Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pro Day Rewind: A Look At Who's Doing What

Wake Forest:
The biggest draws here were of course top linebacker pick, Aaron Curry, and cornerback prospect, Alphonso Smith. Both players stood on their numbers from the Combine but what the 41 scouts, coaches, and various personnel representing all 32 teams wanted to see was position drills. They were not disappointed.
• Reports state that Curry started his drills slowly, but once he got going he showed the athleticism and skills that have analysts slotting him as a top three pick. One of the biggest draws for Curry is his game to game consistency, his ability to play at a high level every down, every week. You can’t see that in a Combine or Pro Day—it’s only on film. But seeing the athleticism and ability on the ground, up close, only confirmed the skills we saw on film.
• Smith looked rock solid in his defensive drills, continuing to show the skills everyone expects from him when he gets on the field. The biggest questions for Smith involve his height (5’9”) and what it might mean against taller wide receivers. Smith had offered to do special teams drills, but was not asked to do any at the workout. Still, I always like to see that willingness in a player, it shows hunger and a willingness to do whatever it takes to get on the team.

Twenty-nine teams were present at the Hawkeyes’ workout. They watched running back Shonn Greene run a 4.59 on his first 40 on an indoor track. That’s better than his Combine time by .06 of a second and could have a positive effect on his draft stock. He also increased his bench press by four reps, to 23. While many athletes have been increasing their numbers from the Combine, it certainly will help Greene that he took such a large stride forward. While scouts were also impressed with his positional workout, Greene isn’t resting on his laurels. He told one reporter that he looks at the guys ranked ahead of him and still feels he’s the top back in the Draft. His desire to prove himself showed in his drills and will serve him well in the NFL.

Rutgers: For many prospects, a Pro Day might be their one time to shine, their shot to show teams (including Bears OC Ron Turner) what they could do. For wide receiver Kenny Britt, it was just another stop on the world tour. Britt has already worked out for the Dolphins and has scheduled workouts for five other teams. Still, he didn’t lose focus, running the 40-yard dash with times of 4.47 and 4.48 as well as running positional drills. Britt, who could go anywhere between the second and third rounds, looked good in both aspects of his workout and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in any number of uniforms this coming summer.
• Others who stood out: WR Tiquan Underwood, who ran a 4.36 and a 4.40 in the 40, a 4.16 in the shuttle and worked position drills. S Courtney Greene stood on most of his Combine numbers save his broad jump, which he recorded a 9’11” in, as well as running position drills.

Twenty-five scouts attended Clemson’s workout on Tuesday and one of the focal points was defensive tackle Dorrell Scott. Scott is tracking at about a third round pick and while he stood on most of his Combine numbers, he didn’t do anything to hurt–or really improve–his stock. Another player who isn’t being talked about all that much is quarterback Cullen Harper. Harper, coming off a shoulder injury, threw efficiently and accurately in his position workouts and it probably helped him regain some of the ground he lost due to the lackluster season the Tigers had in 2008. After a great junior year, Harper’s stats and production declined, but he showed on Tuesday he could still sling a ball to different players running a ton of different routes. And finally, with no Combine invite, defensive tackle Rashaad Jackson hadn’t had a chance to show scouts anything and is battling back from an injury that took him out for the early part of his 2008 season. While Jackson is unlikely to be a draft day pick, he played well prior to his injury and looked good enough on Pro Day to garner interest as a street free agent.

Hofstra: A total of 18 teams were represented at Hofstra, where players from multiple schools worked out for scouts. The most impressive players were actually athletes from Monmouth (NJ), Maine, and Stony Brook. Monmouth tight end John Nalbone (who then worked out a few days later at Monmouth State’s own Pro Day) ran a 4.75 and a 4.81 40, a 4.22 shuttle, 6.97 three cone, jumped a 9’3” broad jump and lifted 22 in the bench press. He increased all these numbers at Monmouth’s Pro Day. Maine defensive end Jovan Belcher had a 30” vert, a 9’ broad jump and ran a 4.88 and a 4.90 40. Also, James Harris, a defensive end from Stony Brook, ran 5.15 and 519 in the 40, a 4.72 shuttle and a 8.33 three cone.

UCONN: Twenty-one teams sent representatives to see the Huskies' workout, including Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Chargers GM A. J. Smith. Even super-agent Drew Rosenhaus was present, eying up potential clients. Of course, the biggest player of interest was running back Donald Brown. While Brown stayed with most of his numbers from the Combine, he looked lights out in his position drills, doing everything well and looking exceptional while catching the ball. Many teams have expressed interest in Brown and he certainly did nothing to dissuade them on Wednesday.
• Cornerback Darius Butler also put on quite a display by running a 4.38 in the 40, then going out and crushing his position drills. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock was quoted as saying Butler is now in the conversation to be among the top corners in the Draft along with guys like Malcolm Jenkins and Vontae Davis. Mayock also said that Butler looked fluid and very quick in his change of direction drills.
• The biggest story to come out of UCONN’s Pro Day was quarterback Tyler Lorenzen, though not in terms of his quarterback potential. Lorenzen worked out as both a wide receiver and a defensive back. Coach Belichick specifically requested that Lorenzen work out as a safety and paid very close attention to the drills once they began. Lorenzen threw for several teams as well, including the Bengals, Chargers, Seahawks and again, the Patriots. But a lot more teams watched him work out as a defensive back and a receiver. Lorenzen might find himself a roster spot somewhere on the strength of his willingness to change positions and do more than one thing, as well as his overall athleticism.

Texas: As expected, defensive end Brian Orakpo knocked it out of the park on Wednesday. Over 50 members of various teams were present, including Miami defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni, Bengals tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes, and Packers GM Ted Thompson. Orakpo started the day with workout drills, posting a 10’10” broad jump, a 4.45 shuttle and a 7.26 three-cone (he kept the rest of his numbers from the Combine). Orakpo then schooled his positional drills, likely securing a high slot (possibly top ten) in April’s Draft.
• Receiver Quan Cosby also had an outstanding day, dropping his shuttle time down to a 4.2. He also put on a solid display in positional drills, flashing good hands and speed in his workout. Cosby jumped a 34 ½ inch vertical, ran a 4.34 shuttle and lifted the 225 pound bar 28 times. Overall, Cosby had a great day and certainly helped himself quite a bit.
• A few others of note were G Cedric Dockery (who ran a 5.40 in the 40-yard dash before he pulled his hamstring, but still finished the day with a 4.97 shuttle after jumping a 28 vert and a 8’4” broad jump), DB Ryan Palmer (who ran a 4.62 and a 4.58 in the 40, a 4.20 shuttle, a 7.00 three cone and posted a 10’4” broad jump) and DE Henry Melton (4.64/4.66 40, 34 ½ vert, 10’1” broad jump).
• As one might expect in Texas, the day ended with a big BBQ meal—the sort of thing that must make this one of the favorite stops on the tour.

Louisville: Twenty representatives of NFL teams came out to see the Louisville athletes put on a display. Quarterback Hunter Cantwell, wide receiver Chris Vaughn, cornerback Woodny Turenne and center Eric Wood were among those who participated. Vaughn (4.35) and Turenne (4.46) had the swiftest 40 times on the day, while Cantwell threw the ball very well in position drills. Wood has been high on many people’s list of the top centers and continued to impress the scouts in his position drills. Overall, the day went well and all of the players performed admirably.

Mississippi: All 32 NFL teams were represented by 65 coaches and staff as offensive tackle Michael Oher improved his 40 time to 5.24 and 5.16, jumped 31” in the vertical and lifted 23 reps on the bench press. He also knocked scouts out with his position drills, showing very good footwork and outstanding athleticism, among other skills.
• While Oher was the main attraction, others stood out at the Ole Miss workout. Fullback Jason Cook ran a 4.72 and a 4.71 in the 40, a 4.38 shuttle, a 7.20 three cone, benched 225 a total of 22 times and then added a 33 ½ vert as well as running positional drills. Defensive tackle Peria Jerry continued to make his case to be the #2 DT prospect behind B. J. Raji, with a 4.98-40, a 4.64 shuttle, a 7.30 three-cone, a 31” vertical, and a 9’6” broad jump. Jerry also looked good in his positional drills.

Houston: Twelve players worked out for 17 teams. One player who gained some notice was offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer, who grew up in Germany. Vollmer missed the 2006 season with a back injury but is very athletic and could very well go late on the second day and still contribute very quickly. Vollmer had 5.13 and 5.16 in the 40, jumped a 36 ½ inch vert, and a 9’3” broad jump and benched 32 reps. He also had a 4.50 short shuttle and a 7.51 three cone. Two other players worth noting were defensive end Phillip Hunt (4.75/4.76 40, good positional drills) and offensive lineman SirVincent Rogers (4.75 shuttle and 7.39 three cone).

Northern Illinois: Defensive end/linebacker Larry English was the one to watch here, running a 4.70 and a 4.74 40 while working out as a defensive end and showing he can drop back into coverage. Among those watching were Panthers GM Marty Hurney and director of player personnel for the 49ers, Trent Baalke.

Other players of note:
On Saturday, Washington State wide receiver Brandon Gibson held a private workout in front of 15 NFL teams including Chargers senior executive Randy Mueller and 49ers director of player personnel Trent Baalke. Gibson, who was unable to run at either the Combine or Washington State’s Pro Day, worked out in less-than-ideal weather including wind and slight rain. Despite that, Gibson ran his 40 three times, scoring a 4.63 against the wind and a 4.58 and a 4.60 with it. He had a 34” vert, jumped a 9’5” broad jump, ran a 4.54 in the shuttle and a 6.94 in the three cone. He also did position drills, catching balls thrown by Jeff Rowe, a former quarterback who has been with the Bengals and Seahawks.

We enter the last week of Pro Days with one of the bigger days still to come. While UCLA, Hawaii, Mississippi State and Kent State still have days coming, all eyes will be focused on Los Angeles and the University of Southern California. Among the closely-watched prospects will be the linebacking trio of Clay Matthews, Rey Maualuga, and Brian Cushing, wide receiver Patrick Turner, defensive tackle Fili Moala as well as the less-talked about linebacker, Kevin Ellison. And, oh yeah, some quarterback prospect named Mark Sanchez.

Not only will we review this Pro Day and the others, but I will be down on the ground at USC’s Pro Day on Wednesday giving a firsthand account of how everyone is faring throughout the day.

Check in with NFLDraftbible.com all day long—we’ll make sure you’re kept up to date on the latest and greatest at USC, as well as all the rest of the action every week on the Pro Day Rewind.

Photo Credit: College Press Box (Louisville, Houston, Clemson, Wake Forest), Steve Slade (UConn Division of Athletics)