10 Players Who Have the Most to Prove at Pro Day

Brian PedersenFeatured ColumnistFebruary 28, 2014

10 Players Who Have the Most to Prove at Pro Day

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    Teddy Bridgewater (middle) and Johnny Manziel (right) must shine at their pro days.
    Teddy Bridgewater (middle) and Johnny Manziel (right) must shine at their pro days.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    The NFL combine has come and gone, with dozens of pro hopefuls going through the ringer of individual speed and strength drills as well as interviews with the media and potential employers. The whole thing had the feeling of a cattle auction.

    But at this meat market, some of the sides of beef came off looking unattractive, while others never made it out of the barn.

    For players who bombed at the combine or for whatever reason did not participate in some or all of the drills, there's one last chance to wow the scouts: pro day.

    Each school has a closed-to-the-public (and media) chance to show off in a controlled and comfortable environment, and for some players it's going to be their best opportunity to steer their football futures.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Scheduled pro day: March 17

    Teddy Bridgewater's decision to skip the throwing portion of the NFL combine, as well as not running the 40-yard dash, will put added emphasis on his pro day to show scouts he's got the combination of speed, mobility and arm strength necessary to warrant the lofty draft projections.

    Adding to Bridgewater's wavering reputation were reports, including one by Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, that he was "aloof" during interviews.

    Bridgewater told reporters, via CBS Sports' Dane Brugler, that he wants to have receivers and other support staff he's familiar with when he throws for scouts, which was why he opted not to throw at the combine.

Victor Hampton, CB, South Carolina

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Scheduled pro day: April 2

    The vast majority of people on hand for South Carolina's pro day will be there to watch Jadeveon Clowney, but those looking for an impact corner will also want to see if Victor Hampton can perform better than he did in Indianapolis.

    The defensive backs tend to put up some of the fastest collective combine times in the 40-yard dash, but Hampton's 4.69 was the slowest of those who participated. He had decent numbers in the other drills, but downfield speed is what scouts are looking for most in cover corners.

    With Hampton coming in at a scant 5'9", that speed has to be his equalizer to stick with big receivers. And with a lot of talented defensive backs available for this draft, a perceived lack of speed could be detrimental.

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Scheduled pro day: March 27

    While he went through all the measurable drills, logging a respectable 4.68 in the 40-yard dash and very good times in his footwork tests, Johnny Manziel's decision not to throw at the combine kept the doubters around.

    He'll no doubt put up all the different passes when teamed up with favorite receiver Mike Evans at a special pro day that's separate from Texas A&M's scheduled event, but scouts who have gone to games and watched film have already seen him throw to Evans.

    The combine would have given him a chance to work with unfamiliar targets, such as those he'll be faced with when he gets to his first NFL training camp this summer.

Adam Muema, RB, San Diego State

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    Otto Kitsinger/Associated Press

    Scheduled pro day: March 20

    Adam Muema made a splash in his final college game, rushing for 229 yards and three touchdowns in a bowl win over Buffalo. The performance contributed to the early draft entry earning an invite to the NFL combine where he could show his stuff off for a more concentrated, professional audience.

    But Muema opted out of any and all workouts, leaving the combine because God told him to and it would lead him to play for the Seattle Seahawks.

    The religion-based decision was a shocking one, and since then, Muema's only comments have come via Twitter. Whether he'll participate in San Diego State's pro day is still uncertain, but for now this once-promising prospect has become a major question mark.

Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Scheduled pro day: April 16

    Aaron Murray finished with 13,166 passing yards, joining a select club of quarterbacks who have surpassed 3,000 yards in four different seasons.

    A torn ACL knocked him out of Georgia's final two games, and surgery to repair his knee kept him from participating in any senior all-star games. It limited his involvement at the combine to some light throwing and lots of conversations.

    Murray said he'll be ready for a full range of drills and workouts at Georgia's pro day, per Yahoo Sports' Eric Edholm, which comes roughly eight weeks after the combine and less than four months after his surgery.

Louis Nix, DL, Notre Dame

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Scheduled pro day: March 20

    Louis Nix told reporters he felt "sexier" after losing 23 pounds heading into the combine, but he still came in at a 331 pounds.

    All of that size might have contributed to his slow 40-yard time of 5.42 seconds and possibly his comical attempts at landing properly in the broad jump.

    Nix did impress with his slimmer frame and improved quickness, which will make it interesting to see if he can look even better when working out at Notre Dame in a few weeks. It will likely be a much more intense workout, one that can better show his stamina for pro scouts.

Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Scheduled pro day: March 20

    Shayne Skov entered the combine as one of the highest-profile linebackers, but he didn't participate in any of the physical activities. He met with the media, explaining that "what you see is what you get," according to The Sports Xchange (via Yahoo Sports). 

    But then didn't show anyone anything on the field.

    If Skov is indeed as good as he's been billed—former Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason called him better than Manti Te'o—he'll need to show it in a few weeks.

Yawin Smallwood, LB, Connecticut

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Scheduled pro day: March 11

    Prior the draft, early entry Yawin Smallwood told The Hartford Courant's Desmond Conner he was aware of the criticisms of his game, including a lack of downhill speed, though he didn't necessarily agree with those knocks.

    Then Smallwood ran a sluggish 5.01—entering the territory of times normally associated with oversized linemen and broadcasters running in suits—and was also unimpressive in the bench press with just 18 reps.

De'Anthony Thomas, RB/PR, Oregon

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Scheduled pro day: March 13

    For as much as De'Anthony Thomas was hyped during college for his speed and athleticism, the fact he didn't finish in the top 10 among running backs with his 40-yard time (clocking in at 4.50 seconds at the combine) was surprising.

    He also didn't impress with his strength, managing just eight reps on the bench press. That was five fewer than any other running back.

    Thomas won't get drafted based on his lifting ability, but his overall combine numbers will put extra pressure on him as he performs for scouts at the pro day.

Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois

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    Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

    Scheduled pro day: March 7

    Jimmie Ward wasn't able to participate in drills at the combine after medical tests revealed a foot injury that he apparently wasn't aware of, according to Draftinsider.net.

    This prevented the 5'11", 193-pound safety from showing off the skills that made him a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top defensive back. 

    There's not much time for Ward's foot to heal up enough to participate in Northern Illinois' pro day, which is among the first scheduled. If he can't go, then private workouts will be his only opportunity to impress before the draft.