The Biggest Takeaways from 2013 Pro Day Workouts
Each year, the cycle of conversation about pro days seems to be the same. First, everyone thumps the table about how pro days don't matter, then we all follow pro day results as if Simon Cowell were judging each and every prospect.
But why pro days?
Pro days are most useful to small-school prospects who weren't invited to the combine. This hearkens back to a day when there wasn't as much of a cottage industry and national coverage around the combine and college all-star games.
Pro days—especially at larger schools that would invite local small-school prospects—were the only real avenue for some athletes to get to the next level.
More importantly for NFL teams, pro days are like the teacher who tells students that a test will be open book. There is literally no reason for any of the students to fail, but some still do.
In the same way, pro days are designed to showcase an athlete's skills. Many parts of it are stringently scripted so that there can be no mistakes. Those who "fail" are likely failures for a pretty big reason—whether it's laziness, apathy or something worse.
So, which pro days left us with more knowledge about the participants?
Tyler Bray Doesn't Care What You, or Anyone, Thinks
It's difficult for a quarterback to mess up a scripted throwing session, and Bray has far too much talent to look that bad throwing a football when a defense can't intercept his poor decisions. But, eventually, the strong-armed signal-caller had to open his mouth.
If the NFL were drafting body parts, Bray's arm would be a first-rounder. Unfortunately, his brain would be a free agent.
As a total package, Bray is certainly draftable, but he needs to convince some team that they shouldn't care about his lack of caring.
Manti Te'o Woke Up
Shaving a tenth of a second off one's 40-yard dash time should be the most noteworthy thing most draft prospects do during the pre-draft season. But for Te'o, it seems like a tiny footnote in an otherwise weird couple of months.
If the Te'o we saw in Indianapolis was just a troubled young man reeling from all the media attention, then this Te'o—focused, driven and at his best—could be drafted a lot higher.
The tape shows he can make plays, so that's not an issue.
A team has to be sure they're bringing in someone who will do everything it takes to succeed. This pro day workout for Te'o may have accomplished that.
Jarvis Jones, on the Other Hand, Is Still Asleep
Jones, a pass-rusher, ran a 4.9 40-yard dash at his pro day.
That's bad. No, that's really bad.
At only 245 pounds, a 4.9 should push Jones out of top-10 consideration and down the list of the best pass-rushers in this April's draft. Teams that may (or may not) have been worried about his spinal stenosis will now be worried about his speed.
Mike Mayock put it best: “Do you throw out the 4.9 and go back to the tape and trust that he can do what you ask him to do?”
One team likely will, but Jones has to hope that the team decides to do it in Round 1 rather than Round 2.
Marcus Lattimore May Be Following in Adrian Peterson's Footsteps
The bruising back is ahead of rehab schedule and feeling great, so he put on a bit of a show for the assembled crowd. Any team worried about his knee has 15 minutes of agility drills to assuage some of their fears.
If Lattimore comes back from two knee injuries and contributes in his rookie season, it would be a tremendous recovery and one of the best stories of the 2013 season.
Vince Young Is Still Here?
While the University of Texas pro day is still one of the most well-attended events on the pre-draft circuit (scouts love any chance to head to barbecue country), the talent level in Austin has been a little lackluster in recent years.
Kenny Vaccaro is the best Longhorns prospect this season and Alex Okafor has first-round talent, but the dozen-or-so draftable prospects that we're accustomed to just haven't been pumped out of this football factory of late.
Young, who left UT more than a half-decade ago, might have stolen the show.
Being burnt out and forgotten is a terrible outcome for someone who was once such a bright young NFL star. But if Young made a couple of teams remember him in Austin, he should be back on the map in no time.
Montee Ball Is Being Overlooked
Ball wowed scouts at the Wisconsin pro day with sub-4.5 speed that many did not think he possessed. He also looked good in the agility drills and came off as a prospect that some people are seriously undervaluing.
Because Badgers backs play in a great system and have a very formidable line in front of them, Ball has to prove that he is more than just the sum of Wisconsin's parts to be drafted higher than the fourth or fifth round.
He may have just done it.
Eric Fisher Is Legit
As I mentioned in the intro slide, small-school prospects used to head to bigger campuses for their pro days—if they were lucky enough to get a spot. While Central Michigan hasn't been a "small school" for a while (the MAC has been a respectable NFL training ground for more than a decade), the volume of scouts in Mount Pleasant, Mich., was a sight to see.
Twenty-six teams were in attendance, and the Detroit Lions (possible suitors for Fisher at No. 5 overall) sent three different scouts to check things out.
While Fisher may not overtake Luke Joeckel as the top tackle or top overall prospect, he's almost certainly solidified top-five status in the draft. Teams could clamor to trade up for him.
Denard Robinson Has Been Working Very Hard
I have been hard on Robinson.
While "Shoelace" is a great athlete and a better person, he has a lot of work standing between what he is now and what he needs to be to contribute at the NFL level. At the Senior Bowl, he couldn't have looked worse as a receiver, and he followed it up with an uninspiring combine.
As bad as the rest of his pre-draft season has been, he may have made up a lot of ground at his pro day. He looked better at receiver and worked out a bit as a scat back, which may end up as his position at the next level.
The more Robinson does to prove he can make plays away from the quarterback position, the more a team may consider drafting him in the second or third round.
Don't Sleep on Star Lotulelei
Lotulelei has been tumbling down media draft boards since a medical test in Indianapolis precluded him from working out at the combine.
According to Yahoo! Sports, though, the monster defensive tackle is in perfect health and might be back in elite standing.
His workout at the Utah pro day would've been one of the best at the combine, as his drills showed a player who is hungry to prove that he's ready to make an impact at the next level.
Teams will have to think twice before writing him off in April.
Matt Barkley Is Underwhelming
I broke down everything about Barkley's pro day here, but this is the bottom line:
Barkley is not an exciting prospect. He looks to have limited upside and is probably as polished as he will ever be as a football player. He lacks a lot of the physical tools that teams look for, and he needed to have a great pre-draft season to make up for his subpar 2012 season.
That just hasn't happened.
Barkley still has a shot at the first round because so many teams are quarterback-starved. The team that selects him will need to put him in the right scheme and surround him with a good foundation.
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff at The Go Route.
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