Texas A&M Football: What We Learned from Aggies' 2014 Pro Day

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistMarch 5, 2014

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, from left, and receiver Mike Evans talk with linebacker Nate Askew as he prepares to compete in Texas A&M's pro day held Wednesday, March 5, 2014, in College Station, Texas. Manziel and Evans did not compete in the event. (AP Photo/Patric Schneider)
Patric Schneider/Associated Press

Texas A&M held its annual pro day on Wednesday afternoon, and while the Aggies' three first-round prospects were all in attendance, none was a full participant.

Quarterback Johnny Manziel and wide receiver Mike Evans will not work out for scouts until their own, separate pro day on March 27. Evans is wise to sit on his fantastic performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, while Manziel, who didn't throw in Indianapolis either, will put a lot of his eggs in one basket when he works out in a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, offensive tackle Jake Matthews, who many think ceded the draft's top tackle spot to Greg Robinson at the combine—through no fault of his own, mind you—took part in position drills but little else. He did well enough in Indy to warrant a slow day.

All three of those former Aggies are expected to go among the top 15 draft picks, but they were the only members of this team who even attended the combine in February. For the rest of the draft-eligible players on last year's team, Wednesday was about proving they should have been invited and are currently being overlooked.

Here's a quick look at what we learned.


Nate Askew Is a Worth Taking a Flier On

COLLEGE STATION, TX - SEPTEMBER 07:  Nate Askew #9 of the Texas A&M Aggies returns an interception for 30 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter against the Sam Houston State Bearkats in the  at Kyle Field on September 7, 2013 in College Station, Texa
Bob Levey/Getty Images

Nate Askew made the switch from offense to defense before his senior year in College Station, moving from wide receiver, where he had failed to make a meaningful impact in three seasons, to linebacker, where he appeared in all 12 games and made a couple of starts.

As with any player who switches sides of the ball so late in his college career, Askew is a raw, developmental prospect at his new position. The game tape does not reveal a player who deserves to be drafted in May.

As an athlete, though, Askew is someone worth taking a flier on. He was listed at 6'4'', 235 pounds in college, but his frame appears capable of carrying more weight. He weighed in at 241 pounds on Wednesday and, considering his other physical tools, a little more mass on top of that would make him a dangerous package.

More importantly, Askew got clocked with an unofficial time of 4.45 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Here's a look at the sprint, via A&M's official Instagram account:

The fastest linebacker at the combine was Kevin Pierre-Louis of Boston College, who ran a 4.51. He's undersized, but Askew might well be the fastest player at the position in this year's class. And in the modern, wide-spread NFL, speed at every level is imperative.

If he's to ever make a difference at linebacker in the NFL, Askew is at least a few seasons away. It might not ever happen. If it does, however, teams will be kicking themselves for not taking a flier on this type of athletic potential.

The ceiling on Askew is high.


Derel Walker and Ben Malena Should Have Been at the Combine

John Bazemore/Associated Press

A&M had three projected top-15 picks on its offense last year, making it easy to discount the bevy of skill position players around them.

Quality starters from 2013 such as running back Ben Malena and receiver Derel Walker did not even get invited to the combine, despite playing integral roles on an offense that finished fourth nationally in yards per game and yards per play.

Manziel, Matthews and Evans did some heavy lifting, no doubt.

They did not do all of it.

Malena and Walker (and even Travis Labhart) enjoyed varying degrees of success on Wednesday afternoon. Walker, in particular, stood out and looked like he was capable of making an NFL roster as a fourth or fifth receiver.

James Palmer of CSN Houston reported that scouts, after watching Walker post a 37.5'' vertical, were intrigued by what they saw:

Walker finished last season second on the team behind Evans with 818 receiving yards, doing so on only 51 catches. His 4.64 in the 40-yard dash left a little bit to be desired, but Walker does his best work in the intermediate part of the field. Vertical speed was important but not imperative.

Walker will be working out with Manziel and Evans on March 27, which will give him a chance to put his route-running and hands on display in front of, ostensibly, some of the highest-level talent evaluators in the NFL.

Malena, meanwhile, has led the Aggies in carries and yards by a running back for the past two seasons. The team used a unique, four-headed committee approach in 2013, which limited his stats and kept him firmly off most scouts' radars, but Malena showed on Wednesday that he deserves proper consideration. 

Here's a video of his 40-yard dash, courtesy of the team's official Instagram account, which was clocked at an impressive 4.54 seconds:

Malena also looked good in the three-cone, benched 22 reps of 225 pounds and posted a vertical jump of 33.5''.

Especially with the speed he showed in the 40-yard dash and agility drills, Malena might have piqued one or many teams' interest as a third down-type back.


Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans Care

Patric Schneider/Associated Press

A small gesture can go a long way. Maybe not so far as draft stock is concerned, but definitely in the minds of the collective public.

Manziel and Evans had no reason to show up on Wednesday. They literally did not compete in anything. They could have stayed home playing Xbox and had it not affect their draft stock.

March 27 is the day that matters.

However, both Manziel and Evans showed up in support of their less-heralded teammates—players whose contributions helped them win games in college and fortify their own respective draft stocks.

According to Brent Zwerneman of the San Antonio Express-News, Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin took notice:

Will this play a big role in their NFL evaluation? No. Not really.

But isn't that kind of the point?

Manziel and Evans had little to gain by showing up on Wednesday, which is how we can be assured—or at least convinced—that it was a selfless gesture. They care about their teammates.

Enough with the "Manziel is selfish" angle.


Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT


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