NFL Combine Rumor Mill by Pat Yasinskas. Check back for daily updates or follow Pat @PatYaz33.
Pat will be covering the Combine, so he'll have more interviews and rumor-mill updates. You can see any updates posted on the NFL Draft Scouting Combine home page.
Cowboys Show Interest in DeForest Buckner
You generally shouldn't put too much stock into which players interview with which teams at the NFL scouting combine.
Just about every team meets with every prospect to do their due diligence. But here's one you can put some stock into and file away: The Dallas Cowboys have a legitimate interest in Oregon defensive lineman DeForest Buckner. He met with the Cowboys, who hold the fourth pick in the draft, on Thursday night, and came away with a good feeling.
"I feel like they're really interested in me, that they see a lot of good things in me," Buckner said. "But they also showed film of some of the things I wasn't doing right and I have to fix."
Buckner is one of the top-rated defensive linemen in the draft and could be available when the Cowboys pick. Buckner has a pretty clear and confident vision of what the team that drafts him will be getting.
"I'm one of the best D-linemen in this draft," Buckner said. "I played in every technique possible from nose to rushing outside. I can do everything. I can stop the run. I can also rush the passer. They can get a complete defensive lineman when they pick me."
Buckner's confidence shouldn't come as a surprise. It was on display all last season.
"I felt like a bully on the field," Buckner said. "I was just more comfortable. I knew coming into this season I could really have my way with some guys. When I stepped on the field, I just tried to be a bully."
Myles Jack Expects to Be Ready for Pro Day
For UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, the hardest part of the NFL scouting combine wasn't the workout.
That's because he didn't work out, as he is still recovering from a knee injury he suffered last season. Instead, the hardest part came on the medical side. He spent most of Friday having his knee poked and prodded.
"They were pretty blunt as far as twisting my knee, 'Does that hurt?'" Jack said. "But it was fine. They were trying to be real aggressive with it to make it hurt. But it was fine."
Jack expects to be medically cleared March 11 and said he'll be a "full go" for his Pro Day four days later. Jack said he'll do all the tests at his Pro Day and hopes to run the 40-yard dash in 4.5 or 4.6 seconds.
Jack is one of the top-rated linebackers in the draft, but teams have obvious questions about his knee. He plans to answer those questions at his Pro Day and said it wouldn't be wise for teams to pass on him because of the knee.
"That would be a big mistake if they slept on me," Jack said.
Noah Spence: Drugs Were Never an Addiction
There was a time when Noah Spence thought he never would see the NFL scouting combine.
That was back when he was kicked out of Ohio State after multiple failed drug tests. Now, Spence is at the combine, and he's one of the top-rated defensive ends in the country.
"I feel blessed to be in this situation," Spence said. "I didn't think I'd even be back here."
Spence's story is one of redemption. He put himself back on the map by transferring to Eastern Kentucky, producing on the field and passing weekly drug tests. Spence is viewed as a top-10 talent and has been tied to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in multiple mock drafts. But he has to make teams comfortable that his problems are in the past.
He's met with multiple teams at the combine, and the questions about his past keep coming.
"With anybody that's had a substance-abuse problem, I feel like they're pretty wary about it," Spence said. "You have to convince teams it's behind you."
Spence has been pointing to his drug tests and telling teams he has grown up.
"Honestly, it was more like me going to parties and doing it while I was at parties," Spence said. "It was never really an addiction."
Spence said it wasn't that hard to stay out of trouble once he made the commitment.
"I put my focus more on football," Spence said. "There was a group of people I couldn't hang with. I had to be more to myself and stay away from that party scene."
Spence said he has handled all the questions the same way - by being honest.
"They're all questions I knew were coming so just answer them," Spence said.
A'Shawn Robinson Looks to Set Self Apart From DTs
Coaches and scouts are raving about how this class of defensive tackles is the best in years.
So how does Alabama's A'Shawn Robinson plan on separating himself from the pack?
"My strength, power, the way I use my hands and my athleticism," Robinson said. "I'm just trying to show off my athleticism (at the scouting combine). Hopefully, they like my film of getting off blocks and using my hands."
Robinson has been tied to the New Orleans Saints in multiple mock drafts. Although he would seem like a logical fit in the middle, Robinson said he wouldn't be opposed to moving to defensive end in a 3-4 scheme (which the Saints play).
Robinson said he believes he has pass-rush skills, which he didn't get to show off in college. Robinson said he sees himself as a three-technique player in a 4-3 scheme.
Robert Nkemdiche Says He Wasn't Using Marijuana
Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche has been getting grilled by every team he meets with about an incident in which he fell out of an Atlanta hotel window. He was charged with marijuana possession.
On Friday, Nkemdiche gave his story of what happened to the media.
"I was drunk," Nkemdiche said.
He went on to deny that he was under the influence of marijuana.
"People who know me know that's not who I am," Nkemdiche said.
He said there were other Ole Miss players in the room at the time of the incident, including possible No. 1 pick Laremy Tunsil. It wasn't widely known previously that Tunsil was in the room. I can't imagine Tunsil is very happy with Nkemdiche for sharing that detail.
Joey Bosa: I'm Best Player in Draft
Opinions on Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa vary greatly.
Some scouts say he's the best player in the draft. Some say he's a top-five guy while others see him as more of a top-10 guy. But Bosa has a very clear idea where he should rank.
"I do believe I'm the best player in the draft," Bosa said Friday at the scouting combine. "There of course are a lot of amazing players in the draft and it's going to be up to Tennessee to make that decision. But I think as a top player if you don't believe that there's kind of something wrong."
Bosa said he believes he will bring a unique skill set to whatever team drafts him.
"I think I bring the best pass-rusher, the best defensive lineman in the country," Bosa said. "I'm obviously coming to whatever team drafts me to help them win and help them eventually make it to the Super Bowl."
Bosa was a 4-3 end in college, and that could hurt his chances of going early in the draft. Most teams with early picks run 3-4 defenses. But Bosa said he's been working out some at outside linebacker in the 3-4 and thinks he could be comfortable standing up.
Broncos Not Rushing Peyton Manning's Decision
Although the start of the league year is rapidly approaching, the Denver Broncos aren't pushing quarterback Peyton Manning to make a decision about his future.
"I met with Peyton a couple nights ago and we had a good talk," general manager John Elway said Thursday at the scouting combine. "We're going to give him as much time as he needs and he still needs more time. We're going to afford him that time. He's earned that after 18 years in the league. We'll continue to do that. That's where he left it. We'll stay in touch and in the next week or two we'll get back together. It's still in his court. We're still going to give him that time. Let him enjoy the (Super Bowl) win. It's only been 2 1/2 weeks since we won."
Complicating matters is the fact that backup Brock Osweiler is scheduled to become a free agent when the league year begins March 9. Elway said he wants to re-sign Osweiler no matter if Manning retires or returns for another year.
"We're really not in a hurry," Elway said. "Everything is still real fluid. We know where Brock is. Brock knows what we have to offer. We still have a great deal of interest in Brock. We'd like to do something with Brock. We'll start down those tracks. We'll start talking to Brock about his contract and see what we can do there. But with that in mind, also afford Peyton the time that he deserves. We're not in any rush."
Osweiler started seven games when Manning was hurt last year and Elway was impressed.
"We were excited about what we saw," Elway said. "When you look at the seven games he started, he made some good strides. You never know what a quarterback can do until he gets in there under the gun. I think that he proved a lot to us. He's a tough guy. He's a guy that stands in there and can make all the throws. I was really excited with the way Brock played. We wouldn't be world champions without Brock."
Seahawks Not Locked into a Running Back
A lot of people are expecting the Seattle Seahawks to draft a running back to replace the retired Marshawn Lynch.
That could well happen. But coach Pete Carroll said at the Combine Thursday that there is a strong in-house candidate to take Lynch's spot. That would be Thomas Rawls.
"Thomas is going to get a shot at it," Carroll said. "He can make a statement that he really belongs. We love his style. He's a great kid. I can't imagine that he's not going to be right in the middle of it. I don't know who else is going to be with the team, but he's coming in as the guy that we're looking to hand the football to."
Carson Wentz Wants to Be First Quarterback Drafted
As they've trained together in California the last six weeks, North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz and California quarterback Jared Goff have developed a friendly rivalry.
Each wants to be the first quarterback taken in the draft.
"As a competitor, everyone wants to be the top guy," Wentz said Thursday at the scouting combine. "There's no doubt about it."
One thing appears certain. Either Wentz or Goff will be the first quarterback drafted. Scouts disagree on which one should go first, but there is universal agreement that they're the top two quarterbacks in the draft.
However, Wentz said going first isn't all that matters to him.
"But what matters to me is a team that picks me and believes in me," Wentz said. "I want to go in somewhere that they believe in myself to be the franchise quarterback whether right away or down the road. That's what's important to me. I want to go in a good situation and get good coaching."
Goff is the glamour guy. He excelled at a big-time college program. Wentz is the underdog after playing at an FBS program. But Wentz is confident he can make the transition to the NFL.
"I think guys like Joe Flacco and Tony Romo help," Wentz said. "There are a lot of talented guys at the FBS level that can play. Especially a guy like Flacco coming in early and winning some games shows that adjustment can be made by special players."
Wentz, who won two FBS championships in college, said he has a clear vision of what it takes to be a franchise quarterback.
"First and foremost, you've got to win," Wentz said. "Being a winner in the NFL, that will take you places. I think for me coming out of North Dakota State I think the track record speaks for itself as a winner. When I think of a franchise quarterback, I think of the physical ability, but I think being a winner, being a leader, taking command, all those things really come into it."
Laquon Treadwell Explains Why He's Not Running the 40 at the Combine
Scouts from several teams said they're disappointed that Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell has decided not to run the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine.
Treadwell is considered one of the top receivers in the draft. But, if there's a knock on him, it's his speed. Questions about his speed will have to wait until his Pro Day for answers.
Treadwell said his decision not to run came down to wanting more time to work on his speed.
"I'm learning my technique," Treadwell said. "I figure if I have enough time to work on it, I'll get the time I want. I've just got to do what's best for me right now. I think it's all going to work out if I work my hardest."
Treadwell has been working out in Miami and said he'll be satisfied if he gets his 40 time into the low 4.5s by his Pro Day.
Jared Goff Laughs Off Concern About Small Hands
California quarterback Jared Goff laughed off reports that scouts are concerned he has small hands Thursday.
Goff's hands were measured at nine inches. That's relatively small for a quarterback. For comparisons sake, North Dakota State's Carson Wentz had his hands measured at 10 inches.
"I've been told I have pretty big hands my whole life," Goff said. "I heard I had small hands yesterday. I've never had a problem with that. I've played football my whole life and never had any problems."
Most scouts see Goff and Wentz as the top two quarterbacks in the draft. Both are projected to be among the top-10 picks. Goff's hands may be small, but he's not short on confidence.
"I think my accuracy is one of my best attributes," Goff said. "I've been pretty accurate my whole life."
Goff said he believes he can bring a lot to the NFL team that drafts him.
"Tremendous leadership," Goff said. "Hard working. I feel I can improve a team. I can play right away and I can sit and learn if I have to. I'm excited about whatever team drafts me."
A Hackenberg/O'Brien Reunion?
The tie is more than logical.
The Houston Texans need a quarterback. Houston coach Bill O'Brien has history with Penn State's Christian Hackenberg.
So, it's a natural that the Texans draft Hackenberg, right? Not so fast. O'Brien went out of his way to speak in generic terms about Hackenberg as he was asked about 10 questions about the quarterback at the scouting combine Thursday morning.
"He's talented, smart and I enjoyed coaching him his first year at Penn State," O'Brien said.
That was about as close to tipping his hand as O'Brien came. But I think he was blowing smoke. I think there's a good chance the Texans take Hackenberg in the middle rounds.
O'Brien and Hackenberg had only one year together at Penn State, but it was a very successful season. Hackenberg came in and quickly picked up O'Brien's pro-style offense. At the time, many saw Hackenberg as a potential top-overall pick when he came out in the draft.
"I had a great bunch of older guys who really brought me along," Hackenberg said. "The system fit great and it was one of those things where I had a guy like Allen Robinson to throw to. I had a lot of people around me that made it a good transition for me and allowed me to make a good transition knowing the offense."
But Hackenberg's sophomore and junior years didn't go nearly as well, as new coach James Franklin came in and installed a new offense that wasn't suited to Hackenberg's skills.
"We had a lot of issues with the sanctions, a lot of depth issues and we were trying to figure things out," Hackenberg said. "We were trying to be as successful as we could. At the end of the day, I think we overachieved given the circumstances we were in. It was a great learning process for me."
When Hackenberg declared himself eligible for the draft, he put out a press release. He thanked six or seven people. Franklin was not one of them, and that led to speculation about hard feelings between the quarterback and coach.
"It was one of those times that was really emotional," Hackenberg said. "I didn't have anything written out. What came to mind was the people who spent a lot of time with and the people that brought me to Penn State. Coach Franklin and I had a conversation. I thanked him personally. That's what I thought was best for our relationship. We're fine. No hard feelings there."
But Hackenberg admitted that he had to deal with adversity.
"I was able to work through adversity," Hackenberg said. "I think adversity really shapes who you are. Success is easy to roll with but how you respond with adversity is huge."
Hackenberg said he wouldn't mind playing for O'Brien again.
"I think it's a great opportunity," Hackenberg said. "But at the end of the day I'm just trying to be the best prospect that I can be. I want to impress as many football teams as I can."
Jaguars High on Dak Prescott
Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott hasn't worked out at the scouting combine yet. But he already has impressed one NFL coach.
That's Jacksonville's Gus Bradley, who coached Prescott at the Senior Bowl.
"One of the things I can tell you about him is he's a natural leader," Bradley said. "The guys really gravitated towards him. I was very impressed with him as far as how he handled himself, as far as being a natural leader and his skill set. It was great to have a chance to work with him. It will be interesting to see how he does here. This is a level playing field. It's a competitive environment. Just being with him for the short period of time we were, I think he'll have a very good week."
The Jaguars aren't in the market for a starting quarterback because they have the young and promising Blake Bortles. But, if Prescott is available in the middle rounds, the Jaguars could look to him as a backup.
Panthers Don't Believe They Need to Draft Wide Receiver
Wide receiver is a position that a lot of people are saying the Carolina Panthers need to address in the draft.
But general manager Dave Gettleman doesn't seem to think so. Gettleman has drafted a receiver early each of the last two years and he thinks those moves are about to pay off.
Kelvin Benjamin, a first-round pick in 2014, will be back after missing last season with a torn ACL. That will give the Panthers a true No. 1 wide receiver. Gettleman said Benjamin will be ready for training camp.
"Kelvin has worked his fanny off," Gettleman said. "He really has taken the bull by the horns. Like any other young kid it took him a couple weeks to get over the woe-is-me stuff and understand it's time to go. He'll be doing some things this spring and he'll be ready for training camp."
Gettleman also made it sound like the Panthers are counting on second-year pro Devin Funchess to emerge as the No. 2 receiver. Funchess got off to a slow start last year, but Gettleman said the Panthers liked what they saw out of Funchess down the stretch.
If Funchess can claim the No. 2 job, speedster Ted Ginn would be free to play in the slot, where he's perfectly suited.
Derrick Henry Weighs in at 247
Derrick Henry has a Heisman Trophy and a national championship. So why do many scouts see the Alabama running back falling to the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft?
In a weird way, that could be the best thing to happen to Henry. He said he's not bothered about being slighted when people talk about the running backs in this draft. In fact, he feeds off it.
"It fuels me every day," Henry said Wednesday at the scouting combine.
The lack of attention might provide some inspiration for Henry. But he has some other business to take care of before the draft.
Henry said he was shocked when he weighed in Wednesday morning. He checked in at 247 pounds. That's too much, he said.
"I need to get that down to 240," Henry said.
Giants Still High on Jason Pierre-Paul
One of the most interesting free agents to be is Jason Pierre-Paul.
The New York Giants defensive end is scheduled to become a free agent March 9 and his future is very uncertain. It remains to be seen if Pierre-Paul still commands big money after damaging his hand in a fireworks accident last summer.
That doesn't look like it's going to happen. Although Pierre-Paul still has rare quickness, but scouts said he wasn't the same player after damaging the hand. It's likely teams will try to get Pierre-Paul to accept a "prove it" deal.
But that's only if he actually hits free agency. There still is a possibility Pierre-Paul could re-sign with the Giants. Coach Ben McAdoo said at the NFL scouting combine that he remains high on Pierre-Paul.
"I've spoken to Jason a couple of different times so far throughout the offseason, and we'll have to see how that goes," McAdoo said. "It was obvious when Jason came back last year how disruptive he was. When you look at him, his ability to get off the ball and get after the quarterback is easy to see. That's something that comes naturally to him, and I don't see that changing anytime soon."
Titans Hint Toward Laremy Tunsil
The Tennessee Titans dropped some hints about what they plan to do with the first overall pick in the draft.
Speaking to the media at the scouting combine, general manager Jon Robinson and Mike Mularkey wouldn't offer any firm plans. But, if you listen to what they had to say, Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil seems like the favorite to be the pick.
That's because the Titans want to do a better job of protecting second-year quarterback Marcus Mariota.
"The quarterback is the most important position on the team, and it's imperative that you keep him upright," Robinson said.
The Titans currently have Taylor Lewan, a first-round pick two years ago, at left tackle. But Mularkey made it sound like Lewan could move to right tackle if the team drafts Tunsil.
"I think Taylor can play a lot of places," Mularkey said. "He's a very good football player. I can see (right tackle) if that was a scenario that came up, yes. His athletic ability allows him to do multiple things.
Dan Quinn Explains Unusual Move
Earlier this offseason, Atlanta coach Dan Quinn made a highly curious move to his coaching staff.
He shifted defensive backs coach Raheem Morris to wide receivers coach. That was strange because Morris has no experience on the offensive side of the ball. Morris played defensive back in college and coached the position for the Buccaneers before becoming Tampa Bay's head coach.
The move was made at a quiet time of year, and Quinn had no media availability to explain the move. That changed Wednesday as Quinn met with the media at the scouting combine. Quinn said he wasn't hesitant to move Morris.
"I think the background on him defensively and then as a head coach where he was involved in the offense gives them some unique perspective," Quinn said. "His ability to teach is like no other. I knew the teacher first, what type of coach he is. And then from the scheme standpoint, we'll get that across. I wanted to hire the very best coach and it just so happened that he was on the staff."
Quinn said Morris was more than agreeable in making the move.
"He said 'Q, whatever we need to make the best move for us, then I'll do it'," Quinn said. "I've got a lot of appreciation and admiration for Rah. I just had this feeling. I know what type of teacher he is. I know what kind of energy he brings and having that defensive background I thought would be really valuable."
Josh Norman to Return to Panthers in 2016
One way or another, Josh Norman will be with the Carolina Panthers in 2016.
That's the firm message general manager Dave Gettleman sent out about the Pro Bowl cornerback as he met with the media at the scouting combine. Norman can become a free agent on March 9, but Gettleman said he's not going to let that happen.
Gettleman said the goal remains signing Norman to a long-term contract. But Gettleman also said the Panthers could use the franchise tag on Norman if a long-term deal can't be worked out.
"I don't believe in drafting and developing players for other teams," Gettleman said. "For some reason, it doesn't make sense. We're going to have the conversation and we're going to do the best we can. Nothing has changed. We're going to try to get a deal done. If not, there are options and maybe the tag gets used."
Colin Kaepernick "Absolutely" on 49ers Roster in 2016
Colin Kaepernick had a rough 2015 season, prompting speculation that the quarterback will remain with the San Francisco 49ers.
But general manager Trent Baalke put an end to that situation on Wednesday as he addressed the media at the scouting combine. Baalke said Kaepernick "absolutely" will be on the roster in 2016. Baalke also said he sees Kaepernick's skills being a "perfect marriage" with the up-tempo offense that new coach Chip Kelly is installing.
After Kaepernick lost his starting job to Blaine Gabbert last year, there was speculation that Kaepernick would be released. His $11.9 million salary becomes guaranteed on April 1.
But the 49ers apparently believe that Kelly can turn around Kaepernick's career. That sets up a preseason battle for the starting job between Kaepernick and Gabbert. The fact that Kaepernick is earning a large salary makes him the favorite to be the starter.
Hue Jackson on Johnny Manziel
It has been known for several weeks that the Cleveland Browns are going to wash their hands of troubled quarterback Johnny Manziel.
They haven't done it yet, but coach Hue Jackson made the team's strongest statement yet on Manziel. Speaking to the media at the NFL scouting combine, Jackson made it sound like releasing Manziel is a certainty.
"That behavior will not be tolerated as we move forward," Jackson said. "Our organization is going to take a stand."
Manziel has had numerous off-field incidents in his two years with the Browns. In the latest episode, police in Texas are investing Manziel after an altercation with his girlfriend.
Doug Martin Contract Talks
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will meet with the agent for free-agent running back Doug Martin during this week's scouting combine.
Martin, who finished second in the league in rushing, is eligible to become a free agent March 2. General manager Jason Licht said talks have been ongoing,
"We have a couple things going for us," Licht said Wednesday. "We want him to be a Buc and he wants to be a Buc. I feel optimistic about it but there's always going to be an obstacle. You have to prepared either way."
Martin is believed to be seeking a deal similar to what Philadelphia's DeMarco Murray got last year. The Bucs also have the option of placing the franchise tag on Martin.
In other news, Licht said veteran wide receiver Vincent Jackson will remain with the team and will not be asked to take a cut in pay. Jackson is scheduled to count $12.2 million against this year's salary cap.
"We really like Vincent," Licht said. "I know the elephant in the room seems to be his contract. But his contract is not hindering us and it's not stopping from doing things that we may do in free agency. Right now it's not an issue."
Peyton Manning's Future in Denver
The start of free agency is rapidly approaching, but the Denver Broncos still don't know who their quarterback will be.
Speaking to the media at the NFL Scouting Combine, coach Gary Kubiak said Peyton Manning hasn't decided whether he wants to stay with the team. Manning, 39, could decide to retire. But the Broncos aren't rushing Manning to make a decision.
"We want him to take his time and think through things and enjoy what has just taken place," Kubiak said. "Nothing has changed from that standpoint. He and John have been talking. I had a brief conversation with him and we'll be talking again probably today. We want him to take his time and we'll work together."
Denver's quarterback situation is further complicated by the fact that backup Brock Osweiler can become a free agent in March. Osweiler started seven games while Manning was injured last year and played well. Kubiak said he hopes to keep Osweiler no matter what happens with Manning.
"Brock has a bright future," Kubiak said. "He did some really good things for us starting seven games. We want him to be a part of our football team."