NFL Draft Prospects Moving Up Boards After Early Pro Day Action

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMarch 14, 2021

NFL Draft Prospects Moving Up Boards After Early Pro Day Action

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    North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance
    North Dakota State quarterback Trey LanceAssociated Press

    Some things about the NFL draft won't change even in the strangest of years. 

    This year's run to the 2021 draft won't feature a scouting combine, much of the prospect interview process is digital, and teams are left sprinting to different pro days across the country—should their front offices not want to rely on just film and nothing else. 

    At those pro days, the NFL permits teams to have just three reps each, so it's a game of resource allocation to pin down the who, where and why as quickly as possible. For the prospects, those brief bits of testing, drills and interactions are more important than ever. 

    With notable pro days in the books already, these are the prospects that have benefitted the most through strong showings. 

OG Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin-Whitewater

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    With no combine for small-school prospects to show their stuff amongst bigger-school peers, pro days are more important than ever for lesser-known names. 

    Take Quinn Meinerz out of Wisconsin-Whitewater as a good example. 

    Before his pro day, Meinerz wasn't close to being a household name. That changed earlier this week when the offensive lineman checked in at 320 pounds but still posted a 32-inch vertical jump and a 4.92-second time in the 40-yard dash.

    Historically speaking, Meinerz's measurables were downright incredible compared to other players at his position since 1987. If teams already liked what they saw on film, all Meinerz's numbers did was confirm he can hang in the NFL athletically, which is a huge boost to his draft stock. 

OC Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma

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    Alonzo Adams/Associated Press

    Creed Humphrey was one of the more recognizable names when it comes to offensive linemen in the 2021 draft, but only because he got plenty of shine playing at Oklahoma. 

    And yet Humphrey was able to boost his draft stock at his pro day anyway. 

    A three-year player for the Sooners, Humphrey tested even beyond what most would have probably expected, posting a 4.46-second time in the 20-yard shuttle, which tied the top mark from last year's combine. His overall athletic testing made him one of the most impressive linemen to enter the draft in decades.

    Already hyped as a two-time Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year, Humphrey might have just boosted himself into the first round, which is quite the feat for a center prospect. 

CB Tre Brown, Oklahoma

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    Alonzo Adams/Associated Press

    Oklahoma star cornerback Tre Brown already had some well-established momentum going into his pro day after earning top defensive back honors at the Senior Bowl. 

    But a superb showing at his pro day certainly didn't hurt. 

    Brown tested as well as expected, putting up a 4.40 40-yard dash time, 38-inch vertical and a 20-yard shuttle time of 4.27 seconds. 

    Pair those measurements with the fact Brown had the second-highest forced incompletion rate since 2019, according to Pro Football Focus, and it's easy to see why a potential slot man at the next level could jump into the first round. 

    Special teams experience, production at corner and pro measurables make Brown one to watch now that teams have seen him in person. 

RB Travis Etienne, Clemson

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    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    It's hard for running backs to boost their draft stock in an era when the position is devalued, especially ahead of a free-agent market that includes heavyweights like Aaron Jones.

    And it's especially hard in a ho-hum draft class for a back to not only separate himself, but also end up looking like a lock as a first-rounder. But Clemson's Travis Etienne might have just made it happen. 

    Etienne, who ran for 4,952 yards and 70 touchdowns with 102 catches for another 1,155 yards over four seasons with the Tigers, showed up to his pro day bulked up to 215 pounds, yet he still ran a 4.40-second 40-yard dash. 

    Arguably even better, Etienne put his full repertoire of skills on display, taking reps out of the backfield, as a special teams returner and at wideout. The showing seemingly locked him in as the No. 1 back in the class, if not a mid-round pick in the opening frame. 

OT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    It seemed the offensive tackle rankings this year were locked in and nothing could knock Oregon's Penei Sewell from the top spot. 

    But Rashawn Slater clearly wanted a word on the subject. 

    The Northwestern star seemed set to be the second-best tackle and perhaps a would-be top tackle in most draft classes. But at his pro day, Slater was downright stunning, checking in at 6'4" and 304 pounds with 33-inch arms, 33 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press and a 4.88-second 40-yard dash. A ridiculous weight room video that went viral at the time sure didn't hurt. 

    Written another way, Slater's measurables were nearly identical to Dallas Cowboys star Zack Martin. That's comparing him to a guard, but if teams like the film in tandem with the pro day performance, Slater is a sleeper to be the first lineman off the board. 

QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State

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    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    Trey Lance has been a notable fourth in the first-round quarterbacks conversation behind Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Justin Fields. 

    Understandably so, too. While Lance completed 67.0 percent of his passes over two years with 28 touchdowns and no interceptions, plus 1,182 yards and 16 scores as a rusher, the level of competition and other concerns slotted him behind bigger names. 

    But at North Dakota State's pro day, Lance had a chance to silence the doubters, if not move above guys like Fields. 

    And Lance certainly made his case despite opting out of testing by impressing over the course of a 66-throw performance, posting major highlights in the process. That, flanked by a 6'3", 224-pound measurement, impressed onlookers. 

    NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah summed up the showing: "Looking back over my Trey Lance notes and I see the same words over and over again—quick eyes, trust, anticipation, toughness. I know it’s a limited body of work but the foundation is outstanding!"

    How the quarterbacks come off the board will still hinge on fit with coaches and schematics atop everything else, but Lance made his case to hear his name called early.

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