LOS ANGELES – While much of the NFL world focused on the opening of free agency Tuesday, scouts, coaches and managers are still keeping an eye on the next crop of football talent as college Pro Days are well under way.
With the Combine behind them, these individual Pro Days afford college prospects another opportunity to showcase their skills in front of professional teams before the 2015 NFL Draft begins on April 30.
Today, Daily Bruin UCLA football beat writer Jordan Lee (@jordantlee) offers his take on UCLA's Pro Day where much of the attention was focused on the defensive side of the ball, led by defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa and linebacker Eric Kendricks.
Top Pick(s): DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa, LB Eric Kendricks, QB Brett Hundley, S Anthony Jefferson, DT Ellis McCarthy
Possible Cowboys Fits: While quarterback Brett Hundley is arguable the most-well known of UCLA's prospects, Owamagbe Odighizuwa represents the best fit in Dallas as he fills a need along the defensive line and could be an option in the first two rounds.
- Odighizuwa came on strong at the end of the year - he collected five of his six sacks over UCLA's final seven games - after the former five-star prospect missed the entirety of the 2013 season with a hip injury and could fill a need as a pass rusher. The redshirt senior is an athletic marvel. At 6-foot-3, 267 pounds and the physique of a bodybuilder, Odighizuwa put on a show at the NFL combine after finishing as a top performer in the 40-yard dash, 20-yard and 60-yard shuttle, and vertical and broad jump. He backed up that showing with an impressive Pro Day, as he participated in both linebacker and defensive line drills, and performed admirably at both positions. His combination of power, speed and instincts at the line of scrimmage could make him a prized commodity come draft weekend.
- After an extremely productive college career, Eric Kendricks figures to be an instant contributor at linebacker in his first season in the NFL. He is a tackling machine as his strong instincts and athleticism enabled him to bring down opposing ball carriers a school-record 481 times. Kendricks can run sideline-to-sideline and is adept at dropping back into coverage after hauling in a team-high three interceptions a season ago. Coaches regularly praised his leadership, toughness and intelligence while he also has NFL bloodlines as his brother Mychal currently plays linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles.
- Anthony Jefferson is a late-round prospect to look out for and could fill a role in the secondary and on special teams. Jefferson is a versatile player who spent time at cornerback and safety last season but projects as the latter in the NFL. Jefferson missed both the 2010 and 2011 season due to a broken foot and a herniated disk respectively, but started the final 25 games of his career at UCLA and developed into a leader in the secondary. While his athleticism won't blow anyone away, at 6-foot-1, 198 pounds, he looks the part of an NFL safety and moved well at Pro Day. Jefferson looked sharp in drills and broke well on the ball. He also reportedly improved upon his 4.72 40-yard dash at the Combine and ran in the 4.6s per UCLA defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin.
Top Performer: Odighizuwa chose to stand on his 4.61 40 time from the Combine and only participated in position drills, where he shown. He really demonstrated his power working the sled but the highlight of his day came in linebacker drills. While he primarily played with his hand in the ground at UCLA, Odighizuwa moved well in space and showed that he is able to drop into coverage and proved that his impressive measurables in Indianapolis can translate to field.
Who Else Stood Out: Like Odighizuwa, Kendricks only participated in position drills and performed very well when put through the paces by NFL scouts. The linebacker was limited with a hamstring injury at the Combine but allayed concerns about his athleticism by moving very well Tuesday.
"Hopefully I did help my stock (with this Pro Day)", Kendricks said. "Hopefully I showed (teams) that I can move, and that I can move in space and I'm also explosive and fast."
What They Said:
Odighizuwa on what he wanted to showcase during Pro Day:
"I bring a lot to the table and I can be a valuable asset to any organization that drafts me. And I want to convey that in every interview, every workout that I do. The way I carry myself, I want to make sure (teams) know they are drafting a first class athlete."
Odighizuwa on pass rushing ability and position outlook:
"I could play like an Anthony Barr-position outside rusher (as a linebacker) and play as a defensive end as an outside rusher."
"Today I wanted to show my versatility and that you can throw me into a drill and I'm going to execute it exactly how they want it done. I want to show athleticism, how smooth I am, my quickness, my explosiveness."
Hundley on his approach to the draft process:
"I think it's always been about showing what I can do for these teams and who I am personally. Me competing with (other quarterback prospects) it's never been a personal battle between us."
Jefferson on Pro Day experience:
"It's a job interview. I took it one step at a time from drill-to-drill and I thought I did good in everything I did."
"I enjoyed every minute of it and I'm glad I had the opportunity to come out here and show what I can do."
Kendricks on mentality going into the NFL Draft:
"Foot on the gas right now. It's just starting, this whole process, and I couldn't be more excited to be a part of it."
Jefferson on playing cornerback or safety in the NFL:
"Wherever the needs are for the team, that's where I'll be. A lot of team's like me at safety so (we'll see)."
Jordan Lee (@jordantlee) covers UCLA football for the Daily Bruin.