Ah, the home stretch of the NFL Draft process: Pro Days. For the first time ever, UF's Pro Day was held in its new indoor practice facility, where 70 NFL coaches gathered to see the spectacle that was really athletic people doing really athletic things. With all 32 NFL teams represented, Florida's Pro Day was an important event even for those Gators who wouldn't be participating in all of the drills.
There's no upside to doing a ton of drills for players like Vernon Hargreaves III, Jonathan Bullard, and Alex McCalister, who didn't have much to prove on the field after turning in great showings at the NFL Combine last month. For them, the day was more about reconnecting or establishing relationships with NFL representatives.
For the rest, though, this was a last chance to improve stock. The three players who had the most to gain on Tuesday were Brain Poole, Jake McGee and Antonio Morrison: Poole because he wasn't invited the to Combine at all, McGee because he wasn't a full participant in Indianapolis, and Morrison because after being invited — and becoming one of the players many decision-makers were excited about seeing — ended up leaving the Combine due to an illness that was never widely reported.
Former Gators Jabari Gorman, Hunter Joyer and Clay Burton, all of whom went undrafted after the 2014 season, were invited to come back and work out as well. (Them being invited back to workout is an interesting topic in and of itself. Something I'm sure we'll touch on later.)
Here's what each player did Tuesday, and where they stand moving forward.
Vernon Hargreaves III
Vern's goal for the day was pretty simple: Show up and still be 5'10".
There was a silly report early in the day that Hargreaves wasn't on time for his measurement, as if to insinuate that he wasn't going to measure in at 5'10", but that was untrue. Hargreaves was simply told that he didn't have to be at the initial measurements because he wasn't participating in the first portion of the Pro Day. His measurements were taken when he arrived. Those measurements were 5'10", 207 pounds.
When it was time to take the field, every report I read said that Hargreaves was great. This video suggests that he looked, as ever, like a natural.
I don't think Hargreaves is going to go in the top five of the 2016 NFL Draft, but the top 10 is certainly still in play. Jon Hoke, secondary coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was in attendance, and with the Bucs picking at No. 9, I'm sure he was being as thorough as he could with what could be his prized player come April. A few other possible landing spots for VH3 are Philadelphia at No. 8, Miami at No. 13 and Oakland at No. 14.
When reporters asked Hargreaves what it would mean to him to be drafted to Tampa, the city where he played high school ball, he smiled and said:
"That would be amazing. My mom's right down the street! So that would be good. We'll see how it plays out."
Hargreaves also acknowledged he will be in attendance on draft night. He told reporters he doesn't intend to cry when he hears his named called.
But if his mom is there with him? "...Maybe."
Tuesday was an easy day for Bullard. His 4.93 official 40-time at the Combine wasn't eye-popping, but as a defensive tackle, long-distance speed isn't a must. What's important for interior defensive linemen is burst: How quickly can they get out of their stance and into the backfield. Those explosive traits are measured mostly through the first ten yards of a 40-yard dash (10-yard split), the broad jump and the vertical jump.
Bullard's 1.52 10-yard split was fastest among all interior linemen at the Combine, and his 9'6" broad jump put him in the 96th percentile for that drill as a defensive tackle. That's incredible burst, and scouts knew that's what they needed to see. Bullard knew that, too.
Bullard did participate in some on-the-field work at Pro Day, which was nice to see. Coaches ran him through the gauntlet of bags, and from all accounts, he did his job well.
Former #Jaguars DE and now Bucs DL assistant coach Paul Spicer coaching up Bullard. #teamsideline pic.twitter.com/pLm0sFTRX9— Mike Kaye (@mike_e_kaye) March 22, 2016
I think the market for Bullard is stronger than advertised, given that many project him as a second round pick. I think he has a good chance going in the latter half of round one.
Alex McCalister's offseason is a perfect example of how the draft process can sometimes be a funny thing. During the season, there wasn't much spotlight on him — though, early on, he showed signs of a really good speed rusher in the making. As Florida's season came to a close, with McCalister hurt over the last month of play, I would have guessed the NFL viewed him as a fifth- or sixth-round pick.
But in the past two months, without playing a down of football, McCalister's stock has risen into the late Day 2, early Day 3 range, a rise in perception perhaps worth a hundred or so draft spots and many hundreds of thousands of dollars.
There's good reason for that: When people saw his athletic numbers from the Combine next to the measurements numbers of his frame, I'm sure their eyebrows perked up. Here's a recap of McCalister's monster showing from last month:
Height: 6'6" (88th percentile)
Weight: 239 pounds (1st percentile)
Arms: 36" (97th percentile)
Broad: 10'6" (97th percentile)
40-yard dash: 4.80 (62nd percentile)
3-Cone: 7.01 (88th percentile)
Short Shuttle: 4.00 (99th percentile)
The higher the percentile the better, and besides weight (where he's rail-thin for a defensive end) and long distance speed (where he merely lacks blazing speed), McCalister owned the Combine. Those numbers tell you he has the athleticism to make a difference off the edge. And my bet is that, with that performance in mind, scouts and personnel people went to his tape, saw him use that length and burst to fly by both left and right tackles, and started shifting him up some draft boards.
On Tuesday, McCalister didn't participate in any timed events, and didn't have to. He went through a few of the on-field drills with Bullard, but his day was a quiet one. His most notable moment, though, was weighing in six pounds heavier this week than he did in Indianapolis, now checking in at 245 pounds.
With numbers and praise like that, I know it sounds like I'm making McCalister out to be a first rounder, but the fact of the matter is, it's going to be hard for him to ever keep on the body weight (strength) to be more than a speed guy. When you're a one-dimensional pass rusher, you need to do that one thing very well. McCalister has to the tools to have his success, it's just a matter of focusing on them and honing his craft.
I think, and have always thought, that McCalister is more of a round 3-4 guy than he is a round 5-6 guy. I think the NFL circle is coming around to that line of thinking as well. He's had meetings with the Jaguars and the Patriots, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him have several more.
Neal's stock has been all over the place since the season ended. I can tell you many NFL people didn't even think Neal would be declaring. However, after he ended the season on with some good tape, flying around the field and making plays, Neal received a Top 60 grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board— which, if you're keeping count at home means he'd be picked in the first two rounds.
After Florida State's Jalen Ramsey, the class of this safety class, everything else is a toss up. Players can be differentiated by preference, and boards will vary from team to team. So going into Tuesday's workouts, Neal was one of the players whose timed workouts were of importance. The two areas needing the most improvement from his Combine performance were his straight line speed (40-ayd dash) and his agility (short shuttle). Here's how he did:
Overall, those are small bumps, but they're good bumps for Neal. After his workouts, he said he's had 26 NFL teams reach out to him, and has had special attention from the Falcons and 49ers. I'd still bet Neal's a second-rounder when it's all said and done.
Not much changed for Robinson following Pro Day. In fact, if you look at the numbers, nothing really changed at all.
|Weight||203 lbs.||203 lbs.|
Almost identical numbers from a month ago. At least they didn't get appreciably worse?
Robinson's name has been talked about near the top of a receiver class which can't seem to settle on a No. 1 wideout, but I'd be leery about making a starting receiver out of him in year one or two, the sort of path implied by a first- or second-round pick.
Robinson's highlights rank with the best in this draft class. He's a natural with when the ball is in the air, and he's a smooth runner with it in his hands. But, on the other hand, Florida fans have seen Robinson be careless with ball security, alligator-arm some catches at contact, and at times just not seem focused. The highs for him are great, and the allure of his potential as a big-play receiver will get him drafted before the fifth round. But, I'm not buying this second-round talk, at least not with that much polishing to do.
And that's without factoring in his history of suspensions, which will work against him (can you trust him?) and for him, thanks to his remarkable candor in announcing the reasoning for those suspensions.
Brian Poole is one of my gems in this draft.
With NFL teams doing everything they can to get as many pass-catchers on the field as possible, a player like Poole with some versatility could come in handy. Florida fans have seen Brian Poole struggle as a boundary (outside) corner, but that doesn't mean he's not reliable. To me, it's night and day when Poole plays inside in the slot versus outside. When a defense gives him the freedom to play zone and work with help coverage around him, he shows nice instincts and can force receivers to areas where it's most difficult to make a play.
With that in mind, here's how he finished the day on the chart:
The height isn't ideal, but Poole's not projected as a first-round corner. The 4.49 and 9'4" numbers are impressive. I hope they're impressive enough for a team to give him a shot at the right spot (nickel corner). I think he could have some success if he ends up in that role.
McGee was invited to the Combine, but wasn't a full participant. Tuesday was the first time he went through athletic drills since his injury at the Senior Bowl in January.
McGee measured in at 6'5" and 250 pounds, and ran a 4.76 40-yard dash with a 9'6" broad jump. Those numbers would've put him in the bottom half of the tight end group athletically. Though it was good to see McGee going through those kinds of drills, when you watch his tape, you know his success isn't based off his athleticism.
He still has the frame and the football IQ to stick somewhere in the league. It might not ever be in a starting role, but with offenses looking to create mismatches wherever they can, the right coach could make good use out of him.
Kelvin Taylor is a player I've seen draft media really want to test well athletically ... but the reality is, those numbers just aren't there. After a disappointing Combine run of 4.60 in the 40-yard dash last month, he was really looking to improve that number at Florida's Pro Day, but only shaved it down to a 4.57 on Tuesday.
Of course, Taylor's skill set has never been based off straight-line speed, but agility and balance. When you combine that with the shorter strides he takes with his smaller frame, he can be dangerous on the field. Pro Days and Combines aren't where he thrives. Scouts know this by now.
So we're back where we've always been with Taylor: He's a shifty back who makes people miss with quick feet and patience, but without top-level speed. I still like him as a change-of-pace back in a "running back by committee" game plan, but I don't see him ever being a feature back. His lower athletic numbers aren't a death sentence to his NFL chances, but they will probably limit where he gets drafted.
And now, the player we've all been waiting for.
Morrison was invited to the Combine, and after some good moments at the Senior Bowl, drew a fair amount of hype towards how he would test athletically. But, in a story all too Antonio Morrison-esque, he ended up not showing up to the Combine. At first, no one could really figure out why he wasn't there, but as the Combine came to a close it was subtly reported that he missed the weekend in Indianapolis due to an illness.
So Tuesday was the first time anyone got to see Morrison in timed drills. Because of that, he went through every drill he would've gone through in Indy. Here's how they came out:
|Bench press||23 reps|
Those numbers are ... well, they're not great. And while most figured Morrison wouldn't test off any charts, from the response I got on Twitter, people also didn't think they'd be that damning.
The thing about Morrison, and something I've tried to tell people who thought he was a possible third- or fourth-round pick, is that his violent style makes him seem more athletic than he really is. He flies into tackles, but only when he has a straight lane to the ball carrier. If you ask him to go sideline-to-sideline, it's just not there.
There's a label given to some linebacker prospects: "Phone booth linebacker." In short areas, such players can make an impact. But if you ask them to track faster players in coverage or a ball carrier outside the tackles, they're often left empty-handed — something our memories tell us is true of Morrison, and was true even prior to his torn ACL and freakish recovery.
Change of direction is a necessity for full-time linebackers in today's NFL, and it helps rotational LBs get more snaps. To me, with those numbers on paper, Morrison's a situational linebacker who can be used to plug gaps. I'm not sure what he is beyond that at this point.