NFL Draft 2014: Early-Round Talents Who Boosted Their Stock with Strong Pro Days

Sean HojnackiFeatured ColumnistApril 1, 2014

Texas A&M's Mike Evans
Texas A&M's Mike EvansPatric Schneider

Johnny Manziel stole the show at Texas A&M's pro day March 27, suiting up in full pads and a helmet and getting chased by a guy with a broom simulating a pass rush. However, he wasn't the only player who impressed scouts that day. Here are three players who helped their causes with excellent results at their pro days.


Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

With teams and the media salivating over "Johnny Football," Mike Evans was likely the most talented player at any pro day who was not the focal point among players from his own team. Evans will likely be drafted after a pair of fellow Aggies in Manziel and tackle Jake Matthews, but he won't follow too far behind them.

Clemson's Sammy Watkins is widely considered the top wideout in the draft, but Evans has surged ahead of Marqise Lee from USC as the second-best WR on many boards. In a draft full of talented receivers, Evans could be one of the game-changers and possesses All-Pro ability.

Evans has a big pair of mitts to corral the ball, and his long arms outstretched from his 6'5" frame make him well suited to snag jump balls.

Evans turned in a time of 4.53 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, two-tenths of a second slower than speed demon Brandin Cooks and one-tenth of a second slower than Watkins, via

Though his timed speed is a bit behind his top competition, Gil Brandt of observed Evans at the pro day and pointed out that he's a burner once he gets going: "He’s got build-up speed—by that, I mean he doesn’t start like a guy who has 4.3 speed, but once he gets up field about seven or eight yards he really gets going."

After hauling in 69 passes for 1,394 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, Evans won't last past the first 15 picks and would be a nice fit for the Buffalo Bills at No. 9 or the St. Louis Rams at No. 13.


Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina

A 6'6" behemoth, Kareem Martin grabbed some headlines at the UNC pro day on March 25, at least after everyone was tired of gushing about tight end Eric Ebron.

Martin proved durable during his three years as a starter, and he was not only the team captain but also a first-team All-ACC selection. He's got good awareness and can locate the ball to keep containment without sacrificing defensive positioning for pursuing sacks.

At 272 pounds, he should add a little more mass to that frame. He could learn to stay lower and be stronger at the point of attack, but in a draft that is short on top-notch defensive ends, look for Martin to be a second-rounder with teams like the Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals in need at the position.


Garrett Gilbert, QB, Southern Methodist

Garrett Gilbert sparkled at the SMU pro day on March 28. As noted by Gil Brandt: "In front of three NFL quarterback coaches (Bill Musgrave of the Eagles, Wade Wilson of the Cowboys and the Ravens' Rick Dennison) and representatives from 22 different NFL teams, Garrett completed 87 of 88 passes, and would have completed them all if he had Calvin Johnson catching the back-shoulder fade that hit the ground."

Bob Levey

Gilbert did not have much around him with the SMU Mustangs who went just 5-7 this season. However, Gilbert led the team to 341.4 passing yards per game, good for eighth in the nation. Though he did not receive an invite to the scouting combine, he enjoyed his finest collegiate season with over 3,500 yards, a completion percentage of 66.5, 21 TDs, seven INTs and a 136.2 rating.

Gilbert is a third-tier QB, but he will likely come off the board some time during the third round, after the second tier of signal-callers (Derek Carr, AJ McCarron, Jimmy Garoppolo) are chosen.

There are at least seven teams in need of a promising young QB: Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders, Minnesota Vikings, Tennessee Titans and Arizona Cardinals.

With Gilbert in the mix as a top-10 QB on the board, one of those teams, more likely the Vikings, Titans or Cards, could use their earlier picks to take the best player available before hedging their bet and selecting a QB with a lower-risk pick.