Monday, March 23, 2009

Pro Day Rewind With Andrew Garda

It was another busy week of Pro Day workouts with some big prospects vying for positioning in April’s Draft. I attended two of these days – California’s and San Jose State’s. Let's take a look at my in-depth observations for both of those events.


Florida State:
The Seminoles kicked off this week’s group of Pro Days and drew 26 coaches and scouts. Everette Brown, the second ranked defensive end on many analysts’ boards, put in good positional drills and added a 31-inch vertical and a 9’9” broad jump. He could be a conversion linebacker in a 3-4 scheme and many think he hasn’t reached his full potential. Certainly, the presence of linebacker coaches from the Dolphins, Jaguars and Eagles leads one to believe there is some interest in doing just that. Another player of note on Monday was cornerback Michael Ray Garvin. Garvin is primarily a kick returner and set the school record for kicks returned (35) and kick return yards (697) in one year in 2007. He ran a pair of fantastic 40s (4.24 and 4.28) and added a 36 vertical and 10’8” broad jump. A guy who can wreak havoc in the return game has some value, probably as a second day pick.

LSU: LSU's was the other big Monday event and 24 teams came–including the entire New Orleans Saints coaching staff. Defensive and offensive lines, linebacker and defensive back coaches were among the 15 position coaches who came by to watch the workout. Among the defensive players was defensive end Tyson Jackson, who by and large let his NFL Scouting Combine numbers stand. He did do the bench press (20 reps) and all the position drills. Jackson is another guy who can play tackle or end, a versatility that will make him intriguing for many teams during the first three rounds. You could tell the hard work was paying off on Monday. Offensive guard Herman Johnson has begun to get some notice and drew interest in Baton Rouge. The huge 356 pounder jumped a 26 _ vert and benched the 225 bar 24 times. Johnson needs to prove that he can put forth the consistent effort needed to succeed and it’s hard to say when he’ll go in April. Linebacker Darry Beckwith did position drills and ran the 40, turning in times of 4.63 and 4.70.

Finally, wide receiver Demetrius Byrd ran a 4.47 and a 4.5 in the 40 and added a 35 _ vertical. Byrd has great playmaking ability but he has to sharpen his route running and get stronger. It’s telling that he didn’t lift either at the Combine or Monday’s Pro Day.


Boise State:
Tuesday saw Boise State, a school with several interesting players, have its day in the sun. Wide receiver Vinny Perretta, who may not be big at 5’9” and just 186 pounds, showed he might have the skills to succeed anyway by putting in a great workout. His 4.48 and 4.43 times in the 40, 36-inch vertical and 10’6” broad jump were part of an impressive day in front of the 12 scouts who came, and it may be enough to get him a shot as either a late second day pick or a street free agent.

Both Perretta and fellow receiver Jeremy Childs had good days, but currently remain later round prospects who will have to get into camp and fight for a shot at a roster spot.

Another guy whose day was worth noting was running back Ian Johnson. If that name is familiar to you, it’s probably because at the end of the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, Johnson scored the winning 2-point conversion and then–because that wasn’t big enough–proposed to his girlfriend on camera right after the game. Johnson is more than just a cute story, though. While he has been tracking to go somewhere late on the second day, in part because of a lackluster senior year where he split carries with Jeremy Avery, he had a good Combine and an even better Pro Day. While he stood on most of his Combine numbers, Johnson looked good in drills and caught the ball well. He also ran a 4.24 short shuttle and a 6.86 three-cone, continuing his climb up the draft boards. Scouts will have to look closely to make sure they feel secure with his size and reasons for the Senior year dip in numbers, but those who saw him Tuesday must have left with fewer questions.


The Florida Gators kicked off a full Wednesday of Pro Days and the top Gator of interest was wide receiver Percy Harvin, without a doubt. He did not disappoint the huge crowd of scouts, position coaches and several higher level team personnel. According to, some of the big names in attendance included Vikings VP of player personnel Rick Spielman, Panthers GM Marty Hurney and from the Bucs, GM Mark Doninik and head coach Raheem Morris.

While Harvin stood on most of his speed drill numbers from the Combine, he did jump a 37 _ inch vertical, a 10’1” broad jump and then benched the 225 bar 20 times for good measure. And then he went out and just killed the position drills. He showed good hands, and showed very good explosion off the line. Harvin is vying for the top wide receiver slot behind Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree and definitely threw the gauntlet down with this performance.

Someone less heralded is tight end Cornelius Ingram, who missed last season because of a serious knee injury. Ingram looked like he was completely recovered, running a 4.72 and a 4.69 in the 40, and jumping a 9’6” in the broad jump. Ingram also looked solid in position drills.

Some other athletes who performed well were wide receiver Louis Murphy, who ran a 4.45 shuttle and looked good in his position drills, and a pair of offensive tackles in Phil Trautwein and Jason Watkins. Watkins is a player who should get drafted somewhere on the second day of the draft (though his stock has been slipping of late) and he performed well in position workouts. Trautwein is more likely a street free agent, but put in a good day in Gainseville.

California: Out west, while Florida’s day was wrapping up, California’s was just getting started and I was happy to be among the credentialed media in attendance. Thirty teams were represented by 50 scouts and team officials at California's Memorial Stadium. Six were offensive line coaches.

Most of them were there for top center prospect Alex Mack and he was well worth the wait. Mack looked very good in position drills and I thought looked pretty nimble in his shuttle (5.17/5.23 times) and three-cone (7.31 time) drills. He lifted the bench 20 times which isn't great, but isn't bad either, considering his very long arms. Mack did nothing to dissuade any of his fans amongst the scouts and media present. After his position drills, Mack was escorted into a film room with representatives from three teams who broke down film and did chalk talk with him for about two hours. I know how long it was because I was waiting to interview him afterwards. He wasn’t saying who the teams were, but he told me they were quite thorough and had very specific questions for him. It also sounded like they were happy with his answers. Many there believe that Mack will not last past the first round and should be the top center off the board. Mack was very clear in telling the media present that he was willing and able to play guard as well as center. Actually, what he said was that he would pretty much do anything they wanted him to do–heck, he said he’d run routes or shag punts if they asked. That versatility and willingness will go a long way to boosting his stock, if that’s possible at this point.

Unfortunately, aside from Mack, not too many guys stood out. Linebacker prospect Zach Follett was sidelined with a bad hamstring, so only did the bench press (he racked it 21 times, one more than Mack). I saw him talking to folks from the Chiefs, Browns and Colts, and he told me the Raiders were definitely interested. While he was disappointed not to have a chance to best his Combine times, he should have a chance in private workouts. Fellow linebacker Anthony Felder also had his day cut short, as he pulled his hamstring on his first 40 attempt. While frustrated, he had already set up a workout with the Seahawks before he left.

Tight end Cameron Morrah looked great in his position drills, showing very good hands and running well, but his biggest problem may his lack of blocking skills. He said he was speaking with some teams, but declined to name anyone specifically. He also ran a 4.61 and a 4.63 in the 40, but kept the rest of his numbers from Indianapolis.

The last rookie prospect I watched closely was quarterback Nate Longshore. Longshore looked sharp in his drills, showing a nice touch and good accuracy. In a year where the quarterback class is filled with projects, Longshore could find a team willing to give him a shot and based on Wednesday, he looked like he could make it stick if they did.

Illinois ran its Pro Day inside on FieldTurf . Offensive tackle prospect Xavier Fulton was not there, as he is still recovering from dual shoulder surgeries. While he’s still a prospect teams are interested in, there is no word on when he might schedule a workout. Cornerback Vontae Davis looked well cut and ran an outstanding 4.40 in the 40 and a 6.80 in the three cone. He also had a 37 _ inch vertical and looked very good in position drills. Defensive end Will Davis ran a 4.86 and a 4.89 in the 40, a 4.40 shuttle, a 7.15 three cone and jumped a 34 inch vertical.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions who went to the Combine left quite an impression, so teams made sure to come by and see if they were for real. Aaron Maybin is already a guy likely to go on the first day of the draft and he only added to that lofty status with his workout. Not only did he significantly improve upon his Combine 40 time by running a 4.64, he added two inches to his vertical (jumping 40) and six inches to his broad jump (10’10”). While he weighed the same as he did in Indy, he definitely performed much better with it. Wide receiver Derrick Williams, who is looking at a slot on the second day, ran a 4.47 and 4.50 in the 40, had a 9’ 7” broad jump, a 4.21 shuttle, and a 6.96 three-cone drill. Wide out Deon Butler kept everything from the Combine save his short shuttle, which he ran at 4.23. Other notables included a third wide receiver in Jordan Norwood (4.58/4.63 in the 40, 10ft broad jump), cornerback Lydell Sargeant (4.48/4.50 in the 40) and offensive tackle Gerald Cadogan, a prospect projected to go in the second or third round, bested his broad jump from the Combine with a 8’3” effort.


One of the stories of the day was quarterback Matthew Stafford, who showcased a very strong arm and pinpoint accuracy. Every team was represented in Athens, including Detroit Lions QB Coach Jeff Horton and GM Martin Mayhew, and Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell. Reports are that 70 scouts and coaches were in attendance. Stafford threw about 50 passes in his workout and apparently threw nearly all of them with a great deal of accuracy. While the workout was scripted, it had a little of everything and Stafford handled it all well, and did so in windy conditions.

Stafford wasn’t the only one performing in less than ideal conditions. Running back Knowshon Moreno was recovering from some form of illness and reportedly looked a little weak because of it. He ran a 4.60 40-yard dash and kept the rest of his workout numbers from the Scouting Combine. He looked very good in position drills, including catching the ball, and spent a bunch of time working out with Bengals coach Jim Anderson. He also reportedly solidified a workout date with the San Diego Chargers for March 30th.

Other players of note: Wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi ran a 4.51/4.54 in the 40, jumped a 10’7” broad jump and caught the ball well in his position drills. Defensive end Jarius Wynn ran a 4.94/4.97 40, a 4.66 shuttle and a 7.27 three cone drill while defensive tackle Corvey Irvin ran a 4.99/5.01 in the 40, 4.66 in the shuttle and 7.60 in the three cone. Irvin did not do the bench press, but Wynn lifted the bar 21 times.

Virginia: The most notable player at Virginia’s Pro Day was offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, widely regarded as one of the top picks–if not THE top pick–in next month’s draft. Monroe stood on all of his Combine numbers, instead just doing position drills. Still, he looked as good as advertised in the drills run by Bengals O-line coach Paul Alexander. Two other line coaches were there to see him as well. The other prospect of note would be running back Cedric Peerman who only added the shuttle to his total stats, running it in 4.47 and doing position drills. Peerman also tracks as a kick returner and might land a place on a team on the strength of that skill.


Arizona State:
Tempe welcomed scouts from 12 NFL teams to their workout where quarterback Rudy Carpenter ran a 4.89 and a 4.93 in the 40, while guard Paul Fanaika pulled a hamstring during his 40-yard dash. He did run the shuttle (4.92) and three cone (8.06) but how indicative it is of his skill on a bad wheel is unknown.

San Jose State: As was the case for California’s Pro Day on Wednesday, I made the trip to San Jose to attend the Spartans’ workout. It was a very efficiently run day, a credit to both the excellent staff at San Jose State and the NFL scouts in attendance. I counted 20 teams there, represented by about 35 scouts and player personnel. On top of that, both Carolina Head Coach John Fox and new Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan were there. That’s quite an achievement for a program that not that long ago was fighting to stay alive.

The day was split into two halves, the earlier portion dedicated to players from San Jose State itself, while the latter was given over to visiting players from Cal-Poly, UC Davis, Sacramento State and a few other small schools. The biggest name on the docket for the late workout was Cal-Poly wide receiver Ramses Barden, and we will touch on him momentarily.

For the Spartans, there were several notable workouts. First off, by now you have likely heard that Ryan spent a good deal of his time running the defensive line drills, focusing primarily on defensive end Jarron Gilbert. Gilbert paid very close attention to the former Ravens defensive coordinator (and his enormous Super Bowl ring) and Ryan watched him very, very carefully. Gilbert ran a 4.76 and a 4.83 in the 40, a 4.46 shuttle and a 7.60 three cone. He also had a 37 inch vertical and a 10’7” broad jump. The jump was a huge increase over his Combine jump, which he told me later was in part because he couldn’t land his jumps well in Indy. He said he was hitting 10’3” at the Scouting Combine, but kept falling. When he finally stuck it, it was a mere 9’11”. Overall, Gilbert looked very good in all aspects of his workout and more than one team representative came away impressed.

Another athlete who seemed to be a player of interest for the Jets head coach was cornerback Christopher Owens. Once Ryan was finished with the D-line drills, he headed over to where the other Jets representative stood watching Owens and fellow Spartan corners Coye Francies and safety Kyle Flynn work out. After the workout, Ryan made a point of chatting with Owens and it was clear they had talked before. It could be that if Gilbert is unavailable with the Jets’ second round pick, Owens may be a target.

As for their workouts, both Francies and Owens looked good. Each player tracked the thrown balls well and showed good hands. I thought Francies looked good flipping his hips and turning to move upfield to get under a long ball, while Owens excelled in his overall tracking, looked really smooth and didn’t miss a beat when he had to catch a ball over either shoulder. Owens had the better workout drill numbers, running a 4.41 and a 4.40 in the 40, jumping a 35 in the vertical and an even 10 feet in the broad jump.

Francies had a slight ankle injury and struggled in the 40, unable to get a clean start multiple times in both runs. Once you stumble a time or two, it gets you out of your rhythm and unfortunately, Francies’ 40 time suffered. On top of that, the scouts seemed to have a very wide range of speeds for him, some having him as fast as 4.59 or as slow as 4.69. Francies plays faster than that and I think the tape on him shows him to be a capable defender. We all get caught up in 40 times, but hopefully the scouts saw what was happening and took that for what it was. It was also a cool morning and a few people pulled muscles or cramped up and the temperature might have contributed to Francies’ blown 40 starts. All three defensive stars for the Spartans should find a home draft weekend, and I think they could all be gone on day one. Each of them captured the interest of multiple teams and should see some private workouts soon.

One player not on many radars who caught my eye was defensive end Jeff Schweiger. A transfer from USC after the 2006 season, Schweiger made the most of the attention brought to San Jose State by the top three prospects. The 6'4", 275-pound end ran a solid 4.71/4.74 in the 40, a 4.58 in the shuttle and looked very smooth in his drills. He’s likely a late second day pick or street free agent, but he’s getting attention and had already worked out for the Atlanta Falcons.

The second half of the day featured a very good workout for Cal-Poly wide receiver Ramses Barden. Barden smoked his Combine 40 time with a 4.5/4.58 and had a good effort of 10’2” in the broad jump. Barden, watched closely by Panthers Coach John Fox, looked good in all his workout drills and caught the ball very well in his position workout. Another player I am curious about after his workout was Montana State running back Demetrius Crawford. Crawford looked awfully quick in his 40 with a 4.44/4.45 (I clocked him at a 4.39) and overall looked solid in his drills. While he is likely going to find it difficult to catch on in the Draft, he might carve himself out a spot late in the Draft or as a street free agent. If he gets that chance, I think he could surprise some people, though I have to look at the film on him now that I have seen him live, albeit in shorts not pads.

Tennessee State: Twenty teams sent representatives to the workout. Center Cecil Newton had a decent day, running a 5.24 and a 5.13 in the 40, a 7.55 in the three cone, and a 4.15 in the shuttle while also doing 25 reps on the bench press, jumping a 25 _ vertical and a 8’2” broad jump. Running back Javarris Williams looked good in position drills, ran a 4.73 shuttle and a 7.26 three cone, but stood on his Combine numbers for everything else.

Of course we aren’t quite done yet, with another two weeks of Pro Days to track before the Draft and of course, that doesn’t cover the private workouts, which are going on constantly. Here are just a very few of the upcoming Pro Days we’ll be keeping an eye on this week.

Wake Forest (March 23): Aaron Curry looks to be the top linebacker taken in the NFL Draft and can probably seal the deal with a good position drill.

UCONN (March 25): Running back Donald Brown has rocketed up some draft boards. Whether he can surpass either Moreno or Wells may depend upon his performance on Wednesday.

Texas (March 25): None other than top defensive end Brian Orakpo will be working out on Wednesday, but perhaps more intriguing is wide receiver prospect Quan Cosby, whose size and age (26) are issues that could be forgotten with a good position workout.

Louisville (March 26): In a draft with this many quarterback projects, Hunter Cantwell might get someone to fall in love with him if he has a solid Pro Day and could sneak into the late part of the Draft.

Mississippi (March 26): Michael Oher will be in the running to be one of the top offensive tackle in the Draft. A good day here could make a huge difference for a group of teams in the top half of the draft who could use O-line help.

All that and more awaits us with yet another week of Pro Day action as we close in on another NFL Draft. For the latest updates, make sure you stay here...on

Photo Credit: College Press Box, SEC Sports Media, College Press Box (Florida St., Wake Forest), Illinois Sports Information, Matt Brown Photography, University of California