March 13, 2009

Pro-day workouts started to heat up this week as a number of universities around the nation hosted NFL decision-makers who put some highly rated prospects to the test. There were a lot of nice surprises and a few big disappointments. Here's a breakdown.

BJ Raji/DL/Boston College: Raji stood on most of his combine numbers, only doing position drills during the Boston College pro day Thursday, yet he continued to impress NFL scouts. He looked fluid and very athletic, quickly moving around the field. Scouts now feel it may be a waste to use Raji at nose tackle or as a two-gap defender, rather they feel he has the ability to line up as a three technique lineman. In other words, NFL decision-makers think Raji has the skills to chase the quarterback and make plays on ball carriers as opposed to just clogging the line of scrimmage. Raji has moved into the draft's top six picks barring any unforeseen red flags at the last minute.

Pat White/QB/West Virginia: White told teams in attendance at his workout Thursday that he would participate in receiver drills or field punts upon request. He did none of that, rather performing brilliantly throwing the ball. White showed good speed on his passes and was very accurate all day. His passing drew praise from the scouts at the West Virginia pro day.

Brice McCain/CB/Utah: McCain was one of the few draft eligible Utah players on defense not invited to the combine, yet his performance was head and shoulders above those who made the trip to Indianapolis. McCain's 40 times read as fast as 4.25 seconds on some stopwatches and his short shuttle was under four seconds. He had a solid position workout and moved into the draft's later rounds.

Demonte' Bolden/DT/Tennessee: Bolden was sick prior to the combine and showed up at Indy weakened and underweight. He was back to full strength for pro day Wednesday. After measuring 6-foot-3.5 and 294 pounds, Bolden ran his 40 in 4.95 seconds. His other marks included 33-inch vertical jump, 9-5 broad jump and 26 reps on the bench.

Robert Francois/LB/Boston College: Francois is one of the least known prospects from the Boston College defense, yet one of the draft's real sleepers. He measured 6-2, 245 then timed both of his 40's in the mid 4.5-second range. Francois posted a 35.5-inch vertical jump, 10' broad and had a short shuttle time under four seconds. He looked terrific in drills, working with the defensive backs, and looked better than most of the secondary prospects.

Jamarko Simmons/WR/Western Michigan: The Broncos big possession receiver weighed 231 pounds then ran a terrific 40, stopping watches at 4.54 seconds. His vertical was 33-inches, broad 9-11 and he completed 19 reps on the bench. Simmons was put through a 25-minute session of receiver drills and looked terrific catching the ball.

Marcus Thigpen/RB-RS/Indiana: The Hoosiers elusive scat back ran 40 times between 4.27 and 4.31 seconds. Thigpen posted 21 reps on the bench, 35.5-inches in the vertical jump and 10-8 in the broad. Most importantly, he looked solid fielding punts.

Andre Smith/OT/Alabama: Smith's disastrous workout Wednesday has been well documented. He weighed a flabby 325 pounds, barely broke 5.3 in the 40, completed just 19 reps on the bench press and put up other marks that were horrendous. Workout results aside, Smith's immaturity has NFL decision-makers concerned. After his exploits at the combine when he disappeared unannounced prior to his workout, Smith did nothing to redeem himself during Alabama's pro day. Smith has lost millions as teams are no longer willing to use an early draft pick to acquire him as it would mean a big contract with lots of guaranteed money for someone they are not sure about. He's being compared to Winston Justice, the one-time talented offensive lineman from USC who lacks the mental makeup to play on the NFL level. Smith may get one more chance before the draft to work out in front of a cumulative audience of NFL personnel people. If he does not make the most of it he will drop into the second half of round one.

Paul Kruger/DE-OLB/Utah: Kruger's combine was disappointing and his pro day was not much better. He barely broke 4.8 seconds in the 40 and completed 22 reps on the bench. Scouts will now debate what position to line up the 260-pound defender, who is in danger of falling out of round two.

Ian Campbell/DE-LB/Kansas State: Campbell, who did not run or lift at the combine, turned in a poor workout Thursday. He ran in the low 4.9's in the 40 and looked weak on the bench press. The 265-pound Campbell possesses neither the speed to play linebacker nor the strength to hold up at defensive end.

Josh Freeman of Kansas State was solid during his pro day, but did not have a knockout workout. He was much more accurate on the deep outs than he was during the combine, but many of his other long throws, such as the deep posts, went astray.

• Texas Tech junior Brandon Williams dropped more than one-tenth of a second from his 40 time this week. Williams, who was timed at 4.9 seconds at the combine, posted times at or below 4.75 during his pro-day workout. Williams improved training regiment was the cause for the improvement.

• Offensive guard Ray Feinga, who did not run the 40 at the combine, did not run at the BYU pro day either because of a bad hamstring. He may not get another chance to perform for scouts.

• Tennessee running back Arian Foster unexpectedly did not show up at the Volunteers pro-day workout. Foster, who did not run or participate in position drills at the combine, is scheduled to work out at San Diego State.

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