Most years, the NFL Scouting Combine is one of the centerpieces of the predraft process. Hundreds of college football's top players gather annually in Indianapolis to be put through their paces by NFL coaches and scouts.
Until this year, anyway. As a result of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, there won't be a scouting combine. Teams will instead travel in limited numbers to each school's pro day to watch players work out.
It throws quite the monkey wrench into predraft evaluations. A great or poor showing at the combine can have a significant effect on draft stock, shooting players up or down teams' boards.
The combine has long been an event that favors athleticism. The "Underwear Olympics" are won each year by the fastest, strongest and most agile prospects. Missing out on this opportunity to show off in Indianapolis could be a sizable hit to the stock of some of this year's top players, especially those who elected to sit out the 2020 season.
For the prospects listed here, pro days just became a lot more important, because every slot farther down the draft board means less cash on that first contract.
Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
There isn't a player who stood to benefit more from the combine than Trey Lance.
Mind you, Lance will still all but certainly be a first-round pick this year after throwing for 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns without a single interception back in 2019. As Matt Howe reported for 247Sports, ESPN draft expert Todd McShay believes the 6'4", 226-pound Lance is a slightly better pro prospect than Justin Fields.
"Everyone is talking about Justin Fields from Ohio State," McShay said. "They have almost identical grades. They're both mobile, they're both big, they're both strong, they both have strong arms. I think he [Lance] processes the field and sees the field a little bit better than Fields does."
Indianapolis would have afforded Lance an opportunity to hammer McShay's assessment home: to show out against Fields and Clemson's Trevor Lawrence; to offer NFL teams a chance for an apples-to-apples comparison with the top signal-callers in this year's class.
The fact is, we haven't seen Lance take on an elite defense—or even an FBS defense. That difference in the level of competition matters. So does the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic limited Lance to just a single game in 2020, a lackluster performance against Central Arkansas.
It's still a possibility that some QB-needy team will select the lanky and athletic small-school star inside the top 10. But watching him work out at the combine would have made it easier for a GM to justify doing it.
Kyle Trask, QB, Florida
There is no argument that Trevor Lawrence isn't the top prospect at the game's most important position. He's a tier unto himself, and barring an earth-shattering upset, he'll be the first player chosen April 29.
After that, the second tier under center on most draft boards consists of, in some order, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields and Trey Lance. All three will more likely than not be chosen in the first round.
Then, however, the waters muddy. And among the QBs vying to potentially jockey their way into the back end of the draft's first day, Kyle Trask stands out as a player who would have benefitted immensely from a strong performance in Indianapolis.
Trask had a great senior season in Gainesville, completing 68.9 percent of his passes for 4,283 yards with 43 touchdowns against just eight interceptions. He was also named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.