Josh Norris

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Draft 2012: Pro Day Roundup

Friday, March 23, 2012


Just like the Combine, Pro Day workouts give numbered results to supplement what prospects produce on the field during games. With numerous high-profile invitees sitting out their first-impression Combine workout, Pro Days have a heightened sense of importance for participants to perform up to or beyond the athleticism they showed on Saturdays. We are around the midway point of post-season workouts so let's look at who has impressed or underperformed thus far.

Name-brand

Stanford QB Andrew Luck -- On a windy day in Palo Alto, Luck showed brilliant command of his Pro Day workout by completing 45-of-48 passes. Two incompletions were dropped, and the third came on an overthrow. The style in which Luck orchestrated his variety of throws was most impressive, with the majority coming after movements in the pocket. It is something many QB prospects do not implement enough at Pro Days, since most passes at the next level will be thrown in a muddled pocket. It did not matter if Luck was forced to flow to his left or right, he consistently squared his shoulders and placed the ball in a catchable position with efficient velocity. Some have questioned Luck's arm strength, claiming he guides too many throws. I don't buy it. Combined with pre-throw anticipation, his motion is so effortless that passes look placed. That kind of touch and awareness is a positive in my book. More information surfaced yesterday that, at Stanford, Luck called one formation and chose from three plays at the line of scrimmage. Most NFL quarterbacks don't even have that kind of responsibility. There is no doubting Robert Griffin III as an elite prospect, but I would draft Andrew Luck with the first pick every day of the week.

Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon -- After sitting out most of the Combine with a tweaked hamstring, Blackmon showed excellent straight-line speed with a sub-4.45 forty while weighing in eight pounds heavier (215) than he did in Indianapolis. This time will be adjusted, with teams likely adding around two hundredths of a second, but anything under 4.5 is a stellar result. Blackmon has the necessary speed to be a vertical threat, but has yet to show it due to the Big 12 off-coverages that repeatedly offered short completions. However, Blackmon flashed downfield playmaking ability when breaking first contact and keeping distance from trailing defensive backs for long after-catch runs. Blackmon's catch radius and skills to adjust to throws (35.5" vertical) are undeniably impressive. With that said, I still question if he can dominate press coverage like he did facing seven-yard cushions. Many will definitively say Blackmon deserves a top-ten selection and fits in the category of other elite prospects (A.J. Green, Julio Jones). I love Blackmon's physical style, but not enough to put him in that group and doubt he can consistently produce like a top-15 NFL wide receiver.

Baylor QB Robert Griffin III -- Griffin's Pro Day lost a little luster after the Redskins went all-in for the No. 2 pick, making it seemingly obvious that he's already got his next team. But that did not stop the Baylor quarterback from putting on a show. Griffin threw around 82 passes, the first 20 to still targets, and completed 76 of them. This result was expected in a scripted workout, but the pace at which Griffin fired off throws was thoroughly impressive. No one questions Griffin's arm talent, especially on deep sideline throws or when testing coverage downfield. Griffin looked more refined in his stance, with his elbows compact pre-release rather than parallel to his feet like Troy Smith. Still, the few questions I have on Griffin were impossible to answer in a Pro Day setting. After his initial drop, Griffin's footwork lacks purpose when his first read is taken away. The steps are inconsistent, either choppy or a single stride. The athlete in Griffin momentarily takes over but in Washington's style of offense this is close to a non-issue. I still prefer Luck's ability to handle protection assignments pre-snap and decisive movements in tight spaces, but Griffin possesses every quality of an elite QB talent.

Stanford TE Coby Fleener -- At 6'6/241, Fleener put on a clinic with a 4.45 forty and 37" vertical while standing on his 27 bench reps from the Combine. After four months, Fleener's high ankle sprain suffered in the Fiesta Bowl was said to be 90 percent healed. From an outside perspective that is a long timetable to return to full health, but it was a positive sign that Fleener fully participated in the workout after slipping in the three-cone drill. Fleener can stretch the field from the in-line position or out in the slot as a Joker, but Fleener is far from complete. He is a willing blocker with excellent length but has not shown an ability to consistently win in one-on-one situations at the line of scrimmage. Fleener overextends far too often, but blocking is one of the easier skills to obtain especially for a willing player. Where I stop short of comparing Fleener to Rob Gronkowski is his toughness at the catch point. Fleener allows smaller defensive backs to out-position him at the catch point and has not yet learned to effectively use his size. He is not a revolutionary prospect since he rounds his routes like most tight ends, but Fleener is a likely first-round pick with an amazing set of traits to build on.

Rutgers WR Mohamed Sanu -- The Pro Day effect elevated Sanu's forty time to 4.41 after registering in the 4.65 range at the Combine. He plays much closer to the latter. A large target at 6'2/211 pounds, Sanu shines in traffic while coming down with contested catches. He is adept at sitting in soft zones or creating separation with fluidity and smoothness in his routes while generating just enough space at the catch point. Sanu's acceleration worries me after registering a 10-yard split in the 1.65 range, but the way he absorbs contact off the line bodes well for NFL success. The question is if Sanu's skill-set offers enough special qualities to be drafted before the third round. For a team that is in need of an underneath to intermediate receiver, Sanu would instantly contribute and flashes toughness after the catch.

Georgia TE Orson Charles -- The receiving tight end shows strength when facing physical defensive backs and a burst after the catch, but Charles' workout numbers were close to dreadful. With heavy winds Charles ran a 4.75 and a 4.90 against along with a 30.5" vertical, 7.29 three-cone, 4.75 short shuttle, and a 9'5" broad jump. Aside from the forty, none of those test results would have placed Charles higher than eighth among participating Combine tight ends. Charles flashes fluidity in pads and at worst plays at the speed of these times, but I cannot deny being surprised by these poor results. He is a mismatch with linebackers or defensive backs, but does not have the elite athletic upside I previously thought. These numbers do not coincide with a top-50 pick.


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Josh Norris is an NFL Draft Analyst for Rotoworld and contributed to the Rams scouting department during training camp of 2010 and the 2011 NFL Draft. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Josh Norris



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