A pro-day workout following the NFL Scouting Combine is one of the last chances for a prospect to make an impression on NFL teams. Yes, they have three of four years of game film on their resume. But whenever a general manager, coach, or scout has a chance to see a player up close and personal, it's going to affect their opinion of the prospect -- and his final grade.
I could list 100 "winners" from this year's pro days, which wrapped up last week. There are so many talented prospects that excel in the environment, many of whom did not have the chance to do so at the combine in Indianapolis. But for both our sakes, I limited the list below to a reasonable amount.
The number of "losers" from pro days is usually smaller, as most top prospects either stand on their combine results or at least do as well as expected for their skill level. But there were a few players that did not meet expectations, which will likely affect their draft status. All still have enough talent to make an impact on Sundays, so this won't be the last you hear from them.
1. Mike Williams, WR, Clemson: Williams put all of his eggs in one basket by skipping the speed tests at the NFL Scouting Combine, but he managed to exceed expectations by running the 40-yard dash in the 4.5s at the Clemson pro day. While he won't blow by opponents with top-end speed (and also had a couple of drops in the workout), he checked off the all-important "fast enough" box that even the most physical receivers need in order to be selected in the top half of the first round.
2. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech: Mahomes made progress between the combine and his pro day in dropping back from under center, which caught the attention of NFL general managers that made the trip to Lubbock. He already had the prototype build and arm, but if teams believe he can transition from an Air Raid offense to an NFL-style attack, there's plenty of upside to be had. There's a fair chance that he will be at least a mid-first-round pick, either to Arizona or a team (Chiefs, Saints) trading up into that area.
3. Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida: Davis wasn't fully ready to run at the combine due to a nagging ankle injury suffered during the season. He showed off great athleticism at the Gators' pro day, however, running sub-4.6 in the 40 and jumping 38.5 inches on the vertical. His pre-injury film is tremendous, so teams late in the top 40 can now be confident that his services are worthy of that high of a pick.
4. Jamal Adams, S, LSU: Adams met the challenge to improve his combine 40 time (4.56 seconds) at the pro day, coming in at 4.45 or better on most watches. His mobility in drills was impressive, too, as he showed teams that he can make plays when he's dropping back, as well as attack a receiver over the middle or a running back coming off tackle.
5. D'Onta Foreman, RB, Texas: After not being able to run at the combine due to a stress fracture in his foot, Foreman proved he had no lingering issues by putting up a 4.45 40 at 237 pounds. His overall workout was deemed a success, something that might be able to separate him from the rest of the running back pack looking for a second- or early third-round draft slot.
6. Brandon Wilson, RB/CB, Houston: Most of the Houston draft talk after the season surrounded the other Cougar with the surname Wilson -- early entrant Howard (the two aren't related). Brandon's pro day (sub-4.4 40s, 41-inch vertical jump, 24 bench reps) turned the heads of NFL scouts. He had experience as a running back, cornerback, and returner in college, so teams will be able to try him at different positions given his athleticism.
7. Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin: Clement needed to drop one-tenth of a second off of his 4.68-second 40 time from the combine, and did (4.57). Most scouts assume a player will time faster because there's no electronic timer at pro days, but some of the examples in the loser group below show that isn't always the case. Clement also improved his jumps and performed well in the agility tests. Combined with a very good Senior Bowl week, this Badger has looked like the back everyone expected to see.
8. Richie Brown, LB, Mississippi State: An instinctive, productive player, Brown showed scouts he's a pretty darn good athlete, as well. His speed (4.72 40 at 234 pounds), vertical (37 inches) and agility tests (6.75 three-cone) would have stacked up well with the linebackers invited to the combine. Teams searching for a versatile performer in the fourth or fifth round should look in his direction.
9. Cam Keizur, C, Portland State: If you're looking for a small-school player who made some money at his pro day, Keizur's your guy. Scouts already knew he had talent from reviewing his film, but putting up a 35.5-inch vertical is outstanding for any offensive lineman measuring at 6-3, 303. His 40 (5.12), 29 lifts, and other results compared favorably with combine participants. In a center class lacking in depth, expect Keizur to hear his name called on Day 3 (Rounds 4-7). Other small-school players with good film that really helped themselves on their pro days include linebacker Chase Allen (Southern Illinois), receiver Brian Brown (Richmond), linebacker Dylan Cole (Missouri State), defensive lineman Patrick Ricard (Maine), and offensive tackle Jylan Ware (Alabama State).
1. Teez Tabor, CB, Florida: Tabor is a fine player, but teams pay close attention to cornerback 40 times (as they do for receivers). The Gator looked to improve his 4.62 time from the combine in Gainesville, but he did the opposite, clocking a slower time of 4.75. He did pretty well in the short shuttle and three-cone drill, so the pro day wasn't a total loss. Guys like Josh Norman and Trumaine Johnson have played well despite clocking in the 4.6s at the combine. It's tough for a team to use a first-round pick on a 4.75 corner, though, so even though I think he will succeed in the NFL, I can't say he helped himself at his pro day.
2. Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss: Already behind the curve because he was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, Kelly aggravated a wrist injury just 10 throws into his pro-day workout. Scouts already know his arm talent, but they wanted to see him moving and throwing to gauge his progress in his rehab from an ACL tear suffered in November. Kelly has scheduled a second pro-day workout for April 22, where he'll have a chance to convince a team to take a chance on his starter-level physical ability.
3. Charles Walker, DT, Oklahoma: As a player who needs to show NFL teams that he's serious about football, Walker failed to impress at his pro day. He showed up late, and that's never a good look for any sort of interview, and then participated in field work, which was reported to Gil Brandt as being only "ok". Walker's 40-yard dash at the combine was solid (4.96 at 310 pounds) but the rest of his numbers weren't good enough to rest his laurels upon. He's a talented player with an NFL future, but his pro day didn't aid his draft stock.
4. De'Veon Smith, RB, Michigan: Smith didn't run the 40 at the combine, and scouts guessed it was because he didn't expect to test well. His 4.75-4.8 times at Michigan's pro day confirmed their suspicions. Add in speed that was "less than desirable", per Gil Brandt's report, and Smith appears to have lost ground to the gaggle of talented backs in this year's class. Given constant attrition at the running back spot in the NFL, however, I wouldn't be surprised if Smith's power allows him to find an NFL home.
5. Jalen Robinette, WR, Air Force: Robinette has been a big-play threat in Air Force's triple-option offense, much like Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas were in Georgia Tech's offense. Teams were hoping he could improve on his 4.6 40 times from the combine, but unfortunately, he went the other way. He ran in the 4.7 area, actually weighing four pounds less than he did at the combine (216 vs. 220). I still expect the former Falcon to prove himself worthy of a roster spot by using his size and relative short-area foot quickness to win downfield. But he might last longer in the draft than originally expected due to these results.
6. Shock Linwood, RB, Baylor: Linwood averaged more than 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns a season in his first three years with the Bears. As a senior, however, he covered just 751 yards and scored twice. The decline in production was due, in part, to the fact that he was coming off surgery the previous December for a fracture of his right foot. Linwood was also benched one game during the year, and struggled with a hamstring injury at times. Baylor's all-time rushing leader was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, so he needed a big pro day to prove he's worth a draft selection. At 5-9, 201 pounds, he could only run 40s in the 4.75 range, which didn't help his cause.