Big day in Florida for Gators prospects

Three of the draft’s bigger name prospects will work out for pro scouts today in Gainesville, Fla., on the University of Florida campus. And although we know that most of the attention — from a media perspective — will be on QB Tim Tebow, there’s plenty of talent to talk about.

Let’s take a quick look at the three top dogs for the Gators, including CB Joe Haden, a possible top-10 pick, and discuss what scouts will be looking for in players’ individual workouts.

Tim Tebow, QB

Tebow is going to be considered a unique talent, regardless of what he shows today, but for a QB who skipped out on throwing at the NFL Combine, it will be all about his new mechanics and footwork. Scouts will put Tebow through an entire playbook of routes, but the most important thing they’ll want to see is his release. Did he tighten it? Can he throw the deep out and the deep comeback? That will lead to his footwork, and how he can set his feet on each individual throw. The actual motion Tebow uses to throw the ball isn’t the issue; it’s the way it comes out of his hand with speed and timing that scouts want to see, critique and grade. Tebow can answer plenty of questions and show he has the QB mechanics the NFL is looking for.

Joe Haden, CB

The knock on Haden in Indy was simple: speed. The No. 1 CB prospect in the draft ran a 4.58 and immediately started to slide down draft boards — depending on whom you listened to. But when scouts watch the tape, they’ll see a player who can close on the football, turn his hips and run downfield with top speed. Reports say Haden was nursing a back injury in Indy, but the fact remains that he ran a slow time for a player who has top-10 talent. Haden doesn’t have to run in the 4.3 range today to cement his slot in the top 10 come April, but he does have to improve on his time to allow NFL teams to feel more comfortable paying him top dollar. He has the unquestioned skills of the top CB prospect in the draft, and his positional workouts will assure that. Now, he just needs to post a better time — and all the questions will disappear.

Brandon Spikes, ILB

Spikes isn’t a first-round talent, but he is an intriguing prospect because he was so productive in the SEC. The problem with Spikes is the positional drills — where he looked stiff and almost unathletic at times in Indy. He isn’t going to turn heads when we talk about numbers, and posting a time under 4.8 in the 40 is considered good for the former Gator, but what he does when scouts ask him to do the on-the field positional work will go a long way to improve or drop his draft stock. Can he plant and drive downhill? Can he drop into coverage? And can he turn his hips with a fluid motion and look like an NFL linebacker. Spikes is likely a third-round talent, but he’s someone scouts will want to get a better look at today.

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