Buccaneers Pro Day Rumblings: March 17

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are jetting cross-country to evaluate talent for the NFL Draft. Each Monday Bucsblitz.com will file its "Pro Day rumblings," a collection of Bucs-related news regarding pro days. Today's article includes information on Michigan State's Devin Thomas, Michigan's Mario Manningham, OSU's Adarius Bowman and more.

The questions about Devin Thomas' physical ability are starting to quell. Now it's about whether the potential first-round pick can be a productive NFL player.

Thomas didn't run the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day last week. There really wasn't a need to after running one of the best times among wide receivers in Indianapolis last month.

But the 6-foot-2, 216-pound Thomas did redo his vertical jump, bench press and skills in positional drills. Thomas had a 28-inch vertical at the Combine, but topped that mark at the Pro Day with a 33-inch leap. Thomas' performance in the other workouts weren't revealed.

It lends more credence to the belief that Thomas will be a first-round pick in April, and that means he'll certainly be on Tampa Bay's radar. Twenty-seven of the NFL's 32 teams were in attendance and Thomas already has meetings with Buffalo and Minnesota — two receiver-starved teams — set up for later this month.

I would expect the Bucs to either set up a private meeting with Thomas at some point, or travel to his South Florida workout home at Perfect Competition.

By the way, all Thomas did last season was grab 79 catches for 1,260 yards and compile 2,590 all-purpose yards with rushes and kick returns.

And that's the big issue. Thomas has just one year of production in college football. But he's almost certain not to fall out of the first round at this point.

IMPROVING HIS STOCK: By all accounts, Oklahoma LB Curtis Lofton needed a good pro day, and he got one last week in Norman, Okla.

The Bucs, along many other NFL teams, watched Lofton improve his 40-yard dash time from the Combine by about a tenth of a second, getting the time to 4.63.

At 6-foot, 247 pounds, Lofton needed the improvement, and one scout was overheard saying to Lofton, "You made yourself a lot of money today."

Lofton is an inside linebackers some rank among the Top 50 players in this draft. Clearly, though, the Bucs' interest in him would be lukewarm at best, given they already have a stout middle linebacker from the Big 12 in Barrett Ruud.

Two of the Sooners' biggest prospects — wide receiver Malcolm Kelly and defensive back Reggie Smith — did not participate. They're both nursing injuries and will work out on April 9. It's like the Bucs will be interested in seeing both players, as they're considered first-day picks and fill needs on their roster.

MANNINGHAM GOES UP: Reports out of Ann Arbor last week had wide receiver Mario Manningham improving on his 40-yard dash time from the Scouting Combine. He reportedly ran 4.50 or just under that for scouts from just about every NFL team. He also, reportedly, looked good in individual drills.

While Manningham may not be a first-round pick, he certainly stabilized his stock. Scout.com has Manningham ranked No. 3 among wide receivers, but the 6-foot, 187-pound receiver must be considered a speed threat, thanks to his size. That has some appeal to the Buccaneers, but there are several receivers in this draft that have better 40 times than Manningham (DeSean Jackson among them). Manningham will have to sell scouts on his obvious soft hands and route-running ability to be a first-round pick. The Bucs will keep him on their radar because wide receiver is a certain draft need and Manningham could slip to the middle of the second round.

BOWMAN DOES NOT The Bucs can likely take Oklahoma State wide receiver Adarius Bowman off their draft list. The receiver ran a 4.7 40 at his pro day last week. While a 40-yard dash time is certainly not the only barometer a team should use to draft a player, Bowman's size (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) and speed makes him no better than half the receivers the Bucs already have on their roster. They don't need another Michael Clayton.

UNDER THE RADAR ALERT: Word out of Nebraska's Pro Day centered around a Chadron State back you've likely not heard of. Danny Woodhead (5-7 ½, 197 pounds) ran in the high-4.3s/low-4.4 range, had a vertical jump of 38 inches, did 20 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. He also reportedly did a great job in positional drills. Why might the Bucs look at him? Well, his numbers are sick, first of all. He had 18 200-yard rushing games in his career at the Division II school. More importantly, he has the speed, hands and capability to offer a team a punt or kickoff returner in the late rounds or even as an undrafted free agent. While he doesn't have a history of kickoff returns, it's clear he can rush and receive and the Bucs may be likely to take a chance on a player with his pure speed. He certainly helped himself last week.

Also, it wouldn't hurt to file away Stillman College's Brian Witherspoon, who has no football experience but worked out at Alabama's Pro Day. He ran the 40 in 4.33 and 4.29, had a 40-inch vertical jump, 10-foot, 10-inch long jump, 4.36 short shuttle, 6.86 cone drill, and ran position drills for cornerback and kick returns.


Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. An award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association, he appears frequently on Scot Brantley Show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1470-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.


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