Several big-name NFL Draft prospects, including Sammy Watkins and Jason Verrett, will be on display Thursday as schools around the country continue to host workouts for pro scouts. Clemson, TCU, Arizona, Furman, Nebraska, Illinois, Cincinnati, Alcorn State and Jackson State are all having their pro days.
Here is a rundown of the major schools and players in action.
Clemson is one of the biggest draws on Thursday for NFL scouts. That's where the top wide receiver prospect in the 2014 class, Watkins, took the field to improve on his monster NFL Combine, where he ran a 4.43 40. At this point, Watkins has likely solidified himself as a top-10 pick (SB Nation has him projected at No. 4 to the Cleveland Browns), and so he had no need to run through the measurable workouts like the 40, bench press or broad jump. He just ran through routes with his quarterback, Tajh Boyd.
Here's Watkins discussing his performance and NFL prospects, via the Atlanta Journal-Consitution.
Boyd, on the other hand, came in with plenty to prove. Once considered a sure-fire first-rounder, his stock has plummeted in recent months (SB Nation ranks him as the No. 9 quarterback). He didn't do himself many favors in Indianapolis, where he looked inaccurate in the passing drills and ran a 40 in the middle of the pack among his fellow quarterbacks. He needed to be sharp Thursday to regain some of his former luster.
If reports are to be believed, sharp is exactly what he was.
Will be shocked if the reviews of Tajh Boyd's Pro Day are anything but glowing. He was sensational, virtually flawless.— Larry Williams (@LarryWilliamsTI) March 6, 2014
Boyd completed 66 of 67 passes on Thursday, with the only incompletion coming on a drop, according to the Journal-Constitution. NFL Network analyst Mike Maycock was impressed with the outing, but was quoted as saying Boyd still has more to prove in order to move above the fifth round, where Maycock currently projects him.
"The things he has to improve on, you're not really going to see at a Pro Day," Mayock said. "It's more of the pocket awareness. When to scramble? When to step up? Those are the things that I think he has to work on and he can only do that over time."
Clemson's Pro Day was broadcast on ESPN3, and as expected, the ESPN cameras brought on a full-fledged media circus packed with NFL players and personalities.
There are more than 60 NFL scouts in attendance, as well as some big-time execs and coaches. Rams general manager Les Snead showed up, presumably to get a look at Watkins, who is a strong candidate to land in St. Louis if it can move up high enough to grab him.
Newly hired Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell was also hanging around.
Even Rex Ryan showed up … decked out in Clemson gear.
Rex Ryan rocking the Clemson gear. pic.twitter.com/86KE9OJdln— Larry Williams (@LarryWilliamsTI) March 5, 2014
While Rex was really just there for the BBQ, his New York Jets are in dire need of a playmaking wideout.
News broke early Thursday that potential first-rounder Jason Verrett will undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum, a setback that will cause concern among NFL teams. But the star cornerback -- who played through the injury for most of the 2013 season -- didn't let it slow him down on pro day.
RT @nfldraftscout: Despite needing shoulder surgery, TCU's Jason Verrett did 19 reps of 225 today. Matches how physical he plays on film.— Robert Olson (@RobertOlson92) March 6, 2014
Verrett is expected to recover in time for NFL training camps, which, compared with his ability to play through the injury, should lessen the impact of the surgery on his draft stock. SB Nation projects Verrett as the No. 13 pick to the St. Louis Rams, who recently released starting corner Cortland Finnegan.
He's clearly been working on his footwork, as well.
Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey was considered by some to be the top running back prospect of the draft coming into the Combine, but a slow 40 time hurt his stock. He ran a 4.70 in Indy -- 29th out of 33 running back participants -- and was hoping to improve on that number in front of scouts on Thursday. He did, but only barely.
On Thursday, Carey ran a 4.66 in the 40-yard dash in front of representatives from 31 of 32 NFL teams, according to CBS Sports. While it's unfair that a faster time should hurt a player's stock, Carey's time confirmed that his Combine time wasn't a fluke, and that he'll be one of the slowest among the running backs expected to go near the top of the NFL Draft in May.
Of course, Carey still has impressive game tape going for him, and he posted a six-inch improvement in his vertical by going up to 38.5 inches, so his stock is still very high. His straight-ahead speed won't be a big selling point, however.
Dakota Dozier draws scouts to Furman
Furman isn't usually a landing place for NFL scouts, but guard prospect Dakota Dozier is worth the trip. He spent his college days at left tackle, but projects inside at the next level. He proved capable of the position change with a strong performance at the East-West Shrine Game and showed off his athleticism at the combine.
Dozier decided to let his Combine numbers stand Thursday, instead going through position work with NFL coaches and scouts for Furman's pro day. His biggest obstacle on draft day will be the low level of college competition. He could go as high as the third round.
The Cornhuskers aren't flush with top-flight talent, but they do have several intriguing names, Taylor Martinez perhaps chief among them. The former quarterback began his journey toward redefining himself as a football player.
So far so good. Martinez put on a show, running a reported 4.28 40-yards dash, 39" vertical jump and 10'9 broad jump, according to Hail Varsity magazine.
Defensive back Stanley Jean-Baptiste may be the Huskers' best pro prospect, and he didn't disappoint Thursday. Chris Peters of Huskers Illustrated had him running in the "consistent 4.4" range. Offensive guard Spencer Long couldn't run due to injury, but he posted 28 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press.
Jack Cassidy at Illini blog The Champaign Room [ED: best-named SB Nation blog?] has the full results from Illinois' pro day. Linebacker Jonathan Brown is expected to get the most attention of any Illini player come the NFL Draft, but he has struggled during offseason evaluations. Cassidy found a way to spin the numbers however.
Blind resume time: One of these players is a Pro Bowler, the other is Jonathan Brown.
MYSTERY PRO BOWLER JONATHAN BROWN 6-foot-1 Height 6-foot-0 248 lbs Weight 238 lbs 5.09 40-Yard Time (Combine) 5.03 37 Games Played 45 228 Total Tackles 317 22.5 Tackles For Loss 45.5 7 Sacks 14 4 Forced Fumbles 4 1 Interceptions 3 16 Bench Press (Pro Day) 18 Undrafted NFL Draft ?
The mystery player is.....
Not too shabby.