NEPD Staff Writer: Dan Hope
In NFL draft circles, March madness consists of the packed schedule of collegiate pro days that take place throughout the month where top prospects from each school showcase their talents in front of NFL scouts.
We are currently in the midst of that season, and some of the top prospects in the 2013 NFL draft have already had their chance to shine at their school’s respective pro day. Two of the biggest pro days thus far have occurred at Clemson, which included likely first-round pick wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, and Ohio State, highlighted by likely first-round pick defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins.
I had the chance to watch portions of Clemson’s pro day Thursday on ESPN3, and I was in Columbus for Ohio State’s pro day Friday. Which players stood out, and which players left questions unanswered going ahead to April?
Hopkins is Clemson’s top prospect for the 2013 NFL draft, but among the group of receiving prospects, he did not stand out during on-field drills.
Hopkins had a solid day — his 40-yard dash was hand timed at 4.50 seconds (times across reports ranged from 4.41 to 4.58) and he ran good routes in the drills, as he consistently does on the field. Two fringe draft selections, however, outperformed Hopkins in those drills.
In the drills, Brown ran crisp routes with quick, sharp breaks, and had one of the highlights of the day when he adjusted to a pass thrown behind him, extended his left arm behind his body and made a clean one-handed catch.
Tight end Brandon Ford also made a good impression in on-field receiving drills. He looked very fluid running routes, and did a great job extending out from his body and making clean catches in his hands. Ford also had a 37-inch vertical jump, and ran a 4.73 40 according to The Post and Courier.
46 NFL scouts attended Clemson’s pro day according to ESPN3, and also in attendance was New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan. Ryan appeared to take interest in defensive end Malliciah Goodman, a projected early Day 3 pick who would likely play 5-technique in their 3-4 scheme, and linebacker Jonathan Willard, who will most likely be an undrafted free agent signing.
Goodman — whose most impressive measurables are his 10 7/8-inch hands and an 87 3/4-inch wingspan measured at the Senior Bowl — had a solid day at Clemson. He was hand timed at 4.66 seconds in the 40, and according to NFL.com, he also had a 33-inch vertical, 9-foot-9 broad jump, 4.48-second short shuttle and 7.10-second 3-cone drill.
Clemson had 12 prospects in total work out, with 11 Tigers hopefuls joined by Southern Illinois strong safety Carlton Lewis, who transferred from Clemson prior to his senior season. One player who did not work out is potential Day 2 draft pick running back Andre Ellington, who injured his hamstring at the combine. Dalton Freeman, a potential late-round pick as a center, also worked out as a long snapper Thursday.
13 prospects for the 2013 NFL draft worked out Friday, as 12 NFL hopefuls from OSU were joined by Glenville State guard Mark Jackson.
At least 40 scouts were in attendance at the pro day. Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau was spotted at the pro day, and Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman and Steelers GM Kevin Colbert were also in attendance, according to Fox Sports Ohio’s Zac Jackson.
A target of interest for both the Steelers and Vikings could very well be OSU defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins. Hankins has the size, strength and athleticism to be a versatile addition as a nose tackle and 5-technique defensive end for the Steelers at the No. 17 overall pick, while he would fill a need for the Vikings at either of their two first-round picks (Nos. 23 and 25).
Hankins only completed positional drills at OSU’s pro day, working alongside fellow defensive linemen Garrett Goebel, Kharim Stephens and Nathan Williams. The standout in drills among that group was Williams, who followed up on a great combine with a great day at the pro day.
Williams, who could be viewed as a linebacker rather than a defensive end by NFL teams, looking very fluid in movement and change-of-direction drills, strong in the pass-rush drills and did a great job keeping his eyes up while moving his feet well in bag drills. An athletic defensive front seven, Williams is gaining momentum as a Day 3 pick, whose likely best fit is in a 3-4 defense as an outside linebacker.
Another standout at OSU’s pro day was tight end Jake Stoneburner. Stoneburner ran well in the 40, with a time between 4.52 and 4.55 seconds, and stood out in the on-field drills. Stoneburner looked clean running routes and caught every ball well, extending out from his body and making sound catches in his hands.
One of the draft’s most versatile players, Zach Boren, continued to show his versatility Friday. Boren, who switched from fullback to middle linebacker midway through his senior season, also did work as a long snapper Friday. Boren said he is not being scouted as a linebacker, but with his ability to contribute on offense, defense and especially special teams, Boren should be selected on Day 3 of the draft.
Boren’s 40-yard dash runs were hand timed at 4.99 and 4.98 seconds.
Safety Orhian Johnson also had an impressive showing Friday. He had a 10-foot-10 broad jump, was hand timed at 4.59 and 4.51 seconds in the 40-yard dash and did well in on-field drills, catching the ball consistently and looking fluid in his backpedal.
The two offensive linemen working out also made a positive impression. While Reid Fragel continues to look like a developing project at right tackle, he continued to impress athletically in on-field drills. Jackson also looked good in drills, moving his feet well for a guard who weighed in at 332 pounds.
One player who did not work out at OSU was defensive end John Simon, who is recovering from shoulder surgery and will hold his own pro day on March 25.
Rounding Up Other Results
The top two left tackle prospects in the 2013 NFL draft, Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel and Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher, have both participated in their school’s pro day. Both players stood on Combine numbers in the measurable drills, but went through positional work. All 32 NFL teams were at A&M’s pro day Friday according to the Dallas Morning News, while NFL.com reported Central Michigan’s attracted representatives from 28 teams Monday.
One player who needed to make a positive impression at A&M’s pro day was defensive end Damontre Moore. Moore improved his bench press performance, but still only managed 19 repetitions — a fairly low number for a defensive lineman — per the Dallas Morning News. Coming off of a hamstring injury, however, Moore did not run the 40-yard dash and struggled through agility drills, according to the publication.
Some of the biggest pro days on the schedule are upcoming later this week, including those from Alabama and Oregon, both of which will be streamed on ESPN3. Check back Friday at NEPD for updates from both of those pro days.