BATON ROUGE – With the NFL Scouting Combine wrapped up, scouts, coaches and managers around the league are now turning their attention to college Pro Days to see how future draft picks measure out and test.
For athletes who’d like to have performed better at the Combine and for those who didn’t go to the Combine at all, these individual Pro Days allow college standouts another opportunity to demonstrate what they can bring to the table for a professional club.
The DallasCowboys.com staff will travel around the Dallas area the next few weeks leading into the NFL Draft to see first-hand how some of the local athletes looked in person.
Today, Rowan Kavner continues the Pro Day visits at Louisiana State University.
Top Picks: DE/LB Barkevious Mingo, DE Sam Montgomery, LB Kevin Minter, S Eric Reid, RB Spencer Ware, WR Russell Shepard, OL P.J. Lonergan and DT Bennie Logan, DE Lavar Edwards
Cowboys Representation: Cowboys’ assistant director of player personnel Tom Ciskowski was in attendance, along with scout Drew Fabianich. All 32 teams were expected to be represented.
Big Issue: The biggest issue might be deciding which player to focus on from the plethora of talent. There was a reason so many NFL scouts and personnel came down to Baton Rouge, with a total of 28 former Tigers, including 21 members of the 2012 LSU football team, on hand participating. The Tigers have two potential first-rounders in defensive linemen Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, with the latter possibly being targeted as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense. But they also have a plethora of players who could go in the early to mid-rounds, including safety Eric Reid, linebacker Kevin Minter and defensive tackle Bennie Logan.
One issue for the players is injury. Tackle Chris Faulk could potentially help some teams, but he missed the majority of his 2012 season with a knee injury and seems to still be recovering from that. He participated in position drills after only benching at the Combine, and he may need more time before he’s fully healed. Tyrann Mathieu missed out on last season for obvious reasons other than injury. He described the last year sitting out of football as both depressing and miserable, and his teammates said they see a new player than the one who was forced to sit out for failing drug tests. He let his Combine numbers hold up for the most part, but he also participated in the position drills, demonstrating the same explosiveness and athletic ability that will entice one team to take a chance on the corner with some well-chronicled baggage.
“I know I made some mistakes this past year, but I think when it comes to football, I’m just a playmaker and a guy who wants to play hard for his teammates,” Mathieu said. “I think I’m doing a pretty good job, the way I’m carrying myself, and the way the Combine and Pro Day just went. We’re looking forward to the future. I’m just really looking forward to being part of somebody’s team.”
Who Stood Out: It was no surprise to coach Les Miles, but Michael Ford helped himself at LSU’s Pro Day. The running back already demonstrated his strength at the Combine, recording 25 reps. Ford wasn’t the primary running back during his time at LSU, but the 5-foot-10 running back still featured his speed and quickness throughout his career. The running back ran an official 4.44 40-yard dash and had a 39.5-inch vertical leap on Wednesday. He and Simon stunned onlookers by running unofficial 40-yard dash times of 4.39 seconds.
At 6-foot-2 with that kind of speed, Simon turned some heads, though he didn’t seem to possess the same natural ball skills as Reid or Mathieu. The cornerback’s size and speed could be tempting in the middle rounds. Minter helped himself out by running an official 4.67 40-yard dash time, bettering his time of 4.81 at the Combine. Minter led all Tigers defenders last season with 130 total tackles and 15 tackles for loss, while also adding four sacks and an interception. Defensive tackle Josh Downs wasn’t invited to the Combine, so Wednesday gave him his lone chance to shine in front of scout, and he recorded 33 reps on the bench press.
Understandably, many of the players who competed at the Combine only participated in position drills or one or two events they wanted to improve upon. Surprisingly, Shepard also competed in position drills with the defensive backs. It took a while during college for him to find a position that fit at receiver, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see teams looking at him in a variety of spots.
Possible Cowboys Fits: Reid said he had a pre-draft workout with the Cowboys last Monday, and Logan said he worked out with the Cowboys last Tuesday. While much of the focus at safety has been on the University of Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro, Reid could be another possibility, particularly if he starts to drop in the second round. He said he wanted to demonstrate to scouts that he could be smooth in drills and run his 40-yard dash faster, and he achieved both, recording an official time of 4.50 in the 40-yard dash.
The Cowboys have needs at safety and defensive tackle, and Logan said he could play the one or the three technique in the 4-3 system. Logan wasn’t as highly recruited as many of the Tigers competing at the LSU Pro Day, but he quickly became a mainstay on LSU’s defensive line. He has a valuable ability to rush from the inside as a tackle, recording two sacks last year. Ford and Ware could both draw interest from the Cowboys, who need a backup running back, in the later rounds. Ware’s started multiple games throughout his LSU career, and he demonstrated an ability to stay on the field as a bruiser in the backfield.
What They Said:
Logan – “A lot of teams are looking at me to play nose, three-tech, one-tech, a few teams even want me to play defensive end. Teams are looking me to play up and down the line, not really a set position. Whoever gets me knows they’ll get a good player, wherever they ask me to play. I’m eager and ready to learn the position and go from there.”
Reid – “It’s really surreal. Guys say that it’s a dream, but for me, I’ve lived it. I grew up here, I went to LSU, that was my dream, and now I’m taking that next step, and that’s the NFL. For me, it kind of hasn’t even hit me yet. When the draft comes, I guess the hardest thing for me to do is not to cry.”
Mathieu – “I think back at LSU, I was a true leader. I know I made some mistakes, but I think I was a leader for my teammates and I think I was always there for those guys.”
Les Miles on Mathieu – “He’s a great teammate. He’s a big-time player. He will commit to what your culture is and doing it your way. But he will have a natural, intuitive sense for big plays, and he certainly, I think he leads LSU in two years in creating turnovers for a career. He did it in two years. He’ll make somebody’s NFL roster a lot better.