To many casual fans, the Combine is the only scouting event used to measure prospects entering the draft. For NFL franchises, the Combine is just one of three major events used to initially determine a player’s suitability. Before the Combine, the prospects who finish their senior year attend either the East-West Shrine game or the Senior Bowl. Both of these events involve a week of practices and drills monitored by NFL scouts and coaches that culminate in an actual game played by NFL rules. After these two events comes the dog-and-pony show known as the Combine. Although the Combine involves some positional drills, the principal purposes of the event are the medical evaluations, individual interviews conducted by NFL personnel, and speed drills measuring the players’ athletic ability.
The last of the scheduled scouting events are the Pro Days hosted by the universities that the prospects attended. The average Pro Day usually showcases only four to five players on average, which allows NFL personnel to give more exclusive attention to players of interest. Pro Days not only test players’ athletic ability with speed drills, but also put added emphasis on positional drills. If NFL scouting personnel like what they see, sometimes they invite a player for a private workout and/or interview. Teams don’t always hold private workouts with players they eventually draft, but they always attend that player’s Pro Day.
Information on respective Pro Days is often hard to find, as they are not nearly as popular as the Combine. Already, several prominent prospects have had their Pro Days, and there are several more upcoming in the next couple of weeks. Even the Pro Days of players that are likely not on the Texans’ radar are important because they will help determine the interest other teams have in those prospects. I’ve been meaning to do updates on the Pro Days, but I’ve been busy. Below are descriptions of the various Pro Day results as well as analysis on how those results affect the Texans.
Jason Smith/OT/Baylor (March 3rd) – 15 NFL teams sent representatives to see Smith work out including the Offensive Line Coaches of Jacksonville, Seattle and Cincinnati. Smith did not re-run the speed drills (40 yard dash, 3 cone, etc.) because he was happy with his Combine results, but he performed positional drills, and he performed them well. Analysis – Smith not only solidified himself as a top 5 pick, but has a chance to improve his stock even more on March 12th when St. Louis will hold a private workout for him. I think that Smith is probably the top OT in the draft, and if Detroit passes on him, St. Louis won’t.
Rashad Jennings/RB/Liberty (March 5th) – Jennings performed well in both the Senior Bowl and the Combine. Jennings started at Pitt as a true freshman, but transferred to much smaller Liberty because it was close to his father, who was having serious complications from diabetes. Jennings weighed in at 231 pounds and ran a 4.51 in the 40 yard dash and 6.79 in the three cone. Analysis – Jennings is working his way up draft boards, which is too bad for us. I would love to see this guy in a Texans uniform, but we’d probably have to take him in the third round. He’s showing he has the physical talent to go along with his great character and intelligence.
William Moore/SS/Missouri (March 5th) – Moore weighed in at 221 pounds, which is 10-15 pounds lighter than he played the majority of his senior season. Moore ran two quick 40’s (4.51, 4.49) and paired that with an impressive 10’6” broad jump. Moore was most impressive, however, in positional drills, where he looked great. Analysis – Moore surely helped himself, but to what extent is undetermined. Mike Mayock remarked on Moore the other day asking, "Which Moore are teams drafting, the one that played great his sophomore and junior year or the one that didn’t his senior year?" It’s a fair question. The one thing that is for sure is if Moore plays up to the potential he showed before last year, he’ll be a steal in the second round.
Sean Smith/CB – FS/Utah (March 9th) – Smith ran a 4.47 and 4.49 40, but no other speed drills. His 32" vertical and 9'5" broad jump are mediocre at best, but his height (6'3.5") helps make up for that. Smith looked fine in positional drills, but teams still worry if he has the agility to play CB in the NFL. Analysis – Smith has the talent to play in the NFL, but it is becoming more and more apparent that he’ll never be an elite CB at the next level. Still, a team very well might draft him in the late first to early second round range based on his ability to possibly play both CB2 and FS.
Paul Kruger/DE/Utah (March 9th) – Kruger ran a 4.79 and 4.8 40 in the 40. He also recorded a 32" vertical, a 9'1" broad jump and 22 reps on the bench of 225 pounds. There was little to indicate whether scouts were swayed positively or negatively by his positional drills. Analysis – Kruger will likely be drafted in the second round, which I feel is too early for us. There is nothing that indicates to me that he will likely be a starter in the next year or two, and therefore a second round pick would be too early.
Michael Johnson/DE/Georgia Tech (March 9th) – Johnson performed pretty much the same way he did at the Combine--phenomenally. There were a couple of differences though; Johnson ran the 40 faster (4.61, 4.64). Also, he looked great not only at DE positional drills, but at LB as well. Analysis – Everyone thought that Johnson was going to do well, but NFL personnel still showed up in droves to see it, including Carolina HC John Fox and Atlanta HC Mike Smith. Smith and Fox have to know that Johnson won’t be there for their respective second round picks. The only way Fox could get him is to trade up since the Panthers don't have a first round selection, and Smith would have to take him with the 24th pick overall. If this is an indication of the attention Johnson is getting from other teams I don’t think he’ll end up in Houston.
Gartrell Johnson/RB/Colorado State (March 10th) – Johnson ran a 4.67 and 4.68 40 yard dash. He ran positional drills with little to report. Analysis – Ok, he’s not prominent, but at 5'10"/218 pounds, he could be a great RB/FB hybrid in the mold of LeRon McLain. He also played in the same zone blocking scheme we feature. Hmmm.
Louis Delmas/FS/Western Michigan (March 11th) – Delmas primarily stood on his numbers from the Combine and ran positional drills with nothing in his performance of note. What was of note though was that Detroit sent several DB coaches to watch the workout. Analysis – Detroit's strong showing is surprising. I wonder if they’re considering him with the 33rd overall pick.
Brandon Pettigrew/TE/Oklahoma State (March 11th) – Pettigrew did not work out because of a pulled hamstring. He’ll work out instead in about two weeks.
Andre Smith/OT/Alabama (March 11th) – All eyes were on Smith because of his Houdini act at the Combine, and he received varying reviews for his performance. Some analysts, like NFL Network’s Charles Davis, believed he performed well in positional drills and helped his image. Others, like Mike Mayock, believed he proved that he was out of shape by running a 5.25 40 and only putting up 19 reps in the bench. No one could deny that Smith looked terrible with his shirt off, but for some reason he kept removing it. Analysis – Seriously, Smith looked really fat. I know he’s an O-lineman, but the video of him running the 40 topless ruined my dinner. Despite his criticisms, Mayock still believes Smith is the third OT off the board and someone will take him in the top 10. I tend to agree.
Those are all players that are prominent that had newsworthy Pro Days. Check back here every few days and I should have more notes and analysis coming. Should be a busy week, because many Universities are hosting Pro Days, including West Virginia, Ohio State, Boston College, and Oregon, just to name a few.