The National Football Post breaks down the times and performances of some of the top prospects at the University of Florida’s pro day Wednesday:
TE Aaron Hernandez (6-3, 245)
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Aaron Hernandez and think he has the ability to be a real X-factor in the Dallas Clark-type mold at the next level. That’s why I graded him out as one of the top prospects in the entire draft. All Hernandez did Wednesday at his pro day was display the speed (4.56-second 40) to consistently get down the seam and the strength (30 reps of 225 pounds) to potentially develop into a very capable “on the line Y” in the NFL. I still think he’ll be at his best split out and moved around on offense, but the guy can consistently separate in the pass game and did nothing but confirm my assessment of him.
ILB Brandon Spikes (6-3, 249)
I guess there’s a reason Brandon Spikes didn’t run at the NFL Combine. His 5.05 time in the 40 yesterday can be summed up in one word: brutal. We knew coming in that Spikes wasn’t the greatest athlete, and you could tell at the combine that he looked uncomfortable and stiff during position drills. However, it’s hard to imagine any team taking a shot on an inside linebacker who runs in the 5.0-plus range before the fourth round. Spikes’ tape is good, and he does have the ability to find the football and create as a downhill guy. But you have to question his ability to make plays sideline to sideline with his lack of pure straight-line speed. There are reports that he was a little banged up and could run again before the draft, but either way, this is the kind of time that will make NFL officials cringe when they’re deciding on Spikes come draft day.
CB Joe Haden (5-11, 193)
Now that was the kind of performance we expected from Joe Haden at the combine. Haden reportedly ran in the low/mid 4.4 range and showed everyone in attendance that he has the ability to turn and run with NFL-caliber receivers down the field – no shock there. On tape, Haden clearly showcases the best first step in the country when asked to click and close on the ball and looks like an ideal fit as a potential Cover 2 guy. But he’s also physical off the line, has the ability to press and displays natural ball skills down the field in man coverage. Again, so much was made of his ugly 4.58 at the combine, but on tape, he definitely looked more like a 4.4 guy. Confirming it at his pro day likely cemented his spot in the top half of the first round.
WR David Nelson (6-5, 212)
One guy whose stock might have risen the most was wideout David Nelson, who at 6-5 and 212 pounds was able to run in the high 4.4/low 4.5 range in sloppy filed conditions, showing impressive straight-line speed for his size. Plus, he was said to look very good during position drills, catching the football and adjusting to throws. And although he finished the year with only 25 receptions for 291 yards, it’s hard to ignore a 6-5 receiver who can run as well as Nelson. He could get some attention toward the back end of the draft.
QB Tim Tebow (6-3, 236)
It’s been all of six weeks since we last saw the Florida quarterback at the Senior Bowl, and boy, has he come a long way. It makes you wonder: If Tim Tebow was able to significantly tighten up his release and pretty much learn the footwork necessary to take snaps from under center in that short a time span, what kind of upside does he have at the next level?
Tebow looked so much more compact and natural in his drop, which is not surprising for an athlete of his caliber. However, his ability to generate torque from his lower half and maintain his balance when asked to boot and throw on the move was a world of improvement from what we saw in Mobile, Ala. He looked fluid and much more technically sound from the waist down – which is where accuracy starts and ends at the quarterback position — and although he has a tendency to get overextended with his lower half when trying to drive the ball down the field, it’s still unreal to see this much of an improved in such a short time.
Now, as for his throwing motion, it’s tighter and more compact, which in turn seems to have not only improved his ability to spin a cleaner ball but also his overall timing.
I still believe that the notion that Tebow lacks the accuracy down the field to make all the throws in the NFL is far from the truth. Instead, I think his inability to consistently complete NFL-type routes in the intermediate/deep passing game has much more to do with his overall lack of rhythm and timing. Being able to clean up his footwork and tighten up his release makes it logical that his rhythm and timing in the pass game will improve, which will ultimately make him a more accurate passer.
Overall, there’s not too much negative to say about Tebow after a performance like this. Is he there yet? No. But it says a lot about any quarterback who’s had the success he’s had and is still willing to completely rework his throwing motion while trying to learn the intricacies of taking snaps from under center.
Tebow has the skill set to be an NFL quarterback; there’s no denying that. But if this workout proved anything, it’s that if given enough time to work at his craft and develop further at the position, he has the passion and work rate to mature into a successful pro quarterback.
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