The importance of Pro Day

There is more going on at pro days than meets the eye. The college pro day is where NFL draft eligible players get combine tested at their school. For those who were not invited to the NFL Combine in Indy it may be their one and only chance to be tested in Combine drills such as the 40. Once more, it’s a time where coaches and evaluators get a closer and maybe a last look at their prospects.

Mike Tomlin getting intel on some prospects.

When NFL evaluators attend the pro day they already have a good idea of whom they like and don’t like. Thus, they may attend the pro day just to find out one little thing or get confirmation of what they already believe.

So what else are NFL teams looking for on pro day:

Affirmation/confirmation: I spoke to one NFC West area scout about what he looks for on pro day. He said that he’s going to confirm his grade of a player and try to get excited about the player again. “I haven’t really seen the player since October or November so I want to get my eyes on him again.” “I want to make sure my grade is accurate.” “Sometimes after watching him workout and looking at his body I may say; I still like him but my grade is a little rich. Or vice versa.” Another scout told me if he’s on the fence on a player he is going to use the pro day as a way to get off of it, one way or another.

Let the brass kick the tires: When regional scouts and scouting directors are selling their GM and coaches on a player, they will bring them to the pro day. When coaches and GMs attend a pro day they are usually there for just one or two specific players. Coaches are still in the process of getting to know the players so seeing them move around again can help the coach sign off on the potential pick.

Find out “even more” about the player: One AFC scouting director told me that when he goes to a pro day he wants to see how guys interact with his teammates. He said; “I want to know if he is respected by his coaches and teammates, I want to know if he is a team guy or a selfish guy. I want to see how he follows directions and if he roots for his teammates and cares about them. I want to try to envision how he will fit into our locker room." He also said that he would get another interview to see if the player(s) has/have been consistent with what they have been telling him over the last year.

Are they still working hard? Once the Combine is over, players go back to their respective schools and have to work out on their own. So three to four weeks can pass from the Combine to pro day and some guys will relax and take their foot off the gas. Not many do but there are always a few who will not work as hard once they leave the combine training facility, which may produce a red flag on their draft grade.
Pro day is a busy day for all involved. Many evaluators want access to the college strength coach to get his opinion on the players. They usually know the most since they are with the players on a year round basis. Some head college coaches will hold court and talk about each player to all personnel men in attendance. I’ve seen Jim Harbaugh do this at Stanford once and the scouts couldn’t believe how much time he spent on each player and how honest he was about their potential pro ability.

The really diligent scouts may spend an extra day after the pro day to get more one-on-one time with the players they like. It’s also a chance for them to talk to coaches when all the fanfare calms down and everyone else is gone.

Pro days usually don’t make or break draft prospects but they can still nudge them up or down the draft board one way or another.

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