Tim Tebow enticed legions of NFL talent evaluators to Gainesville to show off his improved footwork and somewhat shortened delivery at the University of Florida and later in the month Sam Bradford's shoulder looked healthy and his physique strong in front of a full scouting crowd at Oklahoma.
Campus workouts from Austin to Ypsilanti (home of Eastern Michigan) draw scouts, general managers, head coaches and position coaches, depending on the level of talent available at a given stop. Teams cannot afford to miss out on productive prospects who look like NFL-caliber athletes, even if they played a lower level of competition collegiately.
Last year, Ohio University safety Mike Mitchell put on a show on his pro day (4.43-second 40-yard dash, 37-inch vertical) before pulling his hamstring. That performance, combined with his hard-hitting and game speed on film, led Oakland to select him in the second round despite being left out of the Combine and under the radar of the casual fan. Although many outside the league criticized the move as a total reach, more than a couple of NFL teams hoped Mitchell would fall into the third round.
The prospects who helped themselves the most at their pro days include:
WR Arrelious Benn, Illinois
His 4.57 40 didn't light up stopwatches at the Combine. Most teams thought the 6-2, 220-pound receiver wouldn't be a 4.3 guy, but he posted a time much like new Ravens' receiver Anquan Boldin, who ran a 4.7 in Indy before he was drafted out of Florida State. But Benn's 4.42 at the Illinois Pro Day alleviated any scouts' fears that he couldn't get at least a half a step on corners downfield -- and his strong frame and hands will do the rest.
RB LeGarrette Blount, Oregon
The troubled power back had his stock on the rebound after a solid week at the Senior Bowl. Then he posted 4.70-4.80 40-yard times in Indy, halting any forward momentum. The rest of his workout was more than acceptable, however, and getting to 4.59 on campus put him back in the speed range scouts expected.
OLB Thaddeus Gibson, Ohio State
Teams were a bit disappointed in Gibson's 4.78 40 in Indy, but he rectified the situation by running in the 4.58-4.62 range on campus. He also improved his shuttle times over the performance at the Combine.
WR Mardy Gilyard, Cincinnati
Gilyard is defined more by his quickness and elusiveness than pure speed, but the 4.61 he ran in Indy wasn't his best effort. Scouts put him in the high 4.4 range at his Pro Day, just slightly lower than expected. He also improved his agility tests, showing the quickness he showed on the field last season. Kansas' Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier also helped their causes by shaving the usual one-tenth off their Combine 40's and performing well on the other tests.
ILB Travis Goethel, Arizona State
Scouts expected Goethel to run the pedestrian 4.81 40 he achieved at the Combine, but improving to 4.58 at his Pro Day, along with 4.22 short shuttle and 6.81 three-cone put a new spin on his stock. The three-year starter has shown an ability to get to the sideline during his time in Tempe, so teams might now be more willing to pick him in the mid-to-late rounds.
RB Charles Scott, LSU
Scott's broken clavicle is still an issue, but the 4.53 40 he put up in Baton Rouge certainly eased scouts' concerns about his speed coming off a 4.68 effort in Indy. He also dropped six pounds from 238 to 232 and put up 17 reps of 225 pounds despite his injury.
DE Corey Wootton, Northwestern
Although he did not attempt to improve the 4.92 40 he posted at the Scouting Combine, his short shuttle and three-cone agility tests were outstanding. At 6-6, 270 pounds, he performed as well as many of the top 6-3, 250-pound prospects being considered as 3-4 linebackers did at the Combine.
Top Prospects Boost Stocks at Pro Days
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