Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield, and Mason Rudolph all completed recent pro day performances. For all three, the impact of their pro day workout will weigh heavily on when they are selected in the upcoming NFL Draft. Rudolph likely had more to prove than the other since going into the draft he is viewed as the fifth- or sixth-best at the quarterback position. For the former Oklahoma State QB and many others who were not invited to the NFL Combine last month, a pro day can mean the difference between being drafted or not.
Approximately 335 players are invited to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis each year. Those players are paraded through a myriad of physical and mental drills as well as subjected to medical testing. NFL teams are making an investment and they want to make sure that their investments reap dividends. The combine allows NFL scouts and coaches to see players and compare them rather easily. In any given year, there are roughly 35 or so kids who are drafted that were not combine invitees. How are these players identified and how do they move up certain teams’ draft boards? The answer to these questions is, of course, the pro day.
BIG SCHOOL PRO DAY
Most every FBS school conducts a pro day on its campus. The football staff will organize it and promote it. Blueblood Power 5 schools will have numerous athletes participate in a day that is structured much like the NFL combine. Athletes are tested in drills such as the 40-yard dash, pro shuttle, vertical jump, and more. They also participate in position drills just like those that are done at the combine. The big difference for scouts and coaches is that they are able to spend much more time with an individual player one-on-one. At the combine, players are interviewed for 15 minutes and that’s it.
SMALL SCHOOL PRO DAY
FCS and even some Division II and III schools conduct pro days on their own campuses. Back in 2011, Fordham hosted a pro day for scouts and a wide receiver named Chris Hogan dazzled with a 4.40 40-yard dash and 28 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press. While the number of schools that host these events is less than the number of FBS schools, many small-school draft prospects are identified this way.
For schools that do not host a pro day, many will attend one at an FBS school. Prospects at smaller schools in Wisconsin, for example, may attend the Badgers’ pro day and work out for scouts then. This gives these athletes more exposure to NFL scouts. Many small school pro days are not well-attended by scouts and coaches.
The bottom line is that pro day workouts can go a long way in determining an athlete’s future. Guys who do not perform well at the combine have another opportunity to display their talents. Small school players and others get to do the same. Pro days also offer players the ability to interact extensively with NFL coaches. The recent pro days of Mayfield, Rosen, and Rudolph are great examples. Many wonder about Mayfield’s on-and off-field antics. It seems he may have had a breakthrough at his pro day. Rosen showed scouts and coaches that he may be the most accurate quarterback in the draft, and Rudolph happened to draw Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin who passed on UCLA’s pro day to take a look in Stillwater. Each one of these guys likely improved their draft stock with their respective pro day workout.