What to expect at the pro day workouts
Now that the workout results from the NFL combine are field away in the notebooks of league scouts, coaches and GMs, it is time to move onto the next step in the process: the pro day on campus. Another opportunity for prospects to display their talents and improve their draft stock heading into April.
With QBs Cam Newton and Ryan Mallet throwing today (as Auburn and Arkansas host their pro days), let’s break down why we should expect to see quality workouts on campus as well as the importance they carry to the NFL.
ICONMallett should look the part of a first-round QB at his pro day workout.
Comfort level in positional drills: We can say this about every position, but it especially applies to the QBs and the WRs. Newton didn't throw the ball well in Indy, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him look like a different QB today. Why? Because he will throw to his own receivers—which is key. The Auburn QB will know exactly when they are at the top of their routes, when they will break on the out route, etc. The same can be said for Mallett, and eventually Blaine Gabbert when Mizzou opens up its doors to the NFL. If you are a first round talent at the QB position, there is no reason not to have an excellent throwing session during your pro day. I do give Newton a lot of credit for going to Indy and working out in front of the entire league, but that combine performance should be swept to the side after he throws today.
Faster times: It is much easier to run at school—and the NFL knows it. See a prospect run in the high 4.5s in the 40-yard dash at the combine? Expect that player to run in the low 4.5s or even in the 4.4s on his own track. The same can be said for the short shuttle, three-cone drill, etc. I talked about the pressure of producing in Indianapolis before the combine kicked off, but when you dress in your own locker room (and run down the street from sorority row) there is an added sense of familiarity that goes into the workout. When I was preparing for the 2000 draft, I improved on all of my times in Iowa City compared to Indy. My time in the 40 dropped (4.46 to 4.39) and I felt loose and relaxed in all of the drills—which are the same that you see at the combine. It is completely different than putting your hand down to run a 40 in Indianapolis. Expect to see some quick times come out of these pro days and prospects improve on their overall results.
More opportunity: The focus of the pro days is to watch the top prospects such as Newton, Nick Fairley, Von Miller, etc., but that doesn’t discount the value for the late round prospects. Think of the pro days at Auburn, Alabama, Wisconsin, Iowa, Miami, etc. The scouts will be there to see the top prospects, but for players that are graded out as late round picks (or priority free agents), along with the non-combine invitees, this is an opportunity to grab the attention of the league. I played with plenty of guys in the NFL who were drafted despite not getting an invite to run at Indianapolis, but they showed up and tested well at their pro day on campus. Although pro days are another opportunity for the first round talent to showcase their abilities (and solidify their draft stock), it is also the only opportunity for some players to get an up close look from the NFL.
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