NORMAN, Okla. – There's plenty of news on the free agency front right now, but that doesn't take away from the important of the NFL draft.
The draft gets underway in exactly 50 days, and now that the NFL Combine is over, the Cowboys will really begin the process of turning over every stone while they evaluate this 2017 draft class.
In my own preparations, I decided to travel up the road to Oklahoma so I could take in the Sooners' annual Pro Day. This year's event carried some extra scrutiny, as high profile prospects Joe Mixon and Dede Westbrook worked out for NFL scouts for the first time.
Mixon has been under a bright spotlight for much of the past few months as a result of his July 2014 assault of a woman, and that spotlight will only grow brighter as NFL clubs decide whether or not he's worth a draft pick. Mixon's transgressions kept him from being invited to the NFL Combine last week, whereas Westbrook was invited – despite several off-field incidents of his own.
In the interest of gathering all the information possible, I jotted down some notes on both players' workouts – as well as an unknown Sooner who surprised me.
Joe Mixon, RB, 6-1, 228
This was the first time Mixon had a chance to work out for NFL teams, since he was not invited to the Combine due to his domestic violence charges from three years ago.
His 40-yard dash time ranged from 4.47 to 4.50. The vertical jump was 35 inches, and his broad jump was 9 feet, 11-inches. The rest of his workout consisted of a 4.32 in the 20 shuttle and 21 bench press reps with the weights at 225.
Physically, Mixon is a freak. He is huge in the lower body, slim waist and broad shoulders. You can see where he gets his power from due to his lower body. He is very smooth in the way he moves and effortless in the way he makes his cuts. For a man so large, it is impressive to watch him take the ball and change direction. Both feet come off the ground, and, depending on which way he is breaking, he explodes off the opposite foot.
As a pass catcher he has reliable hands and doesn't fight the ball at all. The Cincinnati Bengals worked him as a punt/kickoff returner, and he looked comfortable even making two different one-handed catches. In the pass blocking part of the drills, you could see the strength in his hands and shoulders. You could hear the "pop" when he engaged with the bag.
Overall, I would call it an impressive workout, whether at the Combine or on campus. His numbers are exactly the same as Ezekiel Elliott from last year. The Minnesota Vikings were the only club that had their general manager and head coach at the workout.
Dede Westbrook, WR, 6-0, 174
Westbrook was at the Combine, but he choose not to work out there -- instead waiting for his Pro Day in Norman. In talking with scouts that timed him in the 40, his numbers ran from 4.38 to 4.40. His vertical Jump was 34.5 inches, and his broad jump was 10 feet. His 20 shuttle was 4.39 – average for a player of his quickness -- and he only managed eight reps in the bench press.
Physically, he is a slightly built player. He is thin in the arms and legs without any bulk. He looks like he would struggle to be able to add any more weight but could add strength to his frame. He ran all the routes in the workout. When he is on the move, he's explosive. He can really cover some ground when he's at full speed. He is very smooth and effortless in the way he moves, and there is not one bit of struggle or tightness in his movement.
He can also adjust to the ball in flight. Westbrook made several receptions where the ball was in less than a perfect spot. He has no problem contorting his body in order to make a catch. You see rubber band-like qualities. He snatches the ball in his hands, and he catches it easily.
Like Mixon, Westbrook was worked as a punt and kickoff returner. No problems or issues tracking or catching the ball.
Jordan Evans, LB, 6-3, 232
I didn't know much about Evans when the workout started, but I need to study him now. He was a Combine snub, but after watching his workout -- he will get drafted.
I saw impressive speed at 4.51 to 4.58. His vertical Jump tied the high for the day at 38.5 inches. His broad jump was 9 fee, 11 inches, and he managed 19 reps with the weights. Where he really caught my attention was with his 4.22 in the 20 shuttle. It was quite a display of lateral quickness and agility.
Evans was able to carry these numbers over to his on the field workouts where he showed an ease of movement and plenty of skills catching the ball.