By Tony Grossi
The Morning Kickoff …
Entering the draft homestretch: The entire process leading to a draft might be broken down into five phases.
Phase 1 is the college regular season, Phase 2 is the post-season bowl and all-star games, and Phase 3 is the NFL combine. Those are done.
Now NFL teams head into the homestretch. Phase 4 begins this week – the pro day workouts. The pro days lead teams into Phase 5 just before the April 25-27 draft – the individual visits to team facilities.
Phase 4 can be problematic because NFL teams are at the mercy of the colleges when it comes to scheduling pro days. Often, teams are stretched from coast to coast on the same day, forced to divide executives, coaches and scouts to view multiple players at different locations. And you dare not miss a pro day.
Pro days are ultra-important for players who either timed poorly at the combine or elected not to work out there because of nagging injuries or personal preference. At times, these can be the single-most important day of a team’s draft process.
In 2010, the Browns finalized their decision on cornerback Joe Haden when he bettered his combine 40 time by .09 (yes, it makes a difference) at his pro day, confirming their knowledge that Haden ran at the combine with lower back spasms.
In 2012, the Browns came to a consensus on running back Trent Richardson when GM Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur saw him run 4.48 at his pro day. The team’s draft leanings were telegraphed when it dispatched only offensive coordinator Brad Childress to Texas A&M’s pro day to witness quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who was a prime consideration.
Listed below are some pro days of note and players that may be of particular interest to the Browns.
Arizona: QB Matt Scott. A “sleeper” prospect in the middle rounds who has the skills to execute the zone read option.
Clemson: WR DeAndre Hopkins. A first-round possibility whose stock tumbled a bit after a 4.57 at the combine.
Nebraska: PK Brett Maher. If the Browns decide to find Phil Dawson’s successor in the draft, he will be a consideration.
Syracuse: QB Ryan Nassib. Some see him as the No. 3 quarterback; he could be the target of his former college coach, Doug Marrone, now with Buffalo.
Ohio State: Urban Meyer’s first pro day with a year as Ohio State coach under his belt. The front-liners are DT Johnathan Hankins and DE John Simon. The Browns might want to take a look at TE Jake Stoneburner for late-round consideration.
Texas A&M: OT Luke Joekel, DE Damontre Moore, WR Ryan Swope. Moore needs to redeem himself from a poor combine, or a draft free-fall will ensue. Swope’s 4.34 at the combine could move him into the second round.
Florida: S Matt Elam, FS Josh Evans, DT Shariff Floyd, TE Jordan Reed, PK Caleb Sturgis. Reed, the sixth-rated tight end, and Sturgis, the second-rated kicker, could be of interest to the Browns.
Kansas State: LB Arthur Brown, PK Anthony Cantele. Brown is an under-sized inside linebacker. Cantele is considered draftable.
Alabama: OT D.J. Fluker, RB Eddie Lacy, CB Dee Milliner, OG Chance Warmack. Alabama’s pro day is always an event unto itself.
Cincinnati: TE Travis Kelce. A big day for the Cleveland Heights HS product, who did not work out at the combine due to an abdominal injury.
Colorado: TE Nick Kasa. A late-round consideration of the Browns because he was coached by Jon Embree, the new Browns tight ends coach.
Oklahoma: OT Lane Johnson, QB Landry Jones. Johnson could be a top five pick. Jones is a four-year starter with a big arm whose stock dived the past two seasons.
Washington: CB Desmond Trufant. A good showing at combine secured his stock as a late first-round talent.
California: WR Keenan Allen. A knee injury in October will limit him to running routes only. His stock as the No. 3 receiver hinges on showing some progress.
Oregon: RB Kenjon Barner, LB Dion Jordan. Jordan did everything at the combine but the bench press and now embarks on a three- to four-month rehab from torn labrum surgery. He could be picked as high as No. 2 and is a consideration for the Jaguars, Eagles, Lions and Browns.
West Virginia: WR Tavon Austin, QB Geno Smith. It’s a critical workout for Smith, who is the No. 1 QB but has a lot to prove yet.
Arkansas: QB Tyler Wilson, P Dylan Breeding, TE Chris Gragg. Wilson has the big arm the Browns’ coaches like.
Florida State: PK Dustin Hopkins, QB EJ Manuel, CB Xavier Rhodes, DE Bjoern Werner. Hopkins is the draft’s No. 1 kicker. Manuel and Rhodes are intriguing prospects. Werner is not a fit for a 3-4 defense.
North Carolina State: QB Mike Glennon. A towering passer who might have the biggest arm in the draft.
Tennesse: QB Tyler Bray, WR Justin Hunter, WR Cordarrelle Patterson. You’ve got to figure this is the one pro day that Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, a Knoxville native and famous benefactor of the Volunteers, will attend.
Georgia: LB Jarvis Jones, LB Alex Ogletree. A crucial day for Jones, who didn’t work out at the combine and has to prove that reports of a shortened career due to spinal stenosis are exaggerated. Ogletree is a first-round talent who had a failed drug test at Georgia and a recent DUI.
Miami (Ohio): QB Zac Dysert.
Stanford: TE Zach Ertz. He’s pressing to be the No. 1 tight end after an impressive combine.
Notre Dame: TE Tyler Eifert, LB Manti Te’o. Poor Eifert. The top tight end will be dwarfed by the latest installment of the Cirque de Te’o.
LSU: CB Tyrann Mathieu, DE-LB Barkevious Mingo, LB Kevin Minter, DE Sam Montgomery, S Eric Reid, P Brad Wing. Mingo is all over the map in the first round. A good showing could return him to the top 10 and consideration for the Browns.
USC: QB Matt Barkley, WR Robert Woods. Barkley elected not to throw at the combine.
Brigham Young: DE Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah. Ran a 4.63 40 at the combine, at 271 pounds, reportedly without training for it. Some mock drafts are now pegging him at No. 5 with Detroit, whose coaching staff coached him at the Senior Bowl.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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