• The Northwestern QB, an intriguing prospect a year ago before tearing his ACL in a bowl game, is starting to win back evaluators who didn’t think he was healthy in 2018. Plus, a small-school defensive lineman draws attention, Wisconsin’s linebackers in the spotlight, and more.
By Kalyn Kahler
March 14, 2019

EVANSTON, Ill. — Clayton Thorson didn’t want to do it, but his receivers and his quarterbacks coach, Terry Shea, thought it would be a great way to end his workout.

“I told them throughout the day, ‘We’re not doing that,’” Thorson said after his workout. “But, sure enough, they did.”

So on the final snap of his 50-play pro day throwing session, the players lined up in victory formation. Thorson took the snap and kneeled down.

Despite the QB’s embarrassment with the idea, the joke victory formation did hit with the scouts watching from the sidelines. Many of them paused their usual furrowed-brow notetaking to laugh at the gesture.

While Kyler Murray's pro day garnered most of the league's attention on Wednesday, representatives from all 32 teams filled Northwestern’s gleaming $270 million facility Tuesday to watch Thorson throw. He was nearly perfect in his workout, completing 48 of 50 balls, some thrown as far as 50 yards. He showed off his ability to throw on the move, something he didn’t do much of in Northwestern’s offense. The four-year starter is likely a day three selection, a backup quarterback with the potential to develop into a starter. He started last season’s season opener just eight months after tearing his ACL in a bowl game, but scouts feel he wasn’t 100% healthy coming off the injury. He played better as the season progressed, and Tuesday’s workout helped establish that he’s at full strength and full mobility.

Panthers offensive coordinator Norv Turner was in attendance, and Chicago Tribune columnist Brad Biggs reported the Panthers contingent met with Thorson the night before his pro day. At the combine, head coach Ron Rivera told reporters that despite Cam Newton’s throwing shoulder injury, he did not plan to add a veteran backup in free agency. He said if the Panthers do add a quarterback, it will be in the draft, so the reported interest in Thorson may be meaningful.

D-II PROSPECT GETS A LOOK: Northwestern opens its pro day to prospects from smaller Illinois schools and local players who went to high school nearby. Nearly 50 prospects worked out for scouts in the morning before Northwestern’s players did their workout in the afternoon. After the scouts sized up the small-school group for height, weight and speed, they chose 10 players to stay to continue to evaluate and sent the rest home. One player who was singled out to stay: Jonathan Harris, a defensive lineman from Division-II Lindenwood University in St. Louis. One NFL team sent their assistant defensive line coach specifically to work him out.

TRIVIA: Can you name the NFL quarterback who is a small school-alum of Northwestern’s pro day? (Answer at the end of the column.)

WINSONSIN LINEBACKERS ON THE RUN: From Evanston, the midwest area scouts trekked north to Madison, where a quiet workout at Wisconsin featured 13 prospects, headlined by offensive linemen David Edwards, Michael Deiter and Beau Benzschawel and linebackers, T.J. Edwards, Ryan Connelly, and Andrew Van Ginkel. The Badgers linebackers are an interesting bunch, and scouts had mixed opinions on which one grades highest and will be the best pro, because each prospect has a unique strength and a concerning weakness. Edwards, an All-America, doesn’t have the elite speed that has become a premium at the inside linebacker position. He was unable to participate in drills at the scouting combine because of an ankle injury, so Wisconsin’s Pro Day was an important chance for him to participate in drills. He ran a 4.77 40-yard dash. Edwards is an intelligent and instinctive linebacker with great production (367 career tackles), but the disappointing 40 time makes it hard to project where he might go in the draft. Scouts also took note that fullback Alec Ingold performed well in drills, and outside linebacker Van Ginkel ran an impressive 4.56.

MISC: University of Buffalo quarterback Tyree Jackson had his pro day at the Bills facility on Wednesday and continues to be a quarterback to keep an eye on. @AngryNFLScoutVet (an anonymous scout who is one of my favorite Twitter follows) tweeted that the strong-armed 6' 7" quarterback could go as early as the second round . . . Trivia answer: Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo impressed scouts at Northwestern’s Pro Day in 2014.

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