Chomping at the Bit
The Chicago Bears were one of the 32 teams on hand for the University of Florida pro day on Monday. The Bears sent Marty Barrett, college scouting director, and Rex Hogan, national scout, to Gainesville.
The Gators' top prospect – DT Dominique Easley, a potential second-round selection – did not participate, as he's recovering from ACL surgery. He'll hold his private pro day in April.
Next up is cornerback Jaylen Watkins, one of three Florida corners in this year's draft. Watkins was the standout defensive back at the Senior Bowl and was again outstanding at his pro day. He showed fluid hips, great ball skills and good hands, despite rainy weather conditions. He stood on his combined time in the 40-yard dash (4.41).
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Watkins (5-11, 194) has worked his way up draft boards and is now considered a potential second-round selection. The Bears must find a long-term replacement for Charles Tillman and Watkins could be that player.
The other two UF corners, Marcus Roberson (6-0, 191) and Louchiez Purifoy (5-11, 190), did not fare as well. Neither player was particularly impressive at the combine and each needed a strong pro day performance, yet they both came up short. Purifoy was the biggest loser, running a 4.64 40-yard dash, down from 4.61 at the combine, and dropped as many balls as he caught. Roberson showed stiff hips and lacked agility.
Both Purifoy and Roberson left school early and the consensus among scouts at their Pro Day was that both would have benefited from one more year in college. Roberson is a potential second- or third-round pick and Purifoy is a third- or fourth-round selection, although both will surely drop after Monday's performance.
Ronald Powell (6-3, 237) is a fifth-round prospect who worked at both DE and OLB. He lacked quickness in the linebacker drills but he was very explosive coming off the edge. His lack of size likely makes him a good fit at OLB in a 3-4 system.
Offensive lineman John Halapio (6-4, 323) projects as a guard at the next level due to his power inside. He posted 32 bench-press reps after not lifting during the fall while coming back from a torn pectoral muscle. He lacks great quickness but he's a potential fourth- or fifth-round mauler who could challenge for the swing guard role in Chicago.
The most interesting Florida player was receiver Solomon Patton (5-9, 179), who showed very well at the Senior Bowl yet didn't receive an invite to the combine. He reportedly ran a 4.37 40-yard dash and shined on the field, running crisp routes and showing solid hands.
After his receiver workout, Barrett and Hogan had Patton field punts. Patton led the Gators in all-purpose yards last year (1,269) as well as in kickoff return yardage (642). He was a fringe draft pick before the pro day and it will be interesting to see if the Bears or another NFL team take a shot on him late in the process. He lacks size but his speed and return experience could make him attractive.
Showtime for the National Champs
Barrett and Hogan were also present yesterday at Florida State's pro day, where a number of draft picks worked out in front of representatives from all 32 NFL teams.
The Seminoles' top prospect is DT Timmy Jernigan (6-2, 305), who could be a Top-15 selection. He ran a 5.03 40-yard dash – up slightly from a 5.06 at the combine. Jernigan weighed 299 in Indianapolis, which left some wondering if he was too light to hold his ground in NFL trenches. He packed on six pounds the past few weeks and tipped the scales at 305 yesterday.
The Bears will give Jernigan serious consideration at 14th overall, as he has the potential to be the team's 3-technique defensive tackle of the future. The Dallas Cowboys, who pick 16th overall, are also rumored to have interest in Jernigan.
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The player that left scouts buzzing was Kelvin Benjamin (6-5, 240) who is a receiver in a tight end's body. He ran a slow 4.61 at the combine, yet surprisingly chose not to run in Tallahassee. Still, his workout was phenomenal. He showed exceptional body control, hands and the ability to catch the ball at its highest point. He also posted an impressive 17 bench-press reps (two fewer than Shea McClellin).
Benjamin has been considered a fringe first-round pick in this year's draft but may have solidified himself as a Day 1 selection after yesterday's performance. The Bears don't have a need for a big wideout but if he fell to Chicago in the second, Benjamin might be too good to pass up and could be worked into the offense as a hybrid tight end.
Cornerback Lamarcus Joyner (5-8, 184), another potential second-round pick, also chose not to run despite a less-than-stellar 4.55 at the combine. He did look good in his workout showing very good fluidity and change-of-direction ability. He dropped a few passes but overall, it was a solid performance. Joyner is considered by some as a hybrid safety due to his lack of top-tier speed. It just so happens the Bears need help at both positions.
Terrence Brooks (5-11, 198), a pure safety, had a strong showing and excelled in positional drills. He was first-team All-ACC and All-American last season. He's a converted cornerback who can cover ground and is very physical against the run. He's a second- or third-round pick. If he falls to the Bears in the third, and they haven't yet addressed the safety position, Brooks will be tough to pass up.
Telvin Smith (6-3, 218) looks like a wide receiver but he plays like a linebacker. He has sideline-to-sideline speed and would be a first-round pick if he were 25 pounds heavier. He ran a 4.52 40 at the combine and looked very quick in his positional drills.
Christian Jones (6-3, 240) was a two-year starter at middle linebacker for FSU and led the team in tackles both seasons. He's experienced and intelligent but he lacks great athleticism. He reportedly had a poor workout, showing less-than-ideal flexibility. He's a potential fourth- or fifth-round selection.
RB Devonta Freeman (5-8, 206) had a strong workout and appears to be a lock in the third round, yet it was RB James Wilder Jr. (6-3, 227) who may be more attractive to the Bears. Wilder ran a startlingly slow 4.86 at the combine but improved that number dramatically at the pro day. He was recorded in the upper 4.5s and low 4.6s. He lost five pounds from his 232 combine weight, which appeared to help his quickness and speed. At his size, Wilder could be a sixth-round, short-yardage replacement for Michael Bush as Chicago's backup to Matt Forte.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.