Florida Gators Football: 5 Players with the Most to Prove at Pro Day
Now that the NFL combine has come to a close, every draft eligible Florida Gator will have a chance to prove himself during the pro day on March 17.
If somebody had a poor performance during the combine, he can use the pro day as an opportunity to redeem himself. If he wasn’t invited to the combine, the pro day will provide a chance to shine. Even guys who performed well during their first workout can build on that momentum.
After an average combine, there are plenty of former Florida players who will need to show up in a big way. We can certainly start with the secondary.
Marcus Roberson, CB
Marcus Roberson is one of the most raved about Florida prospects in this draft. He has ideal size, is versatile and has great instincts that allow him to make plays on the ball and in run support.
The problem is he didn’t help himself with only eight reps of 225 pounds and a 40-yard dash time of 4.61 seconds at the NFL combine. The bench press drill can be overlooked to a certain extent, but the lack of speed should raise a few eyebrows. That 40 time is what you would expect from a safety, not a starting cornerback at the next level.
Roberson is somebody who could be drafted on day one of the draft, which is where Rob Rang of CBS Sports has him going. Rang has Roberson going in the first round to the Carolina Panthers and explained his reasoning in his latest mock draft:
While the Panthers' front seven is fearsome but, as was demonstrated in the playoff loss to San Francisco, depth is a concern in Carolina's secondary. Scouts wish Roberson was a bit bigger and more physical against the run, but he's a fluid athlete with very good speed who could provide a much-needed boost to San Diego's secondary.
I wouldn’t exactly consider a time of 4.61 seconds very good speed. A cornerback can have great size, technique and instincts, but it doesn’t mean much if he isn’t able to keep up with fast receivers. He’ll need to produce a much better time come pro day in order to solidify a first-round spot.
Solomon Patton, WR
You don’t have to tell Solomon Patton he has anything to prove to anyone. He already knows. According to a Rivals report (subscription required), the former Florida wide receiver is angered and motivated that he didn’t receive an invite to the NFL combine.
You can certainly expect to see him perform with a chip on his shoulder, which usually brings the best out in people.
Patton didn’t fulfill expectations during his four-year career, as he finished with 52 receptions, 635 receiving yards and six touchdowns. However, he is an explosive receiver who has terrific top-end speed and explosion off the line of scrimmage. He’s a real playmaker with the ball in his hands, which he proved last season with five receptions of 25 or more yards.
His downfall is that he isn’t very big at 5’9”, 178 pounds. That sometimes leads to him getting jammed at the line and struggling to break free from press coverage. He’ll have to prove he’s improved his upper body strength and is capable of separating from defenders.
Overall, Patton has the potential to be a late-round draft steal as long as he can showcase his explosiveness.
Loucheiz Purifoy, CB
I’m not sure if any player had a worse day at the NFL combine than Loucheiz Purifoy. He benched pressed 225 pounds just six times, which was the fewest of any cornerback. He also ran the 40-yard dash in 4.61 seconds and had a vertical jump of 35.5 inches.
None of those numbers are going to turn any heads. Instead, they should make every NFL team question whether or not Purifoy is even worth all of the hype. This is somebody who left school early and was at one point considered a first-round draft pick.
Now, it’s fair to question whether or not he should be selected in the second round.
Purifoy is not an elite cover corner. He sometimes struggles locating the football and isn’t very reliable in run support. But one thing that gives him a fighting chance to be an early selection is his athleticism.
On film, Purifoy appears to be more than fast enough to turn and run with any receiver on the field. It’s rare to see somebody this lengthy with that much pure speed. Unfortunately, he didn’t display any of that during the combine.
Purifoy needs to redeem himself in a big way.
Jaylen Watkins, CB
Although Jaylen Watkins only participated in two events, no Gator impressed more during the NFL combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds and benched pressed 22 reps of 225 pounds, which were tied for the most among any cornerback.
So, why does he still have things to prove?
Well, I’d like to see him do more events and showcase his skills a little bit more. Let’s see the vertical jump, the lateral quickness in the shuttle run and the lower-body strength in the broad jump. The combine was hopefully a sneak peek of what’s to come and makes me feel like one of those kids in the AT&T commercials.
We want more! We want more!
In all seriousness, Watkins has to prove that the combine wasn’t a fluke. Sure, guys don’t run that fast and lift that much and then fall off a cliff in a month, but those are pretty much elite numbers when discussing cornerbacks. To be fair, Watkins was more of an afterthought heading into the combine.
Now, all of that could change if he puts up another incredible workout.
Dominique Easley, DT
As Dominique Easley continues to rehab an ACL injury, he didn’t participle much during the NFL combine. He produced 26 reps of 225 pounds but decided to skip out on everything else, as expected.
Still banged up or not, Easley is going to be the most watched player during Florida’s pro day. And the reason is simple: He’s the most talented prospect on the field. Easley is somebody who has the skill set to be a first-round pick, but the injuries are guaranteed to make an NFL franchise think twice.
So, how healthy is he at this point?
Nick De La Torre of Gator Country recently interviewed him and asked what he’s able to do at this point. “I’m doing everything right now, just not full-on speed.” Easley said.
That’s perfectly understandable, but scouts are going to want to see a little bit more than what he did at the combine. Just how is the knee holding up? Is he experiencing a setback? Is this somebody we really trust with a high draft pick?
Whatever Easley is capable of at this point during his recovery process, he should do during the pro day. It would certainly benefit his stock heading into the draft.