NEPD Staff Writer: Dan Hope
Thursday was a big day on the pro day schedule leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft, highlighted by the pro days held at Georgia and Stanford, both of which were streamed via ESPN3.
I took the time to watch both pro days, focusing on some of the top prospects from each school and evaluating what the workouts showed about their athleticism.
Specifically, the day’s headliner was one of the draft class’ premier prospects, Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. Having not worked out at the NFL Scouting Combine, the Bulldogs’ pro day was an important opportunity for him to show his athleticism to the scouts. Unfortunately for Jones, he had a disappointing showing.
Breaking Down Jarvis Jones’ Pro Day
Jarvis Jones passed his most important test at the NFL Scouting Combine, gaining medical clearance to participate even though he has medical red flags surrounding his diagnosed condition of spinal stenosis. He forwent the opportunity to participate, however, choosing not to work out until his pro day, which set the expectation for Jones to be at his best in Athens.
Unfortunately for Jones, he didn’t look to be nearly at his best Thursday.
Jones put up very disappointing numbers in the measurable drills. His 40-yard dash time of 4.92 seconds, 9-foot-3 broad jump and 30.5 inch vertical jump (numbers per The Telegraph) all would have ranked among the bottom two of all linebackers at the combine.
Jones’ poor numbers bring up some serious doubts about his explosion, but from watching his drills on tape, it was evident that Jones was not in his best shape. Jones pulled up while running the 40-yard dash, and may have been dealing with a leg/hamstring injury according to TFY Draft Insider’s Tony Pauline.
This, of course, lends itself to other concerns with Jones than just his athleticism. He is already considered one of the biggest medical risks among top prospects due to his spinal stenosis, so another injury red flag will only hurt his draft stock further. Additionally, it is unclear whether he has been dealing with a lingering injury, or whether he is simply not in his playing shape.
Nonetheless, while Jones’ poor pro day showing hurts his draft stock one way or another, it is important to look beyond simply the numbers. While Jones is not the athletic freak scouts love — the tape itself indicates that much — he likely could have had put up better numbers if he was in better shape. The bigger concern that scouts should have with Jones is to attempt to determine whether there really is a significant durability or work ethic issue that could keep him from consistently being in playing shape going forward.
Additionally, while Jones’ numbers were disappointing, he did have a decent day in on-field positional drills. He was a bit sloppy in the coverage drills, but flipped his hips well, showed great use of hands in the pass-rush drills and moved his feet well through traffic in the bag drills.
There is more to be concerned about with Jones than most of the other top prospects, and as a result, his draft stock is very much in flux. He could easily be one of the best players to come out of the 2013 draft class, but unfortunately, he didn’t help himself Thursday.
Jones may be Georgia’s top prospect, but he is far from the only Bulldog who could go early on draft day. Georgia has as many top defensive prospects in this year’s draft as any school, and nearly all of them participated to some degree in Thursday’s pro day.
Three Georgia players who are all likely to be second-round picks in the 2013 NFL Draft are inside linebacker Alec Ogletree, defensive tackle John Jenkins and free safety Bacarri Rambo. All of them solid showings Thursday.
Ogletree improved his 40 time to 4.63 seconds, while he showed good movement skills and hands in on-field positional work. His stock is affected negatively by a history of off-field issues, but he is a very athletic linebacker.
While a 5.2-second 40 is not impressive for most players, it is a very solid time for Jenkins, who tips the scales at 346 pounds. During positional drills, Jenkins also moved well relative to his size. Jenkins has some significant concerns with motor, but he does have unusual athleticism for a man of his size, making him a very promising nose tackle prospect.
Rambo put up good numbers on Monday, with a 4.59 40, 9-foot-9 broad jump and 34.5-inch vertical jump according to The Telegraph. One of the top safeties in the draft class, he also moved very well in positional work and caught the ball well cleanly in his hands.
While Jenkins had a decent day athletically given his size, Georgia’s other massive defensive tackle, 342-pounder Kwame Geathers, put up even better numbers in the explosion drills with an 8-foot-7 broad jump and 29-inch vertical jump. In comparison in the on-field drills, however, Jenkins looked more natural and fluid in his movements.
Rush linebacker Cornelius Washington, whose only real fit at the next level appears to be as a 3-4 outside linebacker, already proved his status as a workout warrior at the combine, but participated in positional work Thursday.
During the streamed portion of those drills, it showed clear that Washington’s coverage skills are lacking. His hips looked tight, he did not move naturally in his backpedal and he dropped multiple balls right off his hands. This should not matter much for Washington’s game going forward, however, as he will not be playing a linebacker role in which he will be dropping into coverage frequently.
As for under-the-radar players who did not earn an invite to the combine, two physical standouts Thursday were cornerback Branden Smith and running back Richard Samuel.
Smith never established a consistent role for himself in the Georgia secondary, but his athleticism was always evident. He proved his athletic ability Thursday, putting up very impressive numbers with a 4.38 40, 10-foot-8 broad jump and 34-inch vertical jump according to The Telegraph. He also excelled in on-field drills, showing great foot skills, displaying fluid hips in his transition and catching the ball consistently and cleanly in his hands.
Samuel never established himself as a feature back in the Bulldogs offense, but he surprised with very impressive measurables Thursday. The 238-pound running back is a powerful between-the-tackles runner, which he helped back up with 23 repetitions of 225 pounds in the bench press, but he also showed surprising explosion with a 4.56 40, 10-foot-5.5 broad jump and 36.5-inch vertical jump.
With so many NFL draft prospects on hand, it should come as no surprise that some major players in the NFL coaching world were among those in attendance.
New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin were all at Georgia on Thursday. Holding the Nos. 9, 15 and 17 overall selections in the first round of the draft respectively, their three teams are the most likely first-round landing spot for Jones. All three teams run 3-4 defenses, and each are in need of adding a pass-rushing outside linebacker early in the draft.
Other coaches in attendance included Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith, Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. For the Falcons and Broncos, Jenkins stands out as a likely target, especially if he is still available late in the second round. Whisenhunt may have been taking a look at wide receiver Tavarres King, Georgia’s best offensive prospect for the 2013 draft.
All four of Stanford’s top prospects — tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo, running back Stepfan Taylor and outside linebacker Chase Thomas — had disappointing showings at the NFL Scouting Combine. They all were looking to improve their performances at pro day, and some of them certainly did.
Ertz may have disappointed against the tight end competition in Indianapolis, but he proved why he is the No. 2 tight end in the 2013 draft class Thursday.
Ertz improved his measurables significantly from the combine: he was hand timed at 4.71 seconds in the 40, but most significantly, he had a whopping 5-inch increase to 35.5 inches in the vertical jump, according to numbers from ESPN3.
More importantly, Ertz had a fantastic day in positional work. He was terrific catching the ball, consistently making clean catches in his hands and away from his body. He ran quick, crisp routes in the passing workout, and he also looked very solid during blocking drills.
Between the two tight ends, it was Ertz who stood out, but Toilolo improved upon his combine showing as well. His measurables were similar, although he did improve his vertical jump by 2.5 inches to 33.5. Most importantly, however, Toilolo looked good catching the football, after a drop-laden showing at the combine. He also looked terrific in the blocking drills, showing his ability in the area that will likely be his forte at the next level given his size.
Taylor was another Cardinal player who had a strong showing Thursday. He improved his 40 to a 4.62 hand time, had an impressive number of 19 bench press repetitions and looked great in the running back drills, moving his feet quickly and fluidly while finishing his runs strong.
Among the four top Cardinal prospects, it was Thomas had the most underwhelming day Thursday. Thomas did not improve significantly upon his combine numbers, and he looked solid but unspectacular as an athlete during the positional drills.
There were a few other standouts among the other Stanford prospects Thursday.
Alex Debniak worked out at both fullback and linebacker, and made a very positive impression. Debniak showed his athleticism throughout the drills, running a 4.61 hand time in the 40 and a 6.84 hand time in the 3-cone drill. He also showed his athleticism in linebacker drills, and his ability to pick up blocks in fullback drills.
Strong safety Harold Bernard never received much playing time in his Stanford career, but he could earn a second look after putting up impressive athletic marks in the measurable drills Thursday. Bernard showed that he is an explosive athlete, with impressive numbers including a 4.13 hand time in the 20-yard shuttle and 6.64 hand time in the 3-cone drill.
Defensive tackle Terrence Stephens also made a positive impression Thursday. He had a strong showing in the weight room, putting up 34 repetitions of 225 pounds in the bench press, and ran an impressive 40 hand timed at 5.03 seconds.
Next week is the final major week of the pro day schedule, but there are certainly a couple of huge days Tuesday and Wednesday.
Tuesday’s pro day schedule will be headlined by Notre Dame, where inside linebacker Manti Te’o and tight end Tyler Eifert will be looking to prove themselves as first-round draft choices. Other major pro days Tuesday include North Carolina, which has another talented crop of draft prospects led by stud guard prospect Jonathan Cooper, and Texas, which has some very intriguing talent as well in safety Kenny Vaccaro, defensive end Alex Okafor and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin.
Wednesday will bring two more pro days streamed via ESPN3, and they will be very good ones to watch. USC’s pro day will be highlighted by quarterback Matt Barkley’s throwing workout, in which he will be throwing to another likely first-round pick in wide receiver Robert Woods. LSU’s pro day will feature a loaded class of talented draft prospects, including a few potential first-round picks in defensive end/outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo, inside linebacker Kevin Minter and safety Eric Reid.
Three other pro days to pay attention Wednesday: South Carolina, whose pro day will include safety D.J. Swearinger and defensive end Devin Taylor; Connecticut, which will showcase some very talented athletes including outside linebacker Sio Moore and cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson; and SMU, whose draft class is headlined by one of the draft’s most freakish athletes, defensive end Margus Hunt.
Check back to NEPatriotsDraft next week for updates on USC, LSU and more of next week’s high-profile pro day performances.