IRVING, Texas -- January brought us the all-star circuit, February had the NFL Combine and March means it’s time for the pro day portion of the NFL Draft process. NFL scouts and coaches will travel the country over the next month, going campus-to-campus to evaluate prospects in preparation of the 2015 NFL Draft April 30-May 2.
Pro days are most crucial for the prospects who were unable to work out at the NFL Combine due to injury or not receiving an invitation. But it also presents a second chance for Combine participants who were unhappy with their performance in Indianapolis.
Below are 15 important stops for NFL scouts on the pro day schedule:
After a solid showing at the NFL Combine, quarterback Brett Hundley has two weeks to get ready for his pro day and is reportedly training with Kurt Warner in preparation for his on-campus workout. While he’s not going to catch Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota, he’s still competing for that No. 3 spot in the quarterback rankings.
Another quarterback trying to separate himself as the next-best option behind Winston and Mariota, Grayson pulled his hamstring Feb. 10 while training and was unable to participate in any drills at the NFL Combine. He said he “should be good” to run and throw at the Rams pro day, allowing a full month for the injury to heal. Linebacker Max Morgan was snubbed from the Combine, but he’ll receive his chance to audition for the scouts in attendance and running back Dee Hart will have a chance to improve on his poor 40-yard dash time (4.80) from Indianapolis.
Despite a dislocated knee cap midway through the 2014 season, defensive tackle Christian Covington decided to skip his senior season. He has been running since January as he rehabs from the injury, but wasn’t yet full strength to work out at the NFL Combine. However, the fringe top-100 pick said he will “definitely” be ready for his pro day and could be on Dallas’ radar.
Center Hroniss Grasu, who battled injuries as a senior in 2014, couldn’t participate in the Senior Bowl and opted not to work out at the NFL Combine. It is unknown if he plans to run or lift at the Ducks pro day, but scouts are eager to put him through drills. Quarterback Marcus Mariota did a nice job throwing at the Combine, but his pro day will allow him to show more diversity with his footwork and arm talent. Similar to Johnny Manziel last year, Mariota’s pro day will be important for scouts to see him take snaps from under center and throw to the full route tree.
Still recovering from nagging injuries from their senior season, neither tight end Jeff Heuerman or defensive tackle Michael Bennett were able to work out at the NFL Combine. Heuerman, who is still recovering from a sprained ankle, said he is near 100-percent healthy and Bennett hopes to be near full health soon. Both expect to be full participants at the Buckeyes pro day. Wide receiver Devin Smith ran a blazing 4.42 40-yard dash at the Combine, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get into the 4.3 range on Ohio State’s notoriously fast track.
Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty struggled at the Senior Bowl, but showed some improvements at the NFL Combine and will have a chance to make a lasting impression in Waco at Baylor’s pro day. He has been working with quarterback guru George Whitfield since his sophomore season so it’s likely we’ll see garbage cans, broom sticks and other inanimate objects during his passing session, but NFL scouts will focus mostly on Petty’s footwork and timing on downfield throws.
A possible top-10 pick, Missouri pass rusher Shane Ray was unable to work out at the Combine due to foot injury, but he plans to go through every Combine drill at his pro day. He has the best first step quickness in the draft, but NFL scouts are eager to put him through linebacker drills to see how he handles himself in space away from the line of scrimmage.
Arguably one of the top-five safety prospects in the 2015 class, Derron Smith is a tremendous competitor, but post-season hernia surgery sidelined him for the NFL Combine. He has March 25 “circled” on his calendar as he plans to be fully healthy for the Bulldogs pro day. Also, defensive tackle Tyeler Davison is a mid-round candidate that the Cowboys know well and could target.
A possible first round pick, wide receiver Breshad Perriman strained his hamstring during Combine training and wasn’t cleared to run in Indianapolis. The son of long-time NFL receiver Brett Perriman, he is very well liked in the scouting community with some believing he could crash the top-20 with a strong pro day performance.
After tearing the meniscus in his left knee in October, Anderson has been rehabbing the past few months and still wasn’t at 100-percent for the Combine. The son of NFL receiver Flipper Anderson, he is doing some light running now and told me the knee will be “good” by his pro day with goals of running in the “high 4.3” range in the 40-yard dash.
At 6-1 and 199 pounds, cornerback Byron Jones had Lucas Oil Stadium buzzing after setting a new NFL Combine record in the broad jump (12-feet-3) and testing extremely well in the vertical (44-inches), 3-cone drill (6.78) and short shuttle (3.94). He had labrum surgery in October and is only a few weeks recovered so he passed on the 40-yard dash and positional drills, opting to wait for his pro day. One of the more underrated wide receivers in the draft, Geremy Davis performed well at the Combine, but decided to wait for the pro day to run his 40-yard dash due to a lower leg injury.
Quarterback Jameis Winston will be the star attraction, but several other Florida State prospects will be under the NFL microscope, including DT Eddie Goldman who sat out Combine drills because of a strained neck. Tight end Nick O’Leary (4.93 40-yard dash), cornerback P.J. Williams (4.57 40-yard dash) and offensive linemen Josue Matias (17.5-inch vertical, 7-foot broad jump) and Tre Jackson (25-inch vertical, 8-foot broad jump) were unimpressive during Combine workouts and need to focus on improving those numbers between now and the Seminoles pro day.
Offensive guard A.J. Cann arrived in Indianapolis with the intention of performing every drill, but only participated in the positional workouts, skipping the 40-yard dash and other agility tests because of a sprain in his left calf. He didn’t participate in the Senior Bowl due to a sprained knee so performing at full health at the Gamecocks pro day will be imperative to his draft grade. Offensive tackle Corey Robinson had an MRI after the 2014 season that revealed a meniscus tear that required surgery so he was a non-participant at the Combine as well. He hopes to be ready for the pro day, but that will depend on his rehab.
Linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha suffered two ACL tears in his career, but it was an illness that kept him from running the 40-yard dash and other drills at the NFL Combine. Teams seem split on his NFL role so his performance at the pro day will be important. Cornerback Marcus Peters was dismissed from the team in November, but he has since mended his relationship with the coaches and was invited back to campus for the Huskies’ pro day so it will be an interesting dynamic to see his interaction with the Washington coaches and personnel. Linebacker Shaq Thompson made it known at the Combine that he is a linebacker and would not perform any running back or safety drills, but it will be interesting to see if any scouts convince him to work out at either position at his pro day.
The Hoosiers’ pro day is set for March 30, but running back Tevin Coleman will have his own workout in mid-April as he rehabs an injury. He suffered a toe injury in the fifth game of the season, but played through the issue and became the fourth fastest in FBS history to reach 2,000 rushing yards in a season, needing only 264 rush attempts to hit the mark. Coleman, who is the closest prospect to Demarco Murray in this class, had tendon surgery after the season and should be back to full health for his personal pro day.
Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) is the Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, a property of The Sports Xchange distributed in partnership with CBSSports.com. For more of his draft coverage, click here.