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February 26, 2013

NFL: 10 things from this year's combine

INDIANAPOLIS — Who's the best athlete? The best quarterback? How about the emergence of the read-option and whether it will impact this year's NFL draft and free agency? A rundown of 10 story lines, none of them related to Manti Te'o, from the NFL combine:



1. WHO'S NO. 1?: Expect another shake-up atop the draft board after this weekend's craziness. Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei went home after being diagnosed with a heart condition, cornerback Dee Milliner is preparing for shoulder surgery and offensive tackle Eric Fisher appears to be closing the gap on Luke Joeckel, the presumptive No. 1 pick (hello, Kansas City?). Some analysts are moving guard Chance Warmack and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd into the top five.



2. MEDICAL EXAMS: Nothing is more important at the combine than passing a physical, and nothing can hurt a draft prospect's stock faster than a bad exam. Just ask Lotulelei, who has generally been ranked in the top three since the college season ended. After doctors diagnosed the Utah star with a heart condition, he was sent home to see a specialist. Before he even left town, some teams were already saying he'd be off their draft board if he couldn't get cleared.



3. GOING DEEP: Teams looking for an Andrew Luck or a Robert Griffin III or even a Jake Long will be hard pressed to find a franchise anchor at the top of the 2013 draft. That means the big winners will be the teams looking to fill in around Luck, Griffin or Cam Newton because this year's talent pool runs deep. And teams may find more value in dealing for Alex Smith or Matt Flynn than drafting Geno Smith or Matt Barkley, and those rumors are already flying.



4. HOLD THE LINE: Coaches and general managers often talk about building teams around the line of scrimmage. This year, they can show they mean it. Of the 333 players who attended this week's combine, 112 (33.6 percent) were either offensive or defensive linemen. Fans might want to start learning names like Corey Lemonier (Auburn DE) and Eric Herman (Ohio State OL).

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