw at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine.

Eagles QB Carson Wentz threw at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Why would people want to give up their weekend to watch a glorified fun-and-fitness day? Here’s the deal, and there’s not a single one of you who will disagree with me on this: NFL fans LOVE to sound smart about the NFL Draft. Being right about a guy is almost as satisfying as your team making a solid pick.

Most Eagles fans had never watched a single game in Carson Wentz’s career, but by the time the Draft rolled around last season those same Birds fans were calling into local radio and debating his footwork and mechanics like they coached him since his Pop Warner days. There is more information than ever about these prospects, and the NFL Combine, for many, is the start of what will be an intense 55 days of football.

Yes, I’m talking about the fans.

The NFL breaks each session down by position group, so it’s very easy for Eagles fans to pop in and track the players you’ve been convinced the Eagles need to draft. There are also a few local prospects at the Combine, so here’s a quick viewer’s guide to when everything goes down.

Big stars

Try to look at this photo and tell me you don't love the Combine.

Try to look at this photo and tell me you don't love the Combine.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL posts a list of invited players each year. Not all of them will perform, especially those who expect to be taken high in the first round. A quarterback may do interviews and get measured, but many, historically, don’t throw. A running back or receiver may do all the field drills, but if he’s not at his fastest, he might not run the 40 at the Combine, instead waiting for his personal Pro Day at his school, where the stop watches might be a little more favorable.

Want a “for instance”? For instance, Corey Davis of Western Michigan, one of the top receiver prospects in this draft class, won’t run this week.

This year is a little like last season for the quarterbacks. Mitch Trubisky of UNC, Deshaun Watson of Clemson and other top quarterbacks have said they will throw, all in hopes of being the first quarterback taken in April, perhaps first overall.

Local hopefuls

Defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon of Villanova at Senior Bowl practice

Defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon of Villanova at Senior Bowl practice

Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

The official NFL Combine invite list includes four players from Temple. Offensive tackle Dion Dawkins will work out with the lineman, and will wear number OL12, for those trying to track the players during drills on Friday. He will be in Group 1.

Cornerback Nate Hairston will be in Group 10, the second-to-last group in the Combine but the first half of the defensive backs, working on Monday. He will be wearing number DB16.

Defensive end Haason Reddick will be in Group 8, working out with the defensive linemen on Sunday, the first of what he hopes will become many NFL Sundays. Reddick will wear DL40.

Running back Jahad Thomas, who rushed for 953 yards and 13 scores last season, is scheduled to work out with the running backs on Friday in Group 3. Thomas will wear RB30.

Temple running back Jahad Thomas

Temple running back Jahad Thomas

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Villanova defensive lineman Tanoh Kpassagnon, recently profiled by Sports Illustrated and projected to be a second-day pick, will be in Group 7, wearing DL 26, and will be in the first group to perform on the field on Sunday.

There are only two Penn State players at the Combine this season. Wide Receiver Chris Godwin will be in Group 4 wearing WO18. He works out on Saturday. Defensive End Garrett Sickels will be in Group 8, wearing DL 43. His group performs on Sunday.

Small schools are often represented at the Combine. There’s a player from Bucknell this season, Julie’n Davenport, who will wear OL11 and work out in Group 1. And there’s a guy from Kutztown, as Jordan Morgan will be in Group 2 of the offensive linemen, wearing OL32. Neither are from schools in Philly, but they’re both more local than Penn State!

The full rundown of players invited to the Combine, and their group and assigned numbers, is listed here.

Eagles Fan’s Watch List

Halapoulivaati Vaitai worked out at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine before being selected by the Eagles.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai (right) worked out at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine before being selected by the Eagles.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
  • Friday on field drills: Offensive Linemen, Running Backs, Specialists
  • Saturday: Quarterbacks and Receivers, Tight Ends
  • Sunday: Defensive Linemen, Linebackers
  • Monday: Defensive Backs

Here’s the fun thing about the Eagles: As much as we all think we know what they’re going to do in the NFL Draft in a few weeks, we really have no clue. A lot will depend on who they sign in free agency, with the little cap space they have available, and more will be determined by how the board shakes out at the top half of the first round.

Do the Eagles need a cornerback? Abso-freaking-lutely. But they also need wide receiver help and while they’ve added a ton of depth on the offensive line last year — they had what looks to be a stellar lineman draft class last season — center Jason Kelce may be on his way out and legendary left tackle Jason Peters probably isn’t too far behind him. If the Eagles have their replacements on the current roster, they sure as heck don’t have those players’ backups. And none of that addresses the turnover on the defensive line and the need for more pass rushers and young linebackers. Oh, and maybe a running back.

Howie Roseman spoke on Wednesday. He didn't say much.

Howie Roseman spoke on Wednesday. He didn't say much.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Most likely, the Eagles will go with a cornerback in the first round and look to get a receiver in free agency and later in the draft. With the bust Nelson Agholor has become, it’s impossible to think — unless the best possible option is on the board — Howie Roseman goes WR again that early. That said, this is a corner-heavy draft, so don’t be shocked if the Eagles wait to get a corner until the second day, or even (gasp) trade back in the first round to get more value.

And that’s why the defensive back groups — Groups 10 and 11 — are the most important to watch. They go through interviews and testing on Sunday, and have their on-field workouts on Monday. Get your live stream going, or maybe call in sick and pull a three-day weekend.

The Combine is in Indy every year. Every year.

The Combine is in Indy every year. Every year.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The receivers work out with the quarterbacks, which gives prospects a good chance to play pitch-and-catch with each other. The receiver groups are crucial to watch this season, because even if the Eagles don’t go with a pass catcher in the first round, there’s a high likelihood they will be drafting more than one this year, as depth is a huge concern at the position. They’re on the field on Saturday and, thankfully, with the local weather looking blustery, there might be a reason to stay inside and toss on the NFL Network.

And yet, you won’t see everyone, but no matter who you miss, the NFL caters to the draftniks, putting all the measurables and even some video highlights up on their Combine tracker page. Because who doesn’t love watching a 340-pound lineman in spandex run the 40 on tape delay?

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