Matthew Berry’s 25 Most Interesting Things He Heard At 2024 NFL Combine

I’ve told the story about my first NFL Combine before but it bears repeating, updating and adding some more context.

Prior to 2014, I had never been to an NFL Combine. I was doing both fantasy football and fantasy baseball for ESPN back then and come early March, when the Combine was in those days, I was already knee deep in pre-season fantasy baseball coverage. Can’t go to the Combine, I was told, we need some rankings and a pre-season Love/Hate.

While fantasy baseball was my first love, the truth is, over the years I kept gravitating more and more to football to the point where I just wanted to do football all the time. My baseball work was still well received and highly trafficked so it was a constant conversation… one that I lost every year, lol.

But then in early 2014, as part of a new contract negotiation I was able to negotiate that I no longer had to do baseball coverage but could just focus on football.

And that meant I would finally be able to go to the NFL Combine. At this point I think most everyone is aware, but for the new kids in class, the Combine really serves two purposes. Yes, it’s a chance for NFL teams to watch drills, measure, evaluate, time and interview potential draft picks. But it’s also, for a lack of a better way to describe it, the annual NFL Convention.

Almost every coach, executive, PR person, medical staff, team front office, and personnel person in the league is there, along with the beat reporters for every team and national NFL media, plus many others. There’s not a lot of fan interaction and it’s in the middle of downtown Indianapolis, so it’s the one time a year where everyone is in the same place, with no pressures of the regular season and they can somewhat relax and visit. Everyone is very approachable and it’s an incredible place for networking and information gathering.

Everyone goes.

Except, you know, the fantasy football nerds.

For years, the Combine was for, you know, REAL FOOTBALL PEOPLE.

That has changed, as now there are a decent amount of folks from the fantasy industry in attendance, but the very first year I went, I saw no other fantasy football folks.

Everywhere I went, people asked, "What's the fantasy guy doing here?"

I’ve mentioned this before, but when I was at ESPN, I was NOT part of the company’s NFL coverage. For whatever reason they didn’t feel like the NFL and fantasy football really mixed, so I had different bosses and was in a different org chart than those that covered the NFL. So, in essence, I had to go there by myself. I remember running into Josina Anderson, then a member of the ESPN’s NFL coverage (she is now at CBS Sports) and her asking me if I was going to the team dinner that night.

“What team dinner?”

So, yeah. I was there alone, the only fantasy football guy, feeling out of place, awkward and intimidated, like the nerd who somehow had crashed the jocks' party and any minute they would realize I wasn't supposed to be there.

I had real "new kid in school" vibes, with no idea what to do, where to go, who to talk to, how to just, you know, "Combine."

So I reached out to Peter King. Peter was running The MMQB at that point and was already very well established as THE legend in the space. I didn't know Peter very well back then, but we followed each other on Twitter and I knew Peter played fantasy football, so I took a chance and slid into his DMs. I asked Peter if I could get 10 minutes on the phone to ask his advice on how to get the most out of the NFL Combine.

Peter said nonsense. He insisted we grab a beer the first day of the Combine. We spent two hours together, and he gave me a crash course in what was useful, what wasn't, and how to navigate the awesome but sprawling and confusing world of the NFL Combine. And when he found out I was there alone, he insisted I come to the SI/Monday Morning QB team dinner he was hosting.

And the next day, he invited me to walk with him as he went through the Combine. No one knows who the hell I am, but they all know Peter King. Every GM, every coach, every scout, every agent approached him (not the other way around), and Peter, without fail, introduced me and made sure I was able to get a question answered and a phone number.

Who does that?

Peter King does that.


I mean, come on. While Peter is in a class by himself, in theory I'm a competitor, right? Certainly, at the time, was a competitor of Peter's (then) MMQB site and And we don't know each other very well. I'm ESPN's problem. Let someone there invite me out and walk me around, right? Or not.

What should he care? I'm not his problem. He owes me nothing. A 10-minute phone call would have been more than generous. He spent decades building up contacts, experience, and a massive stature in the industry. And he's gonna share that with stupid me?

Seriously, who does that?

Peter King does that.

Not just for me. For everyone. He’s THAT dude, you know?

Shout out to Dan Graziano and Jason Reid (now at Andscape), two national NFL reporters and awesome human beings at ESPN who also were incredibly kind and gracious and took me around that first year. But back to Peter.

When I was thinking about my next move after ESPN, NBC was obviously one of the places I was considering. So I called Peter. We talked for a long while and Peter gave NBC the hard sell, telling me how much he loved it here and how he could easily see me working well here but also really enjoying it. Of course, I took Peter’s advice and of course, he was right. He always is.

Fast forward to this year’s Combine and, not surprisingly, Peter’s retirement announcement just a few days was the talk of the Combine. For the first time in forever, Peter did NOT attend the Combine.

“Why not?,” people asked me (and others)? “It would have been an incredible victory lap for him.”

That’s exactly why he didn’t do it. If you know Peter at all you know that’s the last thing he would want. It’s never about Peter.

NBC Sports set up a camera so that any NFL coach or general manager that wanted to could record a quick note to Peter, and not surprisingly, every single one of them wanted to. And that was good for me, because when they were done paying respects to Peter’s legendary career, I was able to say, “Hey, while you’re here, if you have time, would you mind if I asked you a few questions?” Many of them said, “You bet.”

Amazing. Even when he’s not there, Peter King is still helping me at the NFL Combine.

In addition to doing exclusive interviews with:

  • Chiefs head coach Andy Reid: WATCH

  • Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson: WATCH

  • Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski: WATCH

  • New Commanders head coach Dan Quinn: WATCH

  • New Chargers general manager Joe Hortiz: WATCH

We also did a full Fantasy Football Happy Hour show from the NFL Combine.

But perhaps the most important thing I did happened in hallways, in back corners, at restaurants, and bars at night. A simple question to my friends, contacts and sources in and around the league.

What have you heard?

I always continue with some version of this: “Hey, this is just us bs-ing. I’m not a journalist, don’t claim to be, I’m not gonna report any of this as news.”

What you are about to read is all gossip, rumors and reasonably-informed speculation.

Maybe it turns out true, maybe it doesn’t. I will say, however, over the years, this column has a pretty good track record. It was the first column to suggest Tom Brady would leave New England for Tampa Bay in 2020, which is probably my greatest hit. That year, everyone was split on whether Brady would leave New England, but the Buccaneers as a destination wasn’t on the radar AT ALL.

Last year, this column correctly predicted Russell Wilson was on a one-year audition and that the Broncos and Sean Payton would likely release him in 2024 unless he was awesome in 2023, that Dan Snyder would actually sell the Commanders (he was still hanging tough back then), that the Jets would go after Aaron Rodgers instead of Derek Carr, who, at the time, was the consensus favorite, that Jerome Ford and not consensus D’Ernest Johnson was the Browns backup to Nick Chubb you wanted, that the Falcons wanted to draft a RB despite Tyler Allgeier’s impressive rookie season and that Dalton Schultz (Cowboys), David Montgomery (Bears) and Miles Sanders (Eagles) would all be on new teams.

Of course, the column also mentioned that Matthew Stafford was going to retire and that my Commanders would be in on Lamar Jackson among other misses. So yeah.

Nothing you will read below is anything more than rumors, gossip and highly-educated guesses. To be clear, I haven’t got a second source or confirmed ANY OF THE BELOW.

This is a column entirely about me asking some pointed questions with a distinct fantasy football point of view and in some cases, reading the tea leaves in folks’ answers.

So that’s what this column is. NOT NEWS. It is unsubstantiated nuggets and tidbits I picked up, mixed in with my interpretation of what some of the coaches and general managers said from the podium during their public press conferences.

Enough caveats for you? Good. Last thing I’ll say here is I want to give a shout out to my buddies Alex Dunlap and Cody Carpentier of RosterWatch. Many times during the Combine multiple coaches and general managers speak at the same time, making it impossible to catch everyone. So, in some cases below, when I refer to something said from a podium by a coach or GM I am relying on their always excellent coverage. Check them out when you get a chance and follow them on Twitter/X.

Ok. Let’s get to it.

Here are the 25 most interesting things I heard at the 2024 NFL Combine:

1. When they bury me, my fantasy grave will read: “Here lies Matthew Berry. He believed in Gabe Davis.” It’s been tough sledding these last few years and every time I think I’m out, I get dragged back in. But while I haven’t been able to quit him, yet, it appears the Bills have. Folks I talked to believe it is highly unlikely Buffalo re-signs Davis. What's interesting to me is that they still very much believe Stefon Diggs is a No. 1 WR and aren’t that worried about the end of the season, where some close missed connections would have made it look a lot different.

2. More Bills. Next year, the expectation is that, after Diggs, the passing game will involve a lot more Dalton Kincaid and James Cook. They really like what they saw down the stretch last year from Khalil Shakir, but they are still likely drafting a WR and Shakir is more likely to be more of a “3” than a “2.”

RELATED: Lawrence Jackson’s Stock Up, Stock Down: Legette, Pearsall flying high after Combine

3. I don’t know who Saquon Barkley is playing for next year; I just know it’s almost certainly not the Giants, who are very comfortable letting him test the market. As one source said to me, “They didn’t want to pay him last off-season and that was when they thought they were good!” Given the needs of the Giants and their likely re-building efforts next year, a premium RB like Barkley doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

(Okay, so I wrote this over the weekend and then just before this got published, news broke that, in fact, the Giants aren't going to franchise tag him and Barkley will be a free agent. So, um, yay for me getting this right and uh, bummer for it being old news at this point).

4. While Saquon is likely on the move, Daniel Jones is not. His contract makes that impossible and the expectation is that, assuming health, Jones is the starting QB for the New York Football Giants on opening day, even if the G-Men take a quarterback in the draft. Also, one sleeper to watch for is Jalin Hyatt. Forced to play outside much of his rookie year, this year Hyatt will play in the slot a lot more, which is his natural position from college, where he is much more comfortable.

5. As mentioned above, I spoke with Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson who discussed wanting to lessen Travis Etienne’s workload. (Etienne had 325 touches last year. Only Christian McCaffrey and Rachaad White had more). Reading between the lines on his answer, they didn’t think Tank Bigsby was ready last year hence Etienne got more work than they wanted. But, Pederson did say they expect a bigger role for Bigsby next year. (In fairness, that’s a low bar to clear).

6. Also, in Pederson’s ideal world, Christian Kirk plays in the slot the majority of the time where he is best. Injuries are what forced him outside. And they really want Calvin Ridley back.

7. From the podium, Lions head coach Dan Campbell had this to say about Jameson Williams: “He progressed when he was able to come back off suspension. All we asked of him was growth. Just get better, just get a little bit better, and just become one of the guys, somebody that we can rely on in this offense. Just do your job. And that's exactly what he did. And you can see by the end of the year, we really felt like he started to come into his own. And he's, he is going to push to be a full-time starter now, and that's, that's what we're looking for. And we said it before, everybody grows at a different rate and maybe it's taking him a little bit longer, but he is developing and he's growing, and he is certainly one of the team. You know, the kid, we got high hopes for him. We see him continuing to grow as long as he gets back, and puts the work in like, like we believe he will because he's shown he's only going to get better and better and better.”

Me now, and uh, he was a first-round pick. And the best you can say is he’s “going to push to be a full-time starter?” Push? On a team that wants to run the ball and already has Amon-Ra St. Brown and Sam LaPorta in the passing game? Yeesh.

8. I had few different conversations about Tee Higgins possibly being traded from sources I trust. One said: "No, they’re keeping him this year." One said they think it’s a 60% chance Higgins gets traded this year. He’s a proven commodity and trading for him might be a team's best option given Higgins' talent in what might be a crazy WR free agent market, especially with the higher salary cap. Then another source, who knows how Cincy operates, said they didn’t think Higgins would be traded because knowing the Bengals' thinking they will likely wait too long and then not get enough for him back in a deal. Either way, if Higgins does get dealt, it’s worth noting Joe Burrow really has trust in Andrei Iosivas but there will be competition for the No. 2 WR spot, likely from a receiver taken in this draft. Tyler Boyd is not expected to return and I was told Joe Mixon would be released. (Evergreen sentence. Shrug emoji).

9. I spoke with new Chargers general manager Joe Hortiz. We discussed this on our Combine show, but yes, the Chargers are going to run the hell out of the ball. That’s certainly expected to be a focal point of an offense with Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman in charge. And there's nowhere to go but up in that department: Over the past two seasons the Bolts rank 29th in rush yards and 30th in yards per carry.

All that said, while they are gonna run a ton, it’s highly unlikely to be with Austin Ekeler. Hortiz said all the right things about Ekeler – great player, great career so far, have to let the process play out for both payer and team, etc. etc. – but it sure seemed to me it’s much more likely than not that Ekeler is on another team in 2024. We also touched briefly on their receivers and it seems hard to see both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams back with LA this year. My gut says Allen stays and Williams moves on.

10. I directly asked Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell about his running back room next year. You can hear his full quote here, but he started his answer with: “The way Ty finished the year was a real positive," and then at the end of the quote he said, “…what we can build on from there, specifically with Ty towards the end of the season. I thought seeing him really come on there and really start to assert himself was a real positive for our team.” Now, when I heard that quote (and this is what I tweeted) I’m like… Ty Chandler is the Vikings RB you want.” Of course, between that answer from O’Connell and this column being written, they released Alexander Mattison making this less of a surprise, but still. He was pretty effusive about Chandler. My expectation is they will add to the RB room via free agency or the draft for sure, but Chandler has a better than average chance to be the Minnesota RB you want in 2024.

11. I spoke with Andy Reid about a variety of topics. He’s so great. A lot of coaches will just give you generic answers, but he sat down with me and gave me very specific answers. Incredible, especially since, you know, he’s the back-to-back Super Bowl champion. Anyways, I asked Coach Reid about Travis Kelce playing only 77% of snaps last year, his lowest snap rate since 2014. Reid said that was intentional as they try and keep him ready for the post-season.

12. Part of what was key for Kelce crushing it in the playoffs, other than, you know, it’s the playoffs and he’s Travis Kelce, was Rashee Rice’s development. Reid spoke of how they really want Rice to be able to run all the same routes as Kelce and learn how to operate in the middle of the field so defenses can’t necessarily double Kelce. Rice’s improvement in the middle of the field is what freed Kelce up more over the second half of the season

13. I’m told a likely landing spot for Tony Pollard is… Dallas? Yeah, apparently the Cowboys want to bring him back despite all of us thinking he had a down year. He wasn’t fully healthy for a lot of the year, but they like him a lot there and I was told: “Don’t be surprised if they bring Pollard back.”

RELATED: Connor Rogers’ NFL Draft Notebook: Pats’ decision at No. 3 among Combine buzz

14. I won’t tell you who the general manager is, but a GM for a QB-needy team was walking by our set, where both Pro Football Talk and Fantasy Football Happy Hour were broadcasting from, saw Chris Simms and stopped to say hi. He asked Simms if he had started his QB film evaluation yet. Simms said no, he was going to start diving in and grinding tape this week, as soon as he was back from the Combine. The GM says with a smile, “Great. Let me know when you’re done, so you can tell me who to draft.”

15. So, I was in a NFL playoff pool where you could pick one player from each playoff team, getting their cumulative points for the playoffs. For the Packers, I chose Jayden Reed, expecting most in the pool to take Aaron Jones. Which they did. Which was the smart play. Which meant I did not do well as Jayden Reed did absolutely nothing in the playoffs despite being, in my opinion, the best WR Green Bay has. Why do I bring this up other than the fact I am a #BitterBerry? Because what you saw in the playoffs is exactly what the Packers want to do this upcoming year. As it was explained to me by a good source, Jayden Reed is the most talented guy of the group, but they want different receivers stepping up every single week. If there is one GB WR you want, it’s likely Reed, but there will be a lot of frustrating weeks too with Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs and Dontayvion Wicks all mixing in, not to mention the tight ends. And don’t forget Bo Melton. Tough to find him playing time right now, but he’s really good and they like him a lot.

16. More Packers. Expect the team to move on from A.J. Dillon this off-season. They’ll keep Aaron Jones and likely draft a RB early on Day 3, but Emmanuel Wilson will get a shot at a real role behind Jones. They like him.

17. The Packers are also likely to release the very talented but often injured OT David Bakhtiari, as well.

18. I expect Baker Mayfield to wind up back on the Buccaneers and Mike Evans returning certainly helps that. I know they want Mayfield back and one thing Baker told me personally when I interviewed him at the Super Bowl that the most important thing for him was to go to a place where he could win. Considering he just won the division and was a game away from the NFC Championship this year, all signs suggest Tampa Bay is in the driver’s seat here.

19. Brian Robinson is going to be a fantasy star this year. Am I a homer? Of course. But doesn’t mean it’s not true. When I spoke with Coach Quinn, he spoke very glowingly about the physicality that Robinson brings to the run game and that will be a big part of their offense next season. Worth noting: In 2021, under then Arizona head coach and now new Washington offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, James Conner ranked second in goal line carries. In 2020, under then Arizona head coach and now new Washington offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, Kenyan Drake – I repeat, KENYAN DRAKE – was TIED for the most goal line carries in the NFL. Monster year coming for B-Rob.

20. Speaking, sort of, of Arizona, I was told: “If Marvin Harrison Jr. is there at 4 when the Cardinals pick, they are absolutely taking him.” I was also told don’t be surprised if the Cards bring back Marquise “Hollywood” Brown on a one-year deal.

21. I asked a Philly source about all the A.J. Brown nonsense and I was told it was very much overblown. Yes, the locker room wasn’t perfect last year and there were definitely issues, but not nearly as bad as it was made out to seem by some in the media. Jalen Hurts is a quiet leader, which may not have helped the situation. Plus, as the source told me, “A.J. Brown is their best player. He SHOULD be getting the ball a lot more.” Anyways, the source didn’t think it would spill over into the new season. Much ado about nothing.

22. At the podium, Titans general manager Ran Carthon was asked if he believed Tyjae Spears could be a true workhorse-type running back. I kind of loved his answer. He said, “Well, I mean, first of all, like Tyjae is a dude that we, that I just described, like he's very passionate about football. He loves the game. He's a hard worker. I think you guys have gotten to know him. No, that's how he's wired. And you love that about him. Taj is one of those guys that's always in the building. You know, I know there were a lot of concerns about his knee coming out and that was the big question. This time of year and after we drafted, but we're talking about a guy that never missed a practice, never missed a game and he's, you know, for lack of better way to put it, he's made of the right shit, you know, and those are the type of guys that we want to have in our program. I don’t know if Spears gets a workload like Derrick Henry but I do think he gets enough of a workload to be a viable top 20 type RB next year.

23. I wasn’t there for this so again, credit to my guys at RosterWatch, but thank you to whoever asked Sean Payton, “How do you explain the utilization of Marvin Mims, your first draft pick as a Denver Bronco, and can you compare him to like Brandin Cooks who you drafted with your first Saints pick? Payton’s answer: “Without making a comparison first, I'd say with Mims, we saw him flourish as a returner. And I really think the only thing that really stopped his progress as a receiver was us, you know, and, and trying to find roles. He's playing the same position as Jerry [Jeudy], and so, uh, I've said that a number of times. I think, man, I think you're gonna see a lot of growth with this player. He's tough. He can run. You know, we're certainly excited. We have him. But I think the key is for us, and I say us as coaches, game planning, evolving, and, and every time we've kind of put his name on a certain play, he hasn't disappointed. That doesn't mean the ball always went to him, but the point I'm making is I think his progress was hampered a little bit more with the depth in the room. And what we were able to do and sometimes trying to balance that out, I think we'll see that expand.”

In other words, if Jerry Jeudy leaves, Mims will get his shot. If not… sigh.

24. I don’t have the quote, but I sat in on new Panthers head coach Dave Canales’ press conference at the Combine and he discussed at length the importance of the run game and not abandoning it, no matter what. He gave a few examples of Rachaad White’s numbers early in the year and how they kept at it, regardless of score. He discussed how the run game improved over the season and also said very nice things about Chuba Hubbard. You will want to hold your nose when you do it, but much like Rachaad White or James Conner last year, Hubbard is going to be a volume-based RB2 next year that will absolutely be a value because no one will think he’s sexy but you’ll look up at the end of the season and you’ll see he absolutely out-earned his ADP significantly.

25. This isn’t fantasy relevant, but Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta opened up his press conference by giving a shout out to Peter King and congratulating him on his outstanding career. I thought that was very cool and speaks volumes about how highly regarded Peter was not just by his colleagues and friends, but by the people he covered.