Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams watches as players run a...

Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams watches as players run a drill at the NFL football scouting combine, Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Indianapolis. Credit: AP/Michael Conroy

INDIANAPOLIS — The NFL scouting combine's evolution from hidden gem into the league's second-most anticipated offseason event has come with all sorts of twists.

The question is whether this year's new ones could affect future combines.

All-American receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. skipped media interviews, while Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Caleb Williams took the highly unusual step of opting out of the medical exams — a primary reason for holding the combine each year.

Harrison and Williams are both expected to be selected in the top five of April’s draft. And while their rankings are unlikely to affected by their opt-outs, it could raise questions with teams. The Chicago Bears hold the No. 1 overall pick.

It also will force Williams to endure multiple exams.

“I'll be doing the medical stuff, just not here in Indianapolis,” Williams said Friday, who like Harrison does not have an agent. “I'll be doing them at the team interviews. Thirty-two teams cannot draft me, there is only one of me, so the teams I go to for my visit, those teams will have the medicals. That's it.”

There are also the potential long-term ramifications for Williams.

Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams watches as players run a...

Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams watches as players run a drill at the NFL football scouting combine, Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Indianapolis. Credit: AP/Michael Conroy

Teams invest significant resources into evaluating players, particularly quarterbacks, and refer to those scouting reports when considering free agent deals or trades.

Franchises without Williams' initial medical reports could be missing a key component for those future decisions — should his career not work out with whatever team drafts him.

“You want to have a thorough evaluation on all the players because you go back to those, and you look at those evaluations as those guys grow in the league and go through free agency,” Bears coach Matt Eberflus said last week.

But will it become a trend? Combine organizers, team executives and coaches won't know till everyone returns to Indy next winter.

Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy runs the 40-yard dash at...

Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy runs the 40-yard dash at the NFL football scouting combine, Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Indianapolis. Credit: AP/Michael Conroy

STOCK RISING

Xavier Worthy's record-breaking 4.21-second, 40-yard dash Saturday night provided the weekend's most electrifying moment.

But the former Texas star wasn't the only big winner in Indy — or even among this crowded group of talented receivers.

Brian Thomas Jr. of LSU and Devontez Walker of North Carolina both showed their speed by running 40s in 4.33 and 4.36 seconds. Rome Odunze of Washington was impressive on the field — and during his media interviews.

National championship game quarterbacks J.J. McCarthy of Michigan and Michael Penix Jr. of Washington threw well, and offensive tackle Joe Alt of Notre Dame matched the top-10 hype.

Cornerbacks Nate Wiggins of Clemson (4.28 seconds) and Quinyon Mitchell of Toledo (4.33) had strong 40s, while former Texas defensive tackles Byron Murphy II and T'Vondre Sweat cemented their status as two of the top players at their position.

STOCK FALLING

Edge rusher Bralen Trice arrived nearly 30 pounds lighter than his playing weight at Washington, but didn't look any more athletic without the extra weight.

Receiver Troy Franklin of Oregon didn't help himself during the “gauntlet” drill by weaving near the 30-yard line rather than hugging the line as he should have and Keon Campbell of Florida State ran the second-slowest 40 of any receiver, 4.61 seconds.

Penn State cornerback Kalen King also needs to perform better at his pro day after posting the same 4.61 as Coleman.

LEADERS AND RECORD BREAKERS

Michigan followed its title run by sending a record 18 players to the combine.

In addition to McCarthy, running back Blake Corum, receivers Cornelius Johnson and Roman Wilson and a bevy of defenders including linebacker Junior Colson and defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, the Wolverines also had six offensive linemen get invites.

“It’s pretty wild, actually. You can only start five on the offensive line, right?" said Drake Nugent, one of the six. “It’s just a credit to who we were as a whole room, not just the starting five but Trente Jones as the sixth man, he had to deal with that tight end role the first three quarters of the year.”

INJURY WATCH

Quarterback Jordan Travis of Florida State, guard Zak Zinter of Michigan and cornerback Cooper DeJean of Iowa did not work out as they recover from injuries. Running back Rasheen Ali of Marshall sat out with a ruptured biceps he suffered at the Senior Bowl.

NFL Network also reported several others were injured in Indy.

Former Penn State offensive tackle Olumuyiwa Fashanau hurt his right thigh and former Georgia offensive tackle Amarius Mims hurt his right hamstring on Sunday. Wiggins pulled out of the workouts following Friday's 40 with a bad hip flexor.

Doctors also diagnosed injuries to two players during their medical exams. Cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry of Alabama was found to have a fractured foot and they found receiver Ainias Smith of Texas A&M had a stress fracture in his left shin.

UP NEXT

With the Senior Bowl and combine now complete, scouts, coaches and team decision-makers head into a busy pro day and free agent season. Teams can officially start signing new players March 13, and the NFL draft will be held April 25-27 in Detroit.

More football news

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months
ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME