Now that the Combine is over, NFL personnel are in the thick of the Pro Day schedule traveling all over the country working out prospects. As there are so many Pro Days across the country, we cannot be everywhere at once, so we rely upon a network of NFL sources that we have built during our time working for the Rams and Browns. Below is a breakdown of what we have been told by different NFL sources at these workouts:
1. Illinois: Michael Buchanan, DE/OLB (6051, 247 and 4.78), Glenn Foster, DT (6035, 286 and 4.78), Terry Hawthorne, CB (5116, 195 and 4.44), Akeem Spence, DT (6012, 306 and 5.14) and Hugh Thornton, OG (6037, 322 and 5.11):
Despite winning only two games in 2012 there were more than 50 NFL personnel in attendance as Illinois’ prospects went through their pro day on Thursday. There were many players who worked out, but only four were viewed as definite draft picks, so below is a breakdown of those players and one additional player who really helped himself with a great workout.
US PRESSWIREIllinois' Michael Buchana closes on Western Michigan quarterback Alex Carder.
After an outstanding junior season in which he often out-produced Whitney Mercilus, Michael Buchanan nearly came out for the 2012 NFL Draft, but he choose to return to try and improve his Draft stock. Unfortunately for him, the defensive scheme changed drastically and Buchanan, along with most of the defense, struggled greatly. A long and linear pass rusher who played primarily out of a three point defensive end stance in 2012, he was put through both defensive line and linebacker drills. Choosing to stand on his Combine testing results, he had a good overall workout displaying the foot quickness, speed and athleticism in the positional drills. While he definitely showed some stiffness in his workout, he definitely showed the athleticism to be productive playing from a two point outside linebacker stance in a 34 scheme and a source at the workout told us that in his view that is clearly his best position in the NFL.
While defensive tackle Glenn Foster was expected to be a solid free agent signing before Thursday, he is pretty much assured of being a late round pick after his Pro Day performance. At 286 pounds, Foster amazed by running a 4.78 40, vertical jumping 39 ½, broad jumping 10’9 and did 29 reps on the bench press. Although his positional workout was not as great as his testing numbers he still was significantly better than expected. He displayed surprising quickness, speed and burst during workout, although he was a little stiff changing direction and did not consistently show good reaction ability in drills.
As expected cornerback Terry Hawthorne proved he is a top level athlete during the positional workout and once again made scouts wonder why he did not perform like an elite athlete in games for Illinois. Not only smooth and fluid flipping hips and changing directions in drills, but his ability to explode out of his change of direction was impressive. However, less impressive were the inconsistent hands he showed trying to catch the ball and his reaction ability as he often seemed a beat late. For Hawthorne this workout showed why some team is going to gamble and over-draft him in the third or fourth round despite his play being that of an undrafted free agent (See the Louisiana Tech Game).
With numerous defensive linemen and linebackers working out together in both DL and LB drills, one young man stood out amongst them and that was defensive tackle Akeem Spence. A fourth year junior who came out early for the Draft after completing his degree in December, Spence helped himself Thursday. He displayed excellent athleticism throughout the workout, looking quicker, smoother and much more explosive than any of the other defensive linemen or linebackers. A source at the workout stated that Spence moved around like a linebacker during the drills despite weighing in at 306 pounds. Do not be shocked if a team that plays a 43 scheme drafts Spence in the second round as he reminds us a ton of both Drake Nevis and Glenn Dorsey.
Although their playing styles are different, the buzz around the Illinois Pro Day was that guard Hugh Thornton was going to be one of this springs big risers, similar to Kevin Zeitler, and could work his way into the high second round. There were three offensive line coaches there to meet with Thornton and put him through the paces and he did not disappoint. Not only did he display excellent flexibility and very good all-around movement skills in the workout, but he competed with the intensity, aggressiveness and edge that line coaches’ love. A naturally powerful man, Thornton showed explosiveness in his movement and impressed with his ability to maintain base while moving around so easily during the workout. Thornton looked so athletic Thursday that sources at the workout told us they would not be surprised if he were tried as a right tackle before being tried at guard in the NFL (He played left tackle primarily in 2012 and as a freshman).
2. Syracuse: Ryan Nassib, QB (6021, 227 and 5.06):
While we have been sky high on Nassib for two months, he has been climbing on draft boards all across the league as teams have gone through one round of draft meetings. Now after an impressive Pro Day performance we expect his stock to continue to rise and would be shocked if he is not selected in the first round. A fundamentally sound quarterback whose biggest issue on film was his deep ball accuracy as he tended to put too much air under his deep throws, Nassib showed today that he can physically make the deep throws with no problem. He showed the arm strength and touch to make accurate deep throws both when they required more zip than air and vice-versa. Obviously, throwing to two senior receivers, Marcus Sales and Alec Lemon, which he has thrown to for three years helped Nassib to look better in terms of timing and accuracy. However, according to sources at the workout, Nassib’s performance was definitely good enough to keep him moving upward on draft boards around the league.
Email Russ at Russelllande@yahoo.com and Follow Russ on Twitter @RUSSLANDE
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