Although the allure of pro days ahead of the NFL draft comes from top prospects like USC wide receiver Marqise Lee, the event is usually even more important for the other players involved. It's a chance for them to impress a large group of talent evaluators.
Those secondary prospects got their day in the spotlight at the Trojans' pro day Wednesday. Caroline Deisley of the USC athletics site reported about 20 players were expected to participate and passed along comments from linebacker Devon Kennard:
I went to the combine so I already did everything there. I'm only going to be doing position drills so I don't have to worry about the tests. I just want to show my athleticism and my versatility through the different drills that they provide.
A growing number of prospects are starting to follow the same formula as Kennard, who's expected to come off the board during the second half of the draft: Do the athletic drills at the combine or during individual workouts, leaving just positional work for their pro day.
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As for Lee, his main task between now and draft day is trying to beat out Mike Evans to become the second wideout off the board behind Sammy Watkins.
Those three are seemingly a step above the rest at this point. Brandin Cooks, Odell Beckham Jr., Jordan Matthews and Kelvin Benjamin are among the other receivers attempting to push into the conversation, though. It's one of the deepest positions in the 2014 class and there's still time for a minor shakeup.
Lindsey Thiry of Fox Sports received word that all 32 NFL teams had some type of representation present for the workouts:
I'm told by a #USC spokesperson that all 32 NFL teams are represented at today's pro-day.— Lindsey Thiry (@LindseyThiry) March 12, 2014
One of the first players to make an impression was guard John Martinez. He's one of those players who really needed a good showing at the pro day as he attempts to force his way into the late-round conversation. At the very least, he'll want to earn a training camp look as an undrafted free agent.
The Trojans passed along word that Martinez registered 42 reps during the bench-press session. That would have been good enough for a tie of the highest total during the NFL Scouting Combine with Russell Bodine of North Carolina.
Highlights from today's bench: Martinez 42, Graf 27, Breslin 26, Markowitz 24, Uko 22 #USCProDay— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) March 12, 2014
As the players started lining up to run their 40-yard dashes, Rich Hammond of the Orange County Register noticed a trio of players, including Lee, who opted against running at the pro day:
Seems as though Marqise Lee, Dion Bailey and Silas Redd are not running the 40 at Pro Day. Their choice.— Rich Hammond (@RegisterUSC) March 12, 2014
The decision by Lee doesn't come as much of a surprise. Unless he felt like he was going to run a lightning-quick time there wasn't much upside to the 40. Dion Bailey and Silas Redd could have benefited more from a strong run, but they chose to sit out.
As for the players who did participate, USC provided the results for both attempts.
First round of 40 times: Akiba 5.2, Breslin 4.75, Flournoy 4.63, Graf 5.20, Greene 4.59, Grimble 5.02, Martin 5.51 #USCProDay— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) March 12, 2014
First round of 40 times (cont) Markowitz 5.58, Martinez 5.34, Simmons 5.06, Vehikite 5.23, Wright 4.68, Kevin Thomas ('10) 4.67 #USCProDay— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) March 12, 2014
Second round of 40 times: Akiba 5.19, Breslin 4.95, Flournoy 4.67, Graf 5.18, Greene 4.54, Grimble 5.05, Harris 4.66 #USCProDay— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) March 12, 2014
Second round of 40 times (cont): Martin 5.35, Markowitz 5.63, Martinez 5.33, Simmons 5.0, Vehikite 5.21, Wright 4.68, Thomas 4.61 #USCProDay— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) March 12, 2014
While the absence of a couple big names took some of the intrigue away, the one notable result was the lackluster showing by tight end Xavier Grimble. He failed to crack five seconds in either one of his two attempts after skipping the 40 at the combine.
If he did participate in Indianapolis those times would have ranked last among tight ends. Exactly how much his pro-day times will impact his draft stock is unclear, but he certainly didn't help his cause.
Back to Lee, Thiry noted he did the bench press after passing on it at the combine and threw up 11 reps. That would have ranked around the middle of the pack at the combine and shouldn't impact his draft status.
Receiver Marqise Lee benched 225lbs 11 times at #USC pro day. Did not bench at combine.— Lindsey Thiry (@LindseyThiry) March 12, 2014
USC also provided some highlights from the other athletic tests:
Highlights in vertical & standing jump: Harris 41 and 10'10, Breslin 35.5, Wright 34 and 9'11, Bailey 33.5, Flournoy 32 and 9'9 #USCProDay— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) March 12, 2014
Cornerback Torin Harris, a fringe draft prospect, was the standout performer of the group.
Following the basic testing, the players took part in drills based on position. WeAreSC.com provided a look at Lee getting ready for the wide receiver work:
Marqise Lee getting warmed up for WR drills at @USCProDay pic.twitter.com/rVBJofbrOu— WeAreSC.com (@wearescstaff) March 12, 2014
Jordan Schuchmann of Neon Tommy passed along a picture of center Marcus Martin, who's likely to be the second Trojan off the board after Lee, during offensive line drills:
Ultimately, the lasting impact of the USC pro day will probably be pretty middle. It followed the trend of most of the other schools' workouts in terms of limited participation overall, although Lee was a little more active than some of the other top prospects.
The biggest winner would probably be Martinez. The interior offensive lineman should get a few extra looks after his strong performance. On the flip side, Grimble has an extra question mark after failing to impress in the 40.
Nothing happened to cause any major swings in a player's draft stock, though.