NFL scouts, coaches and personnel men descended upon the Auburn University campus today to watch NFL draft prospects like offensive tackle Greg Robinson and defensive end Dee Ford work out one last time in front of the NFL general public.
Of the two superstars, Ford had the much better day, since he was finally able to showcase his athleticism after being medically pulled from the NFL Scouting Combine. Robinson, however, stood on his combine athleticism testing and only performed in position drills.
According to ESPN 106.5 in Auburn-Opelika, every NFL team was represented at the pro day, even as Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack and Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo worked out at their respective events.
Who helped, or hurt, themselves the most?
Dee Ford Catapults up Draft Boards and Potentially into the Top 5
Outside of quarterbacks, no single positional group gets scrutinized or pushed up draft boards in quite the same way as pass-rushers. Some years it's interior guys. Other years, it's ends and outside linebackers. In a pass-driven league, though, teams can't have enough guys who can shut down even the savviest of quarterbacks.
Just ask Peyton Manning and the Super Bowl-choking Denver Broncos.
This draft class features one of the best pass-rushing prospects we've seen in a long time in South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who has a chance to go in the top five, if not No. 1 overall. Mack should go shortly after Clowney, but may not drop below the Oakland Raiders at five or the Atlanta Falcons at six.
|Ford Versus the Top Pass-Rushers in 2014|
|Dee Ford||Jadeveon Clowney||Khalil Mack|
|Size||6'2", 244 lbs||6'5", 266 lbs||6'3", 251lbs|
|Vertical Jump (inches)||35.5||37.5||40|
|NFL.com & Auburn Pro Day Reports|
After that, Ford has made the case that he's the next best pass-rusher in the class.
"People can compare, but the combine is the combine," he said, per Joel A. Erickson of The Birmingham News. "You're just showing your athleticism. Feel free to compare if you want, but I think I did great, and I think he did great."
Some might prefer Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy, UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr or someone on the interior like Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, but after the Auburn pro day, I'm not sure if anyone would begrudge a team for taking Ford once Clowney and Mack are off the board.
Depending on how those two fall, look for Ford to go as high as No. 7 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or No. 10 to the Detroit Lions.
Greg Robinson Sports Trimmer Physique and Chats Up NFL Coaches
As mentioned, Robinson followed his fantastic combine by simply showing up to his pro day and running positional drills for the NFL staff in attendance.
He clearly hasn't sloughed off since Indianapolis, however, and he probably hasn't sidled up to any celebratory buffets. At 6'5", 327 pounds, Robinson weighed in five pounds lighter than he was at the combine. Frankly, at such a lighter weight, it's a little surprising he didn't opt to run the 40-yard dash again. Yet, with 4.92 seconds to stand on, why chance it?
The weight loss is just part of the overall effort Robinson must make as he transitions from a college read-option/run-blocker into an NFL-caliber pass-protector. It's two different levels, of course, but two different focuses as well. On Sundays, Robinson will need the speed, endurance, agility and flexibility that a slimmer body provides.
Of course, the pro day circuit is another point of contact for prospects to speak with NFL coaches. It's a much more laid-back setting than the combine grilling, and it's especially important for those junior prospects who don't get to go to all-star games like the Senior Bowl.
One might assume that the numerous coaches and scouts Robinson was speaking to today simply touched base with why he wasn't performing a fuller workout and what went in to his weight loss. In the end, though, it doesn't matter what they asked, as they're searching more for a comfort level with the player—how he handles himself and if they can see him fitting in their respective locker rooms.
Robinson could go as high as No. 2 to the St. Louis Rams. Our own Matt Miller reported earlier today that he's a target for the Cleveland Browns at No. 4 alongside Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins.
Other Pro Day Highlights:
—Tre Mason had himself a day, although he largely stood on his combine results as well. ESPN 106.5 clocked his three-cone drill at 6.7 seconds, which would have been the best at the combine.
—Numerous media affiliates (including WRBL of Columbus, GA) connected Mason to the Indianapolis Colts repeatedly throughout the day. Duane Rankin of the Montgomery Advertiser also had him in a long conversation with Philadelphia Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley.
—Iron Bowl hero and aspiring NFL cornerback Chris Davis hasn't been talked about much in this process because his size (5'9") runs counter to what many teams are looking for in defensive backs. Today he showed he can still ball, with a fantastic workout. According to Alex Byington of the Opelika-Auburn News, he ran a 4.51 40-yard dash and had a 40.5 vertical jump. That vertical would have been second best at the combine.