ATLANTA -- Around draft time, the key buzzword we tend to hear throughout the NFL is "value." Well, if it's value everyone is looking for, they could've found it at Georgia Tech's pro day on Monday.
Though there were only a handful of players who went through the workout, possibly three of them were first-round picks, and four should be gone by the end of the second round. And that doesn't include Georgia Tech's top offensive prospect, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who didn't even participate because of a foot injury.
Defensive end Derrick Morgan, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, clearly was the main focus of the workout. The dozens of talent evaluators on hand were all locked in as the 6-foot-4, 268-pounder was put through a workout that proved incredibly rigorous. Among those in attendance were head coaches Lovie Smith (Chicago), Mike Smith (Atlanta) and Ken Whisenhunt (Arizona), and several other general managers, including Rick Spielman (Vikings) and Marty Hurney (Panthers).
Morgan, who had 12.5 sacks last season in his junior year, did just about any type of interior and edge-rushing drill there is, and he dropped back off the line of scrimmage and performed fairly well in some outside linebacker, pass-coverage drills. Morgan looked much smoother in pass drops than he did at the NFL Scouting Combine, despite going through drills in cool temperatures and a semi-wet FieldTurf surface.
Morgan said he's dropped 15 pounds since the end of the season to perform better in linebacker and speed-related drills. He also bench pressed 225 pounds 21 times after opting not to lift at the combine.
"A good amount of teams asked me questions about how I feel about dropping (into coverage), playing linebacker -- it definitely was a topic of conversation," said Morgan, who added that some teams have scheduled private workouts for him later this week and next week. "I played 4-3 defensive end for most of my career, but I'm not opposed to standing up and playing outside linebacker."
Teammate Morgan Burnett, a safety who likely will get drafted in the second round, said Morgan plays and practices so hard that it elevated the effort of teammates. Morgan's motor is another reason why he is so highly regarded.
Another player who drew significant interest was running back Jonathan Dwyer, who lost three pounds since the combine (he weighed 226 at pro day) and moved more fluidly overall. Dwyer ran two 40-yard dashes in the low 4.5s in less-than-ideal conditions, which was huge for him after posting times in the 4.6 range at the combine. Dwyer said he participated in the combine despite having a toe injury that affected his performance.
Dwyer also excelled in pass-catching drills, which was important because there are questions about whether the 2008 ACC Offensive Player of the Year can become a running back in the NFL after playing fullback in Tech's option offense. I don't think there is a ton of concern, though, as San Diego and Minnesota are two of the teams who've shown interest in the highly productive Dwyer (3,226 yards, 35 touchdowns in three seasons). Cowboys' running back Tashard Choice, who played ahead of Dwyer three seasons ago, said Dwyer can do anything asked of him and is an ideal power back for most teams.
Burnett also had the eye of several scouts and coaches since he did not take part in the combine due to a hamstring injury. Burnett blew things out at the station drills, posting a 39 1/2-inch vertical jump, a 4.46 40 and an 11-foot broad jump. He also caught well in ball-skill drills. Burnett (6-1, 210) is a likely second-round pick who is coming off a season in which he didn't build on an All-American sophomore year.
Lastly, the most compelling prospect, Thomas, didn't work out because of a fractured left foot (sustained while training) that kept him from taking part in the combine. Thomas, a projected first-round selection, walked in a support boot and said he could begin running a little next week. He plans to run straight line drills for coaches and scouts between April 12-15.
At 6-3, 229, Thomas is a physical specimen coveted by many teams. He could be one of the top two wide receivers taken, with Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant regarded as the top prospect. Despite that admiration, Thomas feels he needs to run for teams -- unlike Michael Crabtree last season who also had a foot injury -- because he didn't have a ton of opportunities to make plays in the option-based offense. When he did make plays, he did things big. With just 46 catches last season, Thomas amassed a conference-high 1,154 yards. That's 25.1 yards a catch. He also had eight touchdowns.
Though he's not a blazer, he does corral a lot of balls in traffic and is dangerous after the catch, much like former Tech wideout Calvin Johnson. He is also a strong and willing blocker, which is a plus.
"I'm a playmaker who can help out any type of offense," Thomas said. "I've got a great ability to get the ball. I caught a lot of jump balls. It's one of the strengths of my game. I'm just going to try and do what I've done here to the next level and go from there."