2014 NFL Draft: Pro Days with Major Draft Implications
While a lot of the focus during the NFL offseason focuses on the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis ahead of the draft in May, many players have to rely on strong pro-day performances to help bolster their stock.
Pro days offer teams the ability to watch players in a more intimate venue but also allow players to perform in a more comfortable setting.
Much is already known about prospective NFL players with the countless hours of studying game film and analyzing each and every play by scouts and general managers, but pro days still remain an integral part of the evaluation process.
For some players, their pro day may be their only chance to impress teams prior to the NFL draft in May, while others can use them to help bolster their position in the draft. Here are five players whose pro days have major draft implications.
Teddy Bridgewater, Quarterback, Louisville
It came as somewhat of a surprise when Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater opted out of most of the drills at the combine late last month.
Bridgewater, who was widely viewed as one of the possible No. 1 picks prior to the combine, only participated in the broad jump and the 20-yard shuttle, instead opting to do the rest of his workout at his pro say on March 17.
It came as no shock that he eschewed throwing at the combine. Many top prospects do not, but after he showing up having gained some weight, it was disappointing note to see him at least run the 40-yard dash.
Former Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage addressed the concerns of Bridgewater not participating much at the combine, telling NFL.com's Chase Goodbread:
That will be almost required at his pro day, that he finishes the rest of the (combine) workout. Every player basically has what I call an inventory sheet. And these teams are looking to fill in every blank on that sheet. Whether it's character questions (answered) through the platform of an interview, the 40-yard dash, the 20-yard shuttle, whatever. They want you to fill out a full resume. Bridgewater will end up running the 40 and doing the other drills he missed, then do his (throwing) workout.
Bridgewater addressed the issue on why he did not throw at the combine, telling the media in his press conference, "I will throw at my pro day. The biggest thing was just me being a perfectionist, I just want everything to go right."
He will get that chance on March 17 to further solidify his draft stock. While many know how accurate he can be with the football, his ability to show that he can run a quick 40-yard dash with his added weight may be the key to him locking down the No. 1 overall pick.
Dee Ford, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Auburn
Auburn's Dee Ford was one of the top performers a few weeks back at the Senior Bowl and was quickly rising up draft boards. He was so confident that he felt like he was better than Jadeveon Clowney, according to an interview with SiriusXM (h/t ESPN.com).
Unfortunately, he was not able to show everyone that he was better since he had to pull out of the combine due to a herniated disc in his lower back, according to NFL Network's Steve Wyche.
Ford commented on the situation, telling Charles Goldberg of AuburnTigers.com: "Everybody knows I had a back procedure in 2011. I feel fine, and everything is fine, but it was a medical precaution they want to go through. They didn't want to risk anything here. It's very unfortunate. I'm very disappointed. I came to compete in this Combine."
Teams were looking to measure his explosiveness and ability to get off the football in Indianapolis but had to settle for his pro day on March 4. Ford said, "Make this known: I'm doing everything March 4."
He did do everything on March 4 and finished with a 35.5" vertical, 10'4" long jump, 29 reps on the bench press and 4.59 on his first 40-yard dash attempt and 4.54 on his second, according to Jeff Reynolds of NFLDraftScout.com.
Questions surrounding his explosiveness and speed were laid to rest with his quick 40-yard dash times, and he was impressive with his 29 reps of 225 pounds, which proved he has the strength to match up in the NFL.
Brett Smith, Quarterback, Wyoming
While much of the focus at the NFL Scouting Combine was focused on the big-name quarterbacks like Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles, Wyoming's Brett Smith was left sitting at home, while his competition worked out for all 32 NFL teams.
He surprisingly decided to leave Wyoming early, forfeiting his final year of eligibility. While Bleacher Report's Matt Miller lists him as his 11th-best QB in his latest NFL draft big board, Smith was still not invited to Indianapolis for the combine.
According to Bleacher Report's Ryan Riddle, Smith was asked about his non-invite to the combine and said, "I called them up, and they said it was because there was a record number of underclassmen who declared this year, and they wanted to make sure they had enough spots available for seniors."
CBS Sports' Dane Brugler was surprised by the combine snub for Smith, tweeting:
Watching the QB workouts, I couldn't help but think about the fact that QB Brett Smith is better than a number of QBs here in Indy #Snubbed— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) February 23, 2014
He will get an opportunity to show off his abilities at Wyoming's pro day on March 13. Miller currently has him tabbed as a sixth-round pick, while Brugler lists him going somewhere in the fifth or sixth round.
While he lost out on the opportunity to work out with the best at the combine, his pro day will go a long way in determining whether or not he can catapult himself into the middle of the draft.
Vinnie Sunseri, Safety, Alabama
Much like Wyoming's Brett Smith, Alabama's Vinnie Sunseri will have a chance to show off for teams at his pro day after not participating in the combine.
While Smith did not participate because he was not invited, Sunseri was unable to perform due to a knee injury he suffered during the 2013 season. His decision to leave Alabama early was somewhat surprising, especially after the knee injury, but he claimed it was something he was leaning toward all along.
In a press conference at the combine, he told the media, "It's never been about money. It's the next stage of my life. I feel like I'm ready to take that next step."
Because of the knee injury, he will not be able to participate in Alabama's first pro day on March 12 but is slated to work out during Alabama's second pro day in April, per ESPN Insider Phil Savage.
Teams are well-aware of Sunseri's great instincts on the field and his high level of football knowledge. However, his pro day will be important in showing that he has healed from his knee injury and that he has the flexibility and movement back that will allow him to cut on the football.
If he can prove he has regained the range of motion in his knee, he has the ability to immediately contribute in the NFL on special teams and could push for a starting job in 2014.
Johnny Manziel, Quarterback, Texas A&M
It is hard to mention the NFL draft and ignore Johnny Manziel. The former Heisman Trophy winner has catapulted up draft boards this offseason and now is being viewed as a potential No. 1 overall pick.
Manziel was not shy about his abilities at the combine, telling the media in a press conference when asked if the Texans pass on him first overall, "It would be the worst decision they've ever made."
Unsurprisingly, he opted not to throw at the combine, instead deciding to throw at his pro day on March 27. Texas A&M has its scheduled pro day on March 5, but Manziel has decided to hold a private workout on March 27.
While many know about his ability to get outside of the pocket and create something out of nothing, many questions still remain about his arm strength and ability to read defenses. Scouts will want to see that he has the ability to make every throw from inside the pocket, instead of always relying on using his feet to escape bad situations.
He is likely a lock as a top-give pick, but a strong pro day could catapult him to No. 1 overall.