The Alabama Crimson Tide and Oregon Ducks finished the 2012 college football season ranked as the top two teams in the nation. Both programs, which have a number of stars from their successful teams now in line to be selected in the 2013 NFL draft, held their pro days earlier this week.
Alabama’s pro day was held in Tuscaloosa, Ala. on Wednesday, while Oregon’s was in Eugene, Ore. on Thursday. Thanks to ESPN3’s coverage streamed online, I was able to watch portions of each pro day. While the coverage unfortunately did not show much of the positional drills from either workouts, there were players at both that stood out with their measurable performances.
One year removed from producing five of the NFL draft’s top 35 picks, Alabama has a chance to replicate those numbers yet again in 2013, with a draft class that includes six potential first-round selections.
The standout among them Wednesday was defensive tackle Jesse Williams. He did not participate in on-field drills at the NFL Scouting Combine due to a knee injury, but made up for it with a strong pro day highlighted by an impressive time of 4.92 seconds (hand time) in the 40-yard dash.
For a 325-pound defensive lineman whose game is not predicated on his speed, showing that level of athleticism only makes him more attractive as a prospect. Williams is better known for his strength and power, and is the best true nose tackle prospect in the draft class. But although a massive and powerful gap-filler, he has surprising quickness and athleticism, and that athleticism could push Williams into the draft’s top 10-15 picks.
Alabama’s top overall prospect for the draft is guard Chance Warmack. His athletic testing was underwhelming on Friday: he ran times of 5.01 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle and 7.91 in the 3-cone drill according to NFL.com, and only managed 24.5 inches in the vertical jump.
Granted, these numbers matter little for a guard, but are notable in that he is not the same caliber of athlete as North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper, the other star guard prospect in the draft class. Warmack did shine, however, during the streamed portion of on-field drills. He moves his feet well in short areas, and did every drill smoothly with textbook posture and stance.
Another potential first-round pick, right tackle D.J. Fluker, also did positional work with Warmack. In comparison to his counterpart, Fluker looked stiffer in his movement, and his feet did not look as natural, while he drove too high into the bag on blocking drills.
Alabama’s other three potential first-round picks — cornerback Dee Milliner (shoulder), offensive lineman Barrett Jones (foot) and running back Eddie Lacy (hamstring) — are all nursing injuries and did not participate in on-field drills. Jones did, however, put up a solid number of 27 repetitions in the bench press.
Safety Robert Lester had a solid day in his pro day workouts. His 40-yard dash time (4.65 seconds unofficial) was subpar, but he had good marks in the vertical jump (34 inches), broad jump (10 feet, 1 inch), 20-yard shuttle (4.25 hand time), 3-cone drill (7.25 seconds, according to NFL.com) and 60-yard shuttle (11.75 unofficial).
Lester had a disappointing mark of only seven repetitions in the bench press, but looked good in the streamed portion of defensive back drills, tracking the ball well and catching the ball clean.
Michael Williams is a very good in-line blocker for a tight end, but he proved that he is only a blocker and short-yardage receiving threat on Wednesday. Williams looked like an offensive tackle (which he could ultimately be developed into, measuring in at 6’5 5/8” and 278 pounds) than a tight end during athletic testing.
Williams’ marks in the 40-yard dash (5.09 hand time), 20-yard shuttle (4.88 unofficial), 3-cone drill (8.10 hand time), vertical jump (25.5 inches per NFL.com) and broad jump (8 feet, 1 inch per NFL.com) all would have been worst by a significant margin among tight ends at the NFL Scouting Combine.
All 32 NFL teams were represented Wednesday, and NFL.com reported that attendees executives included New York Jets general manager John Idzik, New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese and Detroit Lions senior personnel executive Brian Xanders and defensive line coach Kris Kocurek.
Oregon’s top prospect, outside linebacker/defensive end Dion Jordan (shoulder), did not work out Thursday, and neither did safety John Boyett (knees) as both recover from injuries. But even without two of Oregon’s top players in action, there were a number of future NFL players on the field in Eugene.
The standout among them may have been running back Kenjon Barner, who is one of the most explosive skill-position players in the 2013 NFL draft class. Barner was hand timed at 4.43 seconds in the 40-yard dash and 4.13 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle. He was also impressive during the streamed portions of his receiving drills. Barner ran sharp routes with quick breaks, and consistently caught the ball cleanly in his hands.
Two linebackers, Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay, also made a positive impression in Thursday’s workout.
Alonso was hand timed at 4.79 seconds in the 40, 6.76 in the 3-cone drill and 11.44 in the 60-yard shuttle, while NFL.com also reported marks of 4.18 in the 20-yard shuttle, 30.5 inches in the vertical jump and 9 feet, 9 inches in the broad jump. During the streamed portion of linebacker drills, Alonso looked very good backpedaling, flipping his hips, moving his feet and changing directions.
Clay, who unlike Alonso did not receive a combine invite, made the most of his opportunity Thursday. He only measured in at 5’11” and 230 pounds according to NFL.com, but he put up very good numbers in the athletic testing. He was hand timed at 4.74 seconds in the 40, 4.04 in the 20-yard shuttle, 6.70 in the 3-cone drill and 11.48 in the 60-yard shuttle. He also put an impressive number of 23 repetitions in the bench press, and NFL.com reported marks of 31.5 inches in the vertical jump and 9 feet, 6 inches in the broad jump.
Another impressive number from the day came from guard Ryan Clanton, who put up what would have been a combine-best mark with 42 repetitions in the bench press. A reserve throughout his career at Oregon, Clanton will have to make an outstanding impression on an NFL team to even earn a training camp invite, but that mark will draw him some attention.
27 NFL teams were represented at Oregon according to NFL.com. Notably among them, Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey were both in attendance. They weren’t likely looking for their No. 1 overall pick in Eugene — Dion Jordan would be both a major reach and a pick at a position of non-need — but Alonso and offensive lineman Kyle Long would both certainly make sense as third- or fourth-round targets.
The Geno Show: West Virginia
Another very notable pro day this week happened at West Virginia on Thursday, highlighted by Geno Smith — who could be the first quarterback drafted this year — along with two very good wide receiver prospects in Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.
Smith, of course, received the headlines. CBS Sports reported that Smith had an impressive throwing workout Thursday, completing 60 of 64 passing attempts, with two of the four incompletions being drops by Bailey. However, it is important to keep Smith’s impressive performances in perspective: he was throwing against no pass-rush and no coverage, and Smith’s biggest flaws include his footwork and decision-making under pressure, and his tendency to stare down initial reads.
What Smith may have proved for scouts Thursday are his physical tools and mechanics, which may be the best and most complete among any quarterback in the 2013 draft class. It shouldn’t, however, affect his draft evaluations significantly.
The most notable part of Smith’s pro day may be who made the trip to West Virginia to watch. The Jacksonville Jaguars, who are in position to select him by holding the No. 2 overall pick, were represented by their top decision-makers: general manager David Caldwell, head coach Gus Bradley, offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, director of player personnel Terry McDonough and senior vice president of football technology and analytics Tony Khan were all in attendance Thursday.
More Pro Day Action
Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones had an even better completion percentage at his pro day Wednesday, completing 66 of 70 passing attempts according to NFL.com. The Jaguars were certainly taking a look at Jones as well, sending quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo to Norman according to NFL.com. If they pass on Smith and the other quarterbacks at the top of the draft, Jones is a potential mid-round choice for the Jaguars.
Cincinnati defensive end/outside linebacker Walter Stewart nearly retired and was not allowed to work out at the NFL Scouting Combine due to a spinal defect, but he had a strong day at his pro day Wednesday. Stewart ran a 40-yard dash in the high 4.5-second range, a 4.32 short shuttle, had 16 repetitions in the bench press and put up marks of 10 feet, 3 inches in the broad jump and 37.5 inches in the vertical jump, according to Optimum Scouting.
The week of pro day action will finish strong heading into another loaded week of workouts next week. The highlight of Friday’s pro day schedule is at Arkansas, which will be highlighted by one of Smith’s top competitors among potential first-round quarterbacks in Tyler Wilson. Notable pro days next week include Florida State, Georgia and Stanford, which will all be streamed via ESPN3, along with a number of other notable pro days which include Tennessee, Connecticut, North Carolina State and Boise State.