Teams put a lot of stock into just a few events when crafting their big boards for the NFL draft.
One of the major highlights of the pre-draft process that can make or break a prospect, is the NFL Scouting Combine. The annual event allows every team to congregate on one location to get a great look at the best talent in the country.
However, that isn’t the end-all, be-all when it comes to scouting these young men after their college careers end. Pro days are another viable method and gives prospects who didn’t participate or who performed poorly during drills in Indianapolis a second opportunity.
A great pro day outing will go a long way towards excusing a prospect’s lack of participation or poor workouts at the combine.
Let’s take a look at some players that I predict will greatly improve their stock heading into the draft during their program’s pro day.
*All combine results courtesy of NFL.com's results tracker.
Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State (Pro Day: March 7)
Sutton was one of the best interior linemen in the country during his junior campaign, but followed it up with a subpar senior season in 2013.
The ASU star also failed to impress at the combine, leaving his pro day as the last chance to bolster his draft stock.
The defensive tackle was listed around 260 pounds during the 2012 season and was clearly his most effective at that weight, so he needs to show up lighter to the Tempe-based workouts on March 7.
Scouts will be looking to see that he has made some headway towards getting back down to that figure, and that alone might have a tremendous impact on his draft status.
Sutton came to the combine weighing 303 pounds, which is simply too much for his 6’0½” frame to carry.
In the space of one year, Will Sutton has weighed in at 288 lbs (pre-season), 315 lbs (Senior Bowl) and 303 lbs (combine).— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 27, 2014
It clearly impacted his explosiveness and quickness, as he ran the 40-yard dash in an unimpressive 5.36 seconds, only put up 24 reps of 225 pounds on the bench, leaped 28.5 inches vertically, went 99 inches on the broad jump and completed the three-cone in 7.93 seconds.
The Sun Devil told Kent Somers of AZCentral.com that he plans to cut weight during the time between the combine and the March 7 pro day, when the reporter asked what his ideal weight in the NFL would be:
Whatever team I go to, what they want me to be. I weighed 303 this morning. I’m planning to get down to 290, 295 at Pro Day. Then whenever I go, if they want me to get heavier, I’ll get heavier. If they want me to stay there, I’ll stay there.
Matt Miller of Bleacher Report noted Sutton’s weight fluctuations during a calendar year:
Moment of honesty: I'll remain high on Will Sutton. Has gotten me in trouble before, but love his hand use & flexibility for an interior DL.— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) February 24, 2014
Josh Norris of NBC Sports explained while he’s still high on Sutton, despite the fact that he didn’t have a monster season and was unimpressive in Indianapolis:
How will Sutton's pro day impact his draft status?
Scouts and fans across the country may be sharing that opinion with Norris soon.
Sutton has already proved his ability to cut weight and there is little doubt he will show it again. That should allow him to improve his workouts significantly in time for the on-campus drills on Friday.
The ASU star is an ideal 3-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme ,and there are plenty of teams in the market for a talent of his caliber. One good day of workouts will be able to boost his stock through the roof and get a franchise to take a chance on Sutton.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville (Pro Day: March 17)
There are five legitimate candidates to go No. 1 to the Texans. They are rushers Clowney & Mack, QBs Bortles & Bridgewater & OT Robinson.— Rob Rang (@RobRang) March 4, 2014
Bridgewater was practically a no-show during the combine, electing to sit out the 40-yard dash and throwing portion of the event. That calculated gamble could be costly.
Former Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage spoke with Chase Goodbread of NFL.com about why Bridgewater may have made a mistake with his limited showing in Indianapolis:
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, Bridgewater is now in a position that will allow him to show he can handle the pressures of being a franchise-level NFL quarterback.
He has an immense amount of pressure on his shoulders and the spotlight is on him, so he can prove to the world he is able to rise to the occasion during these important workouts.
That sort of poise is exactly what the Houston Texans will be looking for, as they hold the No. 1 pick and are still considering the Louisville product as a potential prospect to exercise it on, as per Rob Rang of CBS Sports:
Expect the Texans and the NFL personnel in attendance to especially put Bridgewater under the microscope when it comes time to throw passes.
Every mechanical flaw will be critiqued and every dropped pass could have negative impact on his draft position. However, this is the position that Bridgewater chose to be in when he shied away from the lenient situation of throwing to unfamiliar receivers.
Drops and mistimed passes look less glaring when there isn’t a rapport between the quarterback and wideout, but they could be a major issue when Bridgewater is tossing the pigskin to familiar faces.
Jim Corbett of USA Today noted that the Cardinals junior said the reason he chose to wait until his on-campus workouts to throw is that he is a “perfectionist”:
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.
Bridgewater has a ton riding on this and needs to get his mind right ahead of the pro day. To his credit, he has already shown an immense amount of poise in the pocket with gigantic defenders bearing down ready to hit him.
It’s doubtful he’ll have much trouble making all the same throws in a controlled, comfortable, familiar environment.
Don’t be surprised when the Louisville star puts on a clinic and has scouts buzzing about his talent, finally putting the drama about his decision to not throw at the combine in the rear-view.