What would Florida's Pro Day be without a little rain? (Probably really nice, actually, but I wouldn't know). With at least one scout from all 32 NFL teams in attendance, 11 former Gators tried to make their best case for a shot at the next level.
For wide receiver Solomon Patton, it would be his first chance to impress scouts in condensed viewing — and boy, did he ever. Patton was not invited to the NFL Combine in February, but for other players, like defensive backs Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy, who were, it was their chance at redemption after underwhelming performances in Indianapolis. Dominique Easley was also out to impress, but in a way unique to all the rest.
In a frantic, email-checking, weather-dependent morning, Florida's participants were able to not only run the 40-yard dashes rain-free, but were also able to show their "In All Kinds Of Weather" spirit on the turf practice field for most on-field drills.
Who impressed, and whose stock still needs work?
Trey Burton, RB (Senior)
Best Moment: Putting on the shirt that said "RB" on the back.
Worst Moment: Having to do the same drills as Solomon Patton.
40 time: DNP (Combine time: 4.62)
Projected Round: 7th
Analysis: My viewing of Burton was limited. He did participate some in the weight room with the broad jump and vertical jump, but the athletic department made those numbers pretty "scouts only." The most interesting part of Burton's day was that he was wearing a running back shirt, but was listed as a tight end at the Combine. I overheard one scout say running back is Burton's best option as an all-purpose player.
Burton did well in his drills with nice hands and quickness, but was shown up by Patton's speed and body control. Burton is a bigger athlete with more height and weight, but it's just not ideal to run your drills after Patton.
Dominique Easley, DT (Senior)
Best Moment: Meeting with scouts.
Worst Moment: Not being able to participate, I guess.
40 time: DNP
Projected Round: 2nd
Analysis: Though Easley was not able to show off his physical traits, as he's still rehabbing from ACL surgery, he made a point to meet every scout there and I think he got close to accomplishing that goal. (In particular, he spent a lot of quality time with scouts from the Saints and Eagles.) When asked about his injury, he told one scout, "It has been a blessing in disguise going through these injuries. I feel like I'll be stronger than I ever was before."
Easley has a private Pro Day scheduled in April in The Swamp (not open to the public) and I overheard most scouts who talked to him say they'd be back to see him in action.
Jon Halapio, OL/OG (RS Senior)
Best Moment: Bench press. Halapio put up 32 reps after not lifting during the fall while coming back from a torn pectoral muscle.
Worst Moment: Not being able to meet with every team. From what I saw, there were only a few teams interested in the offensive lineman.
40 time: DNP (Combine time: 5.34)
Projected Round: 5th-6th
Analysis: Halapio was really only interested in performing on the field, and, despite the rain, he remained the top offensive lineman there. Halapio shows good strength in the run support on tape, and made that evident in pushback drills the Pittsburgh Steelers scout had his group run.
Not much changes for lineman at Pro Days — all of their stock is in their tape. He's a Day 3 lineman right now and afterwards he said he's just looking to make himself ready for any private workouts from NFL teams.
Jonotthan Harrison, OL/OC (RS Senior)
Best Moment: Strength drills.
Worst Moment: Not a lot of interest from scouts.
40 time: DNP (Combine time: 5.15)
Projected Round: 7th-UDFA
Analysis: Harrison did not participate in any speed drills, but that's not uncommon for a lineman. He may have gained the most ground in his interviews, staying late and meeting with any media or NFL scout who could possibly expand his network (yes, the NFL Draft is also about networking). Harrison will get his chance to prove himself, even if he's not drafted, but for now, he stays on the fringe of that 7th round.
Damien Jacobs, DT (Senior)
Best Moment: Showing quick feet in the D-Lineman drills.
Worst Moment: Running the 40-yard dash.
40 time: 5.28
Projected Round: UDFA
Analysis: Jacobs' talents aren't really suited for Pro Days: He's a mauler who uses toughness and strength to his advantage. On Pro Days, bigger defensive tackles tend to struggle because each exercise has a speed and athletic element to them; that is where Jacobs faltered on Monday. On his second 40-yard dash, he tripped and appeared to have even injured his foot ... yet ran faster than his first time of 5.43. Jacobs' stock is one of an undrafted free agent right now and unfortunately, given what he showed, he didn't do much to improve it.
Darrin Kitchens, LB (Senior)
Best Moment: Anything that measured athleticism allowed Kitchens to thrive.
Worst Moment: Dropped some catchable balls in field drills.
40 time: 4.56
Projected Round: UDFA
Analysis: I'll open the analysis with this: Darrin Kitchens deserves to get a shot as a special teams player, drafted or not. I was very impressed with how Kitchens performed at Pro Day, but when I asked him, he said he felt he could get his speed in the 4.4's. He was explosive to top speed, not only in the 40-yard dash but in drills as well. He looked very in shape, and I think he made the most out of his NFL exposure. I don't see him getting drafted, just because he doesn't have the hype, but if given the chance on a practice squad, I think he succeeds.
Solomon Patton, WR (Senior)
Best Moment: 40-yard dash. Though he performed very well on the field, there wasn't a scout in attendance who wasn't impressed when clocking Patton on the hoof.
Worst Moment: Tripping on his first 40-yard dash attempt. Scouts are impatient people. Those things stay with them, but he recovered nicely.
40 time: 4.37
Projected Round: 6th
Analysis: Patton had a lot to prove after not being invited to the NFL Combine, but when asked about it he said it just gave him more time to work and impress at Pro Day — and he did just that. To start, Patton ran a blazing 4.37 on his first 40-yard dash attempt and followed it up with a 4.39 on his second (barefoot on the second attempt). Patton also shined on the field; he showed good explosiveness with body control to start and stop.
His day ended after everyone else's, as three scouts from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stayed late to run Patton through kick and punt return drills. Patton is flying under the radar right now, but if scouts came into the day with an open mind, he showed he deserves a late pick.
Ronald Powell, DE/LB (Redshirt Junior)
Best Moment: Interviews. Powell answered any and all questions, was very outgoing and made great impressions.
Worst Moment: Heavy feet in the drills, didn't look as quick as he could have been.
40 time: DNP (Combine time: 4.65)
Projected Round: 5th-6th
Analysis: One of the knocks on Powell was how he was going to adjust to no longer being "the main attraction." Let me just say that whoever wrote that critique had never spoken to Powell himself. Powell was very humble in his interviews, he was open to playing defensive end and outside linebacker and was willing to do whatever he had to do to be the best player he could be. He cleared up worries about his hamstring and said he was, for the most part, healthy.
In drills, Powell looked just as you'd expect: Big, quick, and powerful. He didn't have the quickest feet, but when it came to the linebacker portions of the drills, he performed well. Powell's problem is his tape doesn't jump off the screen. If considering him, you know all about the potential you're getting, but you also know the injuries he's experienced and the lingering concerns about why that potential never fully translated at Florida.
Loucheiz Purifoy, DB (Junior)
Best Moment: Getting the chance to display skills with the ball in the air
Worst Moment: 40-yard dash and dropping a couple catchable balls (where he needs to thrive)
40 time: 4.65
Projected Round: 3rd-4th
Analysis: Purifoy needed a strong performance at Pro Day and he didn't get it. To start, he ran a 4.65 twice in the 40-yard dash (ran a 4.61 at the Combine). It seems like Florida trainers and even players think he's faster than that, but in terms of that drill, he's just not.
And on the field, rain was not his friend. Scouts understand that it's raining and that some balls will slip, but Chez's time to shine was when the ball was in the air. He did well, but did not perform like he needed. After listening to scouts talk about him, I don't see him being picked in the 3rd, but that's his ceiling.
Marcus Roberson, DB (Junior)
Best Moment: Displaying length and range of coverage in drills.
Worst Moment: Bad hands, slow 40 times, and generally looking out of shape.
40 time: 4.72
Projected Round: 3rd
Analysis: Some team is going to take a chance on Marcus Roberson in Day 2 of the NFL Draft, but I'm not so sure that team should. Roberson is a long-body defensive back, but he doesn't have the athleticism to go with it that would make him a first or second round pick.
In drills, his hips were slow; it was obvious he was not as agile as Watkins or even Purifoy. He also didn't wear gloves during drills in the rain, and he dropped quite a few balls. He may be one of those players to participate in Florida's second Pro Day (if the school has one) or maybe even at Easley's private workout, but right now, I have a lot of questions with very little answers when ordering Roberson on a big board.
Jaylen Watkins, DB (Senior)
Best Moment: Putting on those cleats and showing he'd participate in the rain.
Worst Moment: Dropping a couple easy passes
40 time: DNP (Combine time: 4.41)
Projected Round: 2nd-3rd
Analysis: Watkins' stock has been on the rise ever since he attended the Senior Bowl back in January and it continued that upward trend — or didn't hinder it, at least — at Pro Day. Watkins didn't run the 40-yard dash because he didn't need to, but he did look the best in defensive back drills. The mood there seemed to confirm Watkins is the highest-graded Draft-eligible DB from Florida this year; he was fluid and smooth throughout all drills, and though he had some drops, didn't have a glaring problem with his ball skills. In my opinion, Watkins has the best chance to be the Gators' first defensive back off the board.
Additionally, and as a note on the entire scouting process, I overheard a conversation between a scout and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, one that probably explains some of the atmosphere on a day like this. Durkin asked what the scout thought of the defensive backs (his group to grade). The scout answered: "Watkins is my man. I like him a lot. I really think he did well. I'll have to come back and see him again."
But when asked of Purifoy and Roberson, he had this to say:
"I don't understand. Stay in school; get bigger, get better. These kids don't realize what it's like out there. They sit here and read these mock drafts and articles with their names high up and it's bullshit. They're lying to these kids. I see their (Roberson and Purifoy's) names in the second round and that's a lie.
We have to learn how to communicate with these kids, man. It's a shame some of the advice they're getting. They don't have to leave right away. The best way to be successful is to be as good as you can be before coming out. I'm serious."
Obviously, that doesn't sound great for either Purifoy or Roberson. But that's also just one scout; there are many others who could express completely different views.
And that's the beauty of the NFL Draft: It only takes one team to believe in you.
Here's GatorZone's video recap of the day. Note the moisture.