|LSU's Michael Brockers was a hot commodity in January, but a lackluster combine definitely hurt his draft stock.|
The NFL Scouting Combine is a major factor in the evaluation process, but scouts place a greater emphasis on pro day performances.
While the basic structure of a pro day workout resembles a mini-combine, the opportunity to tweak the workout to get answers on specific questions is invaluable to scouts. In addition, scouts get to see prospects at their best due to the comfort and confidence that comes from working out on their respective campuses surrounded by their teammates.
With most organizations operating under the premise of taking the best times, measurements and performances regardless of when and where they occur, there are several top prospects who need to make amends for disappointing showings at the combine. Here are four to watch over the next few weeks:
Vontaze Burfict,LB, Arizona State
Pro day: March 16
No player has plummeted faster down draft boards than Burfict, following his dismal showing at the combine. The former Arizona State star reportedly was a disaster in interviews with team personnel and his unimpressive performance also carried onto the field. Burfict looked sluggish and out of shape during the workout, and his poor 40-yard dash (5.09) raised concerns about his playing speed. In addition, his boorish behavior throughout the event has fueled speculation about his inability to fit into a pro locker room. With so many concerns surrounding his character and athleticism, Burfict has plenty of work to do to salvage his stock and reputation as an early-round hopeful. Burfict must arrive at his pro day in far better shape and display improved quickness in drills. While it is unlikely he will emerge as a workout warrior based on his film evaluation, he can impress scouts if he looks like he has put the time into preparing for the workout. Burfict must also show more accountability for his actions at Arizona State by being upfront and honest about his role in the team's failures. That still might not be enough to keep him alive on many draft boards, but it could endear him to a team willing to take a risk on a talented, but troubled prospect.
Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
Pro day: March 21
Sanu is one of the best overall prospects at his position based on the film evaluation, but scouts are having a tough time placing a first-round grade on a receiver with verified 40 times in the 4.6 range. Evaluators are reluctant to expend a high pick on a receiver that "can't run," and Sanu must shake that label to earn a spot at the bottom of the first round. This will require Sanu to not only run better on the clock, but also show quickness and burst while running routes in position drills. How quickly he gets in and out of breaks will help scouts project his ability to get open against pro defensive backs. With several teams coveting receivers at the bottom of the first round, Sanu must perform well at his pro day to keep his name in play for receiver-needy teams at that point.
Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
Pro day: March 22
Early in the evaluation process, Brockers earned top-10 grades on some draft boards across the league due to his remarkable frame (6-foot-5, 322 pounds with 35-inch arms and 9 1/8-inch hands) and raw talent, but his disappointing showing in Indianapolis has led to questions about his readiness for the league. Although most of his work will take place within a 10-yard box, his pedestrian 40-time (5.36), disappointing vertical jump (26.5 inches) and sluggish three-cone drill (7.46) suggest he is not the explosive athlete some expected from film study. That point was also highlighted in position drills, when he didn't appear smooth or fluid changing directions in space. To alter that perception, Brockers needs to put on a better showing as his pro day. He must improve his times in the critical areas (10-yard split and pro-agility shuttle) to resurrect his status as an elite athlete at the position, and demonstrate better movement skills in position drills. If he can put on a showing that is similar to his performance on game tape, he could stop his surprising slide on the charts.
Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
Pro day: March 29
Upshaw was viewed as one of the elite pass rushers in the draft prior to the combine, but his underwhelming display of athleticism and explosiveness has led to concerns about his NFL potential. Scouts have doubts about his ability to win consistently on the edge with quickness and burst. With questionable body control, as well, will he be able to use multiple rush moves to work free after initial stalemates? To address mounting criticism, Upshaw must dazzle evaluators on March 29. He needs to post respectable times in the 40 (mid-4.8 range) and show better movement skills when asked to drop into coverage in position drills. Coaches employing 3-4 schemes need to feel better about his ability to fill multiple roles (pass rusher and dropper) as an outside linebacker, so Upshaw must display athleticism and versatility to remain a mid-first round possibility.
Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks