Big Ten Football Players Who Had Best Pro Days in 2014
It's expected—or at least hoped—to be a bounce-back draft class from the Big Ten this season, one year removed from 2013, when no one was selected until the Dallas Cowboys took Wisconsin center Travis Frederick at No. 31.
And even that was considered reaching at the time.
One of the biggest steps in restoring the league's good name was the pro-day circuit, and a number of Big Ten players did well to improve their stock in these semi-private workouts.
Whether that was much-needed or icing on the cake might vary, but it was helpful in every single case.
Who did the most to boost their value?
Honorable Mention: LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
I could not, in all good conscience, include Ryan Shazier in full after he re-tweaked the hamstring that kept him from running at the scouting combine. The relapse of that injury was too much of a letdown and cut his pro-day workout short.
Before injuring that hamstring, though, he ran an unofficial 4.36 in the 40-yard dash, which NFL Network's Mike Mayock rightfully called "crazy for a 237-pound outside linebacker."
This guy has to go in the first round—and if he doesn't, the joke will be on the teams that are drafting in the latter half. Think Alec Ogletree, only better.
WR Bennie Fowler, Michigan State
Bennie Fowler led the Rose Bowl-champion Michigan State Spartans in receiving yards (622) and touchdowns (six) last season, and yet it still never felt like he knew how good he could be.
On pro day, he finally started to realize that potential.
Fowler "lit the place up" during MSU's workout, according to Gil Brandt of NFL.com. His 4.39 in the 40-yard dash and 6.91 in the three-cone are both NFL scores, and Fowler looked good using his hands to catch passes from Andrew Maxwell (which has never proved easy).
He won't be vaulting up draft boards, but Fowler did enough to vault himself onto a couple at his pro day. He's a late-round flier with limited star potential but a chance to be useful in the league.
DB Thomas Gordon, Michigan
Thomas Gordon has the intangibles that NFL teams covet. Starting for four years at a school like Michigan will do that for you. All they needed was proof that he's a professional-caliber athlete.
He ran a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day, according to Michigan's official team website. He added to that time with a 4.10 in the 20-yard shuttle and an impressive vertical jump of 40.5''.
He won't go high, but Gordon has good instincts for the position and now some quality measurables to back them up. There's a reason Tony Pauline of NFL Draft Insider labeled him a sleeper before the most recent season.
WR Cody Latimer, Indiana
Cody Latimer had a nice junior season at Indiana, posting 72 catches for 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns.
Not a lot of folks took notice at the time, however, because...well, because he plays for Indiana. And even thought the Hoosiers have gone from "pushover" to "respectable" these past few seasons, they are still far from being on most scouting radars.
However, Latimer's postseason workouts—capped by a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash and 39'' vertical leap at IU's pro day, per Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun—have forced NFL teams to go back and re-evaluate his tape, which is the best thing Latimer could have asked for.
He could sneak into the top two rounds.
ATH Taylor Martinez, Nebraska
It was unclear, heading into Nebraska's pro day, what position Taylor Martinez would play at the next level. By the end of the early March workout...well, not much on that front changed.
But it was clear that he deserves a fair look.
According to Sean Callahan of HuskersOnline.com, T-Magic was clocked somewhere between a 4.28 and 4.35 in his 40-yard dash—scores that would put the former quarterback toward the top of the draft class (and NFL) at either running back or wide receiver.
Martinez also had a 39'' vertical, leaped 10'9'' in the broad jump and clocked a nice 3.81 in the three-cone drill. When asked after the event how it went, Martinez said, "I thought I could have run faster," according to Grant Muessel of Hail Varsity.
If that is indeed the case, he will be useful to some team.
WR Allen Robinson, Penn State
Allen Robinson needed to run well at his pro day. Everything else—the game tape, production, size—is there, but a 4.60 in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine had teams wondering if he could cut it in the league.
Robinson said he was clocked with a 4.47 at his pro day, according to Jeff Reynolds of CBS Sports. He also upped his scores importantly in the vertical jump (from 39'' to 42''), broad jump (from 127'' to 131'') and three-cone drill (from 7.00 to 6.53), although the shedding of 12 pounds after leaving Indianapolis played a role.
Still, the statement that Robinson made during his pro day was emphatic and crystal-clear. He's on the fringe of becoming a first-round pick.
DB Dezmen Southward, Wisconsin
Dezmen Southward is part of what most consider a weak safety class, blending into the mass of players behind Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor at the top.
Because of an unrealized vertebrae problem, however, Southward was not allowed to participate at the combine, which made some scouts forget about him. But after what he showed at Wisconsin's pro day, he was viable enough to land in the sixth round of Matt Miller's most recent Bleacher Report mock draft.
According to Rob Rang of CBS Sports, Southward ran a couple of 40-yard dashes in the low-4.4s and had a 42'' vertical leap and 10'4'' broad jump. The most comparable physical specimen who was invited to the combine, Rang writes, was Washington State safety Deone Bucannon, whom Miller has going No. 51 overall in the second round.
Southward will not rise up that high, but don't be shocked if he cracks into the mid-100s. He was always pretty good for the Badgers.