"Well it won't be quite as exciting, I don't think". Bison Head Coach Chris Klieman explained with a smile that this year's pro day might not carry with it the hoopla that last year's WentzMania did. Klieman quickly corrected course, and explained that "it always is, it always is for the guys that are competing." NFL Network set or not, nine Bison athletes and athletes from local colleges will perform in front of NFL scouts in an effort to improve their stock as it pertains to the NFL Draft and priority undrafted free agency.
The athletes will compete in the same drills that the participants of the NFL combine went through. This is in an effort to put the NDSU athletes (no combine invites this year) on an even playing field as far as testing numbers are concerned. Make no question about it, game tape is king in prospect evaluation, but
Offensive linemen Zack Johnson, Jack Plankers and Landon Lechler, edge defender Brad Ambrosious, defensive back Quentin McCoy, and running back King Frazier from the 2016 squad will compete in NDSU's showcase. Former NDSU players Ben LeCompte and Travis Beck will also compete. Beck has been rehabbing injuries suffered during his time with the Thundering Herd, and training to get back up to full speed.
Perhaps the most interesting story is that of former NDSU basketball player Dexter Werner. Werner, a high school standout, was an undersized, but very effective power forward for the Bison during a four year career. Werner will work out as a tight end, following in the footsteps of many NFL greats. Tony Gonzales, Antonio Gates, Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas all played college basketball at a high level, and all had all pro seasons in the NFL.
"It's kind of funny when you look at those big names at tight end, a lot of them played college basketball. It's interesting to see how a lot of those skills from the court translate on to the field." said Werner. Werner will have to show strength and the fluidity of movement on a football field that may have eluded him during his four years on the hardwood.
Werner and a few of the 2016 draft class of Bison stopped by to answer a few questions for the BisonReport, which you can check out below:
The three athletes generating the most buzz, according to both Coach Klieman and my evaluation are the three offensive linemen. All three have one thing going against them, and that's a perceived lack of versatility. With their tall, long frames, Plankers and Lechler are likely shoehorned in to playing tackle, and can't slide inside and contribute like Joe Haeg did all last season for the Indianapolis Colts. Johnson, with his thick trunk and road grader mentality, is likely a guard-only candidate in the pros.
What they lack in positional versatility, they make up for in strength and in pedigree. All three are exceptionally strong and NFL teams are starting to notice the "Rams". Within the last dozen years or so, Paul Cornick, Billy Turner, Joe Haeg, Rob Hunt and Isaac Snell have all gotten at least a taste of the NFL life. "It's the mentality of the Rams", explains Plankers. Teams looking for a good guard prospect will show interest in Johnson, teams looking for depth at right tackle will show interest in Lechler and Plankers.
I would expect Lechler to be either drafted in the seventh round or signed immediately after the draft as a priority free agent. Johnson will also be a priority free agent. Plankers will either be a priority free agent or invited to a rookie camp.
Ambrosious is a 6'4" 250 pound athlete that played defensive end in NDSU's scheme but could make the transition to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense like Kyle Emanuel did before him. Ambrosious needs to show speed and flexibility to indicate that he's more of a pass rush threat than his career high of 6.5 sacks would indicate. I would expect Ambrosious to get a rookie camp invite.
King Frazier is a power runner with an NFL body at 6'0" and 220 lbs. His NFL stock will be directly tied to his timed speed due to his tendency to get caught from behind on film and his lack of explosive plays. FCS prospects have to dominate because of the perceived difference in quality of competition. Frazier will either be a priority free agent or invited to a rookie camp.
McCoy is a big corner at 6'1' 196. NFL teams will be intrigued by that frame in this era of the NFL where Seattle's big corners are the object of every defensive coordinator's desire. Because McCoy played mostly in relief situations and dime packages he will have to test well to generate serious interest. Pro day is a big one for "Q". McCoy is angling for an invitation to rookie camp.
Beck and LeCompte are Bison from seasons past. Beck was a do-it-all linebacker whose coverage ability could lead him into a hybrid safety/linebacker position in today's sub-package friendly NFL if someone likes his testing enough to go back and look at his tape (which is very good). LeCompte is still one of the best 32 punters on the planet and should get another shot in professional football.
A number of NDSU's graduating seniors prepared for today's workout in Dynasty Performance Training's new Pro Day program. Dynasty is owned and operated by former Bison All Americans Cole Jirik and Christian Dudzik, who have both participated in NDSU Pro Day events in the past.
"I enjoy training the Pro Day guys because they come to work out with defined goals and a sense of purpose. Sometimes you have to help them remember that purpose if they're tired or the work out becomes rigorous, but they're continuously motivated for the most part. That means we can be more productive with our workouts and make greater improvements each day." explains Dudzik, who I hand timed at 4.33 seconds in the 40 yard dash during NDSU's 2016 event.
The athletes will be measured for height and weight. They will bench press 225 pounds for maximum repetitions. They will also run the 40 yard dash, and run a 3 cone drill and a short shuttle to test for agility. They will also compete in the broad jump and vertical jump. Each athlete will also participate in drills specific to their position.
"The purpose of the drills is to showcase straight-line speed, ability to change direction quickly, and explosive power. Obviously, the 40 yard dash is the most well-known drill, but it's not very applicable to an offensive lineman, for example. The importance of each drill varies per player and position group, but generally, the drills will reveal an ability or inability to perform the respective physical challenge as well as the flexibility needed to perform it." said Dudzik.
NDSU's pro day will begin on campus at 2 PM. Be sure to follow @RossUglem and @NDSUonScout on social media for updates from the event. Pro day is no open to the public.