NEPD Staff Writer: Dan Hope
One of the year’s biggest pro days took place Tuesday at Florida State. The pro day was streamed on ESPN3, and there were more than 50 NFL scouts, coaches and executives in attendance representing all 32 teams, according to the broadcast.
The New England Patriots are clearly among the teams with an interest in at least one Florida State prospect, as offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was in attendance Tuesday.
It is not hard to see why the entire league flocked to Tallahassee to watch the Seminoles draft hopefuls compete Tuesday. FSU has arguably the strongest top-to-bottom draft class of any school this year, highlighted by five players who all carry first-round grades from at least some members of the draft community: defensive ends Bjoern Werner and Cornellius “Tank” Carradine, quarterback E.J. Manuel, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and offensive tackle Menelik Watson.
ESPN3’s broadcast streamed a good amount of Tuesday’s position drills, which gave us an opportunity to get a good look at each of the top prospects in their on-field workouts.
Scouting The Prospects
While grades range widely on each of the FSU prospects, the one who is seemingly a consensus first-rounder and likely to be the first Seminole selected is Werner. He stood out on most of his measurable numbers from the NFL Scouting Combine, but excelled in on-field drills.
Participating alongside a number of other potential NFL draft picks in defensive line and linebacker drills, Werner’s movement skills stood out. He performed better than expected in linebacker coverage drills, dropping back fluidly and catching the ball in his hands consistently. With a strong all-around performance in on-field drills, he furthered his case as the draft’s top defensive end.
Carradine did not participate in on-field drills while continuing to recover from a torn ACL suffered in November, but did put up an impressive number of 32 repetitions of 225 pounds in the bench press. Brandon Jenkins, another pass-rushing prospect and potential early-round pick, did work out Tuesday after missing all but one game of his senior season due to a foot injury.
While Jenkins deserves credit for coming back and working out in front of the scouts, he did not put on a very strong display. He appeared to still be working his way back to 100 percent, looking stiff and slow in on-field drills. In the measurable drills, an unofficial 4.9-second 40-yard dash (as displayed on-screen by ESPN3) will not help his stock, and neither will managing only 19 repetitions in the bench press.
Outside of the defensive ends, another prospect who is really working his way up draft boards is Manuel, and his momentum should continue to build after a strong pro day showing. Manuel looked very good throwing the ball, consistently completing his passes while displaying great footwork, a quick release and strong zip on his throws.
It is important not to get too excited over Manuel’s pro day: his footwork and mechanics are often compromised under pressure, something he did not have to worry about during his individual throwing workout. Nonetheless, Manuel continued to put his physical quarterback skills on display Tuesday, and may have cemented his stock as a Day 2 draft choice.
On the receiving end of Manuel’s passes, wide receiver Rodney Smith also stood out. At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Smith has fantastic size for a receiver, but combines that size with impressive athleticism. That all showed on the field Tuesday, as Smith put good feet on display while running crisp routes and catching the ball consistently in his hands and out in front of his body.
Rhodes did not have as strong of a showing as some of the other top prospects in on-field drills. The field conditions were wet Tuesday, and that caused issues for Rhodes, who had trouble with slipping in his changes of direction in drills. While it is tough to scrutinize Rhodes for having to deal with tough conditions, it is something he must work on as he cannot afford to slip on wet fields when covering in NFL games.
Rhodes also had some issues with catching the ball, bobbling a few passes that hit him right in his hands. When he had his traction, he displayed quick feet and moved well, but did not have his best overall showing Tuesday.
ESPN3 did not show much of the offensive line drills, but Watson had another underwhelming day in the measurable drills he did participate in. Watson improved his vertical jump slightly to 27.5 inches, but only managed 8 feet, 5 inches in the broad jump. Although his long arms are a positive on the field and a deficiency in the bench press, his 19 repetitions in that drill were also disappointing.
Inside linebacker Vince Williams did not receive a combine invite, but he made up for it with a strong pro day performance Tuesday. Williams had a very good day in measurable drills, including a 4.65 unofficial 40-yard dash, 9-foot-9 broad jump and 32.5-inch vertical jump (all per ESPN3 on-screen display).
On the field, Williams looked fluid dropping back in coverage drills. Williams’ stock has really risen with a strong finish to his senior season, a good Senior Bowl performance and a strong Pro Day, and he has a chance to be an early Day 3 draft choice.
Jenkins wasn’t the only participant Tuesday coming off injury. Two others were running back Chris Thompson and former FSU defensive back Greg Reid, both coming off of torn ACLs.
Thompson was a limited participant, but did have a 35-inch vertical jump, which is quite impressive for a player coming off of a serious knee injury. Reid, whose FSU career ended in August when he was dismissed from the team for rules violations, did participate fully in the workout. He looked stiff in the backpedal drills and had a couple of drops, but being able to work out was a positive. He was hand timed at 4.65 seconds in the 40-yard dash, and had a 30-inch vertical jump.
Who Was In Attendance
The NFL was well represented at Florida State on Tuesday.
With McDaniels at the pro day, two potential targets for the Patriots could be Watson and Smith. Watson is a high-upside potential fit at right tackle if the Patriots fail to re-sign free agent Sebastian Vollmer, while the size and speed Smith could provide at wide receiver is much-needed.
Other high-profile attendees included Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert and offensive coordinator Todd Haley, Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland.
Considering the Steelers and Saints both need pass-rushers and cornerbacks for their 3-4 defense, potential targets for both teams include Werner or Rhodes in Round 1, and Jenkins in the middle rounds. The Broncos may also be in the market for a defensive end to replace Elvis Dumervil, making Carradine a potential target late in Round 1. Werner and Rhodes are both possibilities for the Dolphins at the No. 12 overall pick, while Haley was likely keeping a close eye on Watson and Smith as potential fits to address needs at offensive tackle and wide receiver.
In addition to the NFL decision-makers in attendance, a number of former Florida State players looking for one more chance with an NFL team also participated in workouts, including defensive tackle Travis Johnson, tight end Beau Reliford and defensive backs Bryant McFadden, Terrance Parks and Avis Commack.
Other Pro Days on the Schedule
Wednesday was a huge day for Utah defensive lineman Star Lotulelei, who had his first chance to run through a full set of drills in front of scouts after being sent home early from the NFL Scouting Combine due to a heart condition.
The results were very favorable. Lotulelei was healthy enough to go through a full workout, and he put up excellent numbers. Lotulelei had 38 repetitions in the bench press, a 30-inch vertical jump and a 4.65-second 20-yard short shuttle according to ESPN’s Joe Schad, while his 40-yard dash was between 5.15-5.19 seconds according to TFY Draft Insider’s Tony Pauline.
Another recent pro day that certainly received its share of attention was Arkansas’ pro day Friday. That pro day was headlined by quarterback Tyler Wilson, who completed 77-of-84 throws with six dropped passes during his individual workout according to ESPN.
Thursday’s pro day schedule will also include two major pro days, both of which are being streamed on ESPN3. All eyes will be on outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, amidst a very talented pool of prospects, during Georgia’s pro day. Stanford’s pro day, featuring a number of prospects including tight end Zach Ertz looking to improve upon disappointing combine showings, will also be worth paying attention to.
Check back at NEPatriotsDraft on Friday for updates from both Georgia and Stanford.