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Welcome to Zach’s Draft Corner, where it’s always amateur hour.
Every year, there are prospects who, for one reason or another, are not invited to the combine. Most prospects don’t take too kindly to this, and use it as motivation to show they belong by testing at their pro days. Some succeed at this, while others drop their draft stock even more by proving everyone else right. This week on the Corner, we are taking a look at the pro day performances that will have the biggest effect, both positive and negative, on prospects come the draft.
Preston Williams (wide receiver, Colorado State University) needed a good pro day to get back in the good graces of teams. Williams couldn't work out at the combine due to him pleading guilty to domestic violence a few years ago. His 40-yard dash time of 4.55 was decent, but his explosiveness left a lot to be desired (31.5" vertical, 116" broad jump). His tape is good, but the combination of the domestic violence history and his poor testing will push him deep into the draft.
Devine Ozigbo (running back, University of Nebraska) was a big snub for the combine, and he used the opportunity given by the pro day to prove he belongs. Ozigbo is slightly taller and 20 pounds heavier than Miles Sanders, who is considered one of the better athletes in this running back class, but Ozigbo's testing yielded very similar numbers to Sanders's combine performance. Ozigbo is solidly in my top five running backs for this class, and has the potential to be number one when all is said and done.
Not to be outdone, Ozigbo's teammate Tanner Farmer (interior offensive line, University of Nebraska) used the pro day to show that this Cornhusker is not only country strong, but as explosive as illegal fireworks. If Farmer were to have attended the combine, his 118" broad jump would have tied with tackle Andre Dillard for the best jump among all offensive linemen, and his 39 bench press reps would have tied Sua Opeta for the most reps among all offensive linemen. Both of these players have a pSPARQ score above the 95th percentile. If you are looking for a late-round flyer, or even an undrafted free agent, at the guard position who at least has a base of strength and athleticism, get Farmer on the phone.
Another combine snub was D'Angelo Ross (cornerback, University of New Mexico). As a reminder, the combine is based on what the organizers are hearing about the prospects from NFL teams and who the NFL is interested in testing further. As a 5'8", 185-pound cornerback, Ross was not high on that wish list. After running a blazing 4.32-second 40-yard dash and a 39" vertical jump, Ross may have changed the narrative.
Tyron Johnson (wide receiver, Oklahoma State University) showed some Orlando Franklin on tape as a deep threat with some troubling hands. Johnson stuck to his script, running a 4.34-second 40-yard dash. The troubling part is that he only had a 30" vertical jump and did not run any of the agility drills. Johnson has straight line speed, but may be more suited for the track than the football field. Don't get fooled by the 40.
This draft is full of big wide receivers, and Tyre Brady (Marshall University) was one that was getting people excited in the later rounds. Like all of the big wide receivers, Brady needed to separate himself by having strong testing numbers to show he's more than a big body. Unlike Hakeem Butler and N'Keal Harry, Brady might just be a big body, running only a 4.74-second 40-yard dash and paltry 29.5" vertical. Brady is solidly a late-round prospect, at best.
Adding an 'e', Tyree Kinnel (safety, University of Michigan) was solidly in the undrafted free agent territory, with scouts worried about his "jack of all trades, master of none" style combined with a lack of athleticism on tape. At Kinnel's pro day, he opened some eyes with a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, a 6.78-second 3-cone drill, and a 34.5" vertical. While his play style still leaves me wondering where his best position might be in the NFL, he at least has some athleticism to work with. Kinnel may have worked his way into late-round consideration.
Jaylon Ferguson (defensive end, Louisiana Tech University) had a rough pro day. Ferguson wasn't able to work out at the combine due to a battery charge as a freshman, so this was the first chance to see him in action. Unfortunately, it may have been better if he didn't test at all. The 3-cone drill is the ultimate test of flexibility and edge pass-rushing bend, and Ferguson's 8.08-second 3-cone drill would have been, by far, the worst time for edge defenders at the combine, and would have been second-worst for all defensive linemen (better than only nose tackle Demarcus Christmas). Scouts were already worried about his bend and flexibility, but this is much worse than anyone could have imagined.
In a bad linebacker class, scouts might be looking at whatever they can to find linebackers who can contribute this year. We saw just that with Blake Cashman (University of Minnesota) during the combine when he tested with a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, 18 reps on the bench press, a 37.5" vertical jump, and a 124" broad jump. Given the buzz that Cashman garnered, I can see a similar rise for Koa Farmer (Penn State University). On tape, Farmer is similar to Cashman. At the pro day, Farmer ran a 4.48-second 40-yard dash, put up 25 reps on the bench press, had a 37" vertical jump, and had a 124" broad jump. With all of the buzz on Cashman rising up boards, Koa Farmer might be a steal in the later portion of the draft or in undrafted free agency.
There was a big debate earlier in the draft season between Devin Bush (linebacker, University of Michigan) and Mack Wilson (linebacker, University of Alabama) as LB2. Bush's impressive combine put him in the conversation with Devin White (linebacker, Louisiana State University) as LB1, and Wilson's pro day may have pushed him outside of the top five linebackers. Wilson did not work out at the combine, but his 4.65-second 40-yard dash would have been merely average in this class. His 33" vertical also would have been one of the worst in the class. For a linebacker who was expected to be drafted based on athleticism, poor athletic scores will hurt his stock.
Darrin Hall (running back, University of Pittsburgh) sent scouts scrambling back to his tape after his pro day, turning out one of the most impressive testing combinations in the entire class. A 4.42-second 40-yard dash would have been second in the class, and his 6.72-second 3-cone drill would have been the best, by far, of running backs at the combine. Pair that with 27 reps on the bench press (would have been tied for second among all running backs), and Hall has some extremely impressive all-around athleticism.
Nick Easley (wide receiver, University of Iowa) was an afterthought to most scouts after the season, but his pro day numbers has him exploding into draft boards across the country. While his role is likely only as a slot receiver, Easley's quick twitch speed and explosiveness were on full display at Iowa's pro day. His 6.5-second 3-cone drill would have been a full .27 seconds faster than the fastest time at the combine (Miles Boykin), and his 3.8-second shuttle drill would have been .23 seconds faster than the fastest time at the combine (Parris Campbell). Combine this athleticism with Easley's strong hands and plus ability to block, and he could be a perfect slot receiver in the modern NFL.
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