The NFL Scouting Combine and pro days are the two key events for elite prospects hoping to be selected in the 2014 draft.
While a great performance at the combine is often a major boon toward improving draft position, it isn’t the end of the world if a prospect had an off day or elected not to participate in the major drills in Indianapolis.
Fortunately, these young stars will get another chance to show the world their talent in a more comfortable environment via on-campus pro day workouts.
Let’s take a look at a handful of players who didn’t make much noise at the combine and have a significant amount of draft stock riding on their showing at an upcoming pro day.
*All combine results courtesy of NFL.com's results tracker.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville (Pro Day: March 17)
Bridgewater is the poster child for the importance of a pro day, as the Cardinals signal-caller elected to sit out the 40-yard dash and throwing drills at the combine.
He now has all his eggs in one basket, which is exactly the phrase former Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage used when describing the dangers of Bridgewater’s risky decision to Chase Goodbread of NFL.com:
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…What happens if he strains his hamstring doing the 40? Now that's going to impact the rest of his workout. So you are putting all your eggs in one basket.
However, the junior is out to prove his choice was not the wrong one. If he is able to impress with his athleticism and flawlessly display his passing mechanics on March 17, it will have general managers, scouts and fans buzzing about his ability.
In a media session at the combine, Bridgewater confidently stated he is the “best quarterback in this draft” and noted the reasons why he did not want to throw at the event, as per Jim Corbett of USA Today:
I will throw at my pro day. The biggest thing was just me being a perfectionist, I just want everything to go right.
Whether I'm taking a five-step drop and the guy is not on top of his route or the times when I don't have that chemistry with the guys, I tend to look at it from a pro standpoint. You want to be with your guys to have that timing and that connection. So that was the biggest thing.
While his familiarity with his receivers will undoubtedly help him to look better, Bridgewater’s mistakes will also be magnified for the same reason.
Throwing to wideouts he has little to no rapport with in Indianapolis would have earned him leeway with scouts for mistimed and off-target passes, while those same errors with Louisville personnel will be seen as major red flags.
He’ll also have to show his speed in the 40-yard dash, with the quarterback mark of 4.68 seconds set by Johnny Manziel the target to breach. Bridgewater isn’t exactly known for his running prowess, so it’s doubtful he will be able to eclipse that lofty mark.
There’s also the issue of pressure, as Bridgewater knows he must step up and deliver with all eyes on him. Every single throw will be analyzed under the microscope and could impact his draft position, which Rob Rang of CBS Sports notes could be as high as No. 1 overall to the Houston Texans:
That’s exactly the type of pressure that franchise signal-callers face on a weekly basis, so his ability to rise to the occasion or shrink from the spotlight will be on full display here.
Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama (Pro Day: March 12)
Kouandjio is one of the multitude of elite tackle prospects in this year’s crop of talent. However, the Alabama star did not do himself any favors with a shoddy performance at the combine last month.
While the 6’7”, 322-pound behemoth definitely measured up and has the size to be a franchise tackle, he ultimately failed to meet the fairly low expectations scouts had set for him coming into the event.
Kouandjio plodded through the 40-yard dash in 5.59 seconds, lifted 225 on the bench just 21 times, had a max vertical jump of 27.5 inches, broad jumped a mere 96 inches, moved through the three-cone in 7.71 seconds and finished the 20-yard shuttle in 4.84 seconds.
Those numbers put him near the bottom of his position in almost every drill, which isn’t what any club wants to see in a player they are considering with a first-round pick.
Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net noted that a Buffalo Bills scout thinks this young man has no chance of being a Day 1 selection after his poor showing in Indianapolis:
While he’s been hyped as a big mauler who will clear running lanes from a right tackle spot, he has to improve on those performances in Tuscaloosa come the Crimson Tide’s March 12 pro day.
To make matters worse for Kouandjio, reports came out during the combine that he had failed physicals after it was revealed he suffers from an arthritic knee after undergoing a failed surgery.
NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported the troubling news back on Feb. 22:
The saga started with a gruesome knee injury suffered back in 2011, which Kouandjio described to Tommy Deas of TideSports:
I was blocking. We were running outside draw and I had the guy blocked, but a linebacker from the back side came in and kind of leg-whipped me trying to tackle the running back. I tore my ACL, my MCL, in my left knee.
Dr. Dave Siebert of Bleacher Report spoke with B/R’s draft expert, Matt Miller, on how the injury may or may not impact the tackle prospect’s stock, depending on if he’s been flagged or not:
If every team has red-flagged him, it's a major issue. If a few teams have, it could be something that never affects his draft stock…Pre-injury concerns, he was a potential top-20 player with tremendous upside. That may still be the case.
Should Kouandjio put together a tremendous workout, look healthy and improve upon his shoddy combine figures in Tuscaloosa next week, it’s quite possible that knee injury becomes overlooked and the ‘Bama product comes off the board on the first day.