Pro Day Tour: Chasing Anthony

One day after getting look at Benardrick McKinney, the Packers saw Clemson's Stephone Anthony. The Packers might have to take Anthony in the first round if they think he's the best inside linebacker in this class. Plus, we found scouts at Nebraska, Mississippi, Illinois and at one more stop to see an incredibly underrated linebacker. (Joshua S. Kelly/USA TODAY)

According to NFL Draft Scout’s rankings at CBSSports.com, Clemson’s Stephone Anthony is the No. 128 overall prospect and the No. 5 inside linebacker.

Take this into account, however: Buffalo just traded star linebacker Kiko Alonso, so they’ve got a void at inside linebacker. And who showed up Clemson’s pro day but new Bills coach Rex Ryan.

The Bills don’t have a first-round pick, so there’d be no sense in Ryan showing up to scout Vic Beasley, the star outside linebacker who probably will go in the first 10 picks. So, it’s not too much of a leap for Ryan to be on hand to scout Anthony with the intention of getting him with pick No. 50.

So, if Anthony is the Packers’ preferred choice as the centerpiece of their new inside linebacker corps, general manager Ted Thompson will have to pull the trigger perhaps a bit earlier than he’d like. Green Bay owns the 30th pick of the first round.

“I was prepared for the day, and I think we did a good job as a group,” Anthony told reporters. “(Scouts) definitely see me as a three-down guy in any scheme. I think Clemson’s prepared me well for that. Some teams have shown a lot of attention so far, and I’m thankful for that.”

Among the teams that have shown interest are the Packers, who had a formal interview with him at the Scouting Combine.

Anthony sat on his Combine workout numbers, which were tremendous. At 6-foot-3 and 243 pounds, Anthony ran his 40 in 4.56 seconds with a 37-inch vertical leap and 23 reps on the bench. Of the 35 linebackers at the Combine, only LSU’s Kwon Alexander ran faster — by 0.01 seconds, despite a 16-pound weight advantage.

Also of note, cornerback Garry Peters (6-0, 191) ran his 40 in 4.59. That was a marginal improvement over his 4.61 at the Combine. Peters, who is viewed as a late-rounder/priority free agent, had one interception and 15 passes defensed as a senior.

Quarterback Cole Stoudt, a free-agent possibility, was clocked in 4.72. Stoudt, who shared time with Deshaun Watson, completed 63.2 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions as a senior. He is the son of Cliff Stoudt, who played quarterback for the Steelers, Dolphins and Cardinals for more than a decade.

Nebraska

Randy Gregory, who like Clemson’s Beasley is a top-10 target as an edge rusher, was the main attraction. For Green Bay, eyes were on running back Ameer Abdullah and receiver Kenny Bell.

Abdullah only took part in field drills and the 40 – an area he felt he underperformed in with scouts nearly three weeks ago.

“I heard a lot of 4.4s,” said Abdullah, who ran a 4.61 in Indy. “I’m a competitor. I just like to compete. Anytime you can get in front of scouts and the professional eye to show what you can do, you need to take advantage of it. I didn’t do everything today, but I came out here and showed what I wanted to show.”

At 5-foot-9 and 205 pounds, he typically wouldn’t be a player of interest for the Packers, but he’s a dynamic all-around back and superb kick returner.

Bell (6-1, 197) had a strong performance at the Combine (4.42; 41.5-inch vertical) but went through testing, anyway. He’s a possibility in the fourth round as the school’s career leader in receptions (181) and receiving yards (2,689). Bell is the son of former Broncos kick returner Ken Bell.

Mississippi

Two-time All-American safety Cody Prewitt and under-the-radar quarterback Bo Wallace had big days.

Prewitt (6-2, 208), a three-year starter and second-round prospect, intercepted 11 passes in his career, including six in 2013. At the Combine, he was timed in a disappointing 4.60 in his 40. On Thursday, however, he ran in the high 4.4s, according to a source at the workout. The difference between his first 40 and second 40 was so stark that Prewitt was asked to do it again — and he repeated that fast time.

"I just let loose,” Prewitt said. “I felt a lot of pressure at the Combine. I was tight there. I just got tired of that feeling, relaxed and ran like I know I can run. They thought my second time was a fluke, so they asked me to run it again and I was pumped up to do it.”

Quarterback Bo Wallace (6-4, 211), even while battling an injured ankle, looked sharp in passing drills. According to the source, he completed 38-of-40 passes, with one of the incompletions a drop. To sharpen his fundamentals, he’s been working with former NFL quarterback John Beck. In three seasons, he threw for 9,534 yards with 62 touchdowns and 41 interceptions.

Finally inside linebacker Deterrian Shackelford (6-1, 253) showed good movement skills, considering he’s about a half-dozen weeks removed from a knee scope. While he didn’t run a 40 because of the injury, he put up 33 reps on the 225-pound bench press. He finished fourth in tackles with 65, including two sacks and five for losses.

Wallace and Shackelford are likely free agents.

Utah State

There’s not a more underrated inside linebacker prospect than Utah State’s Zach Vigil. Unbelievably, Vigil was not selected for the Scouting Combine. Check out this stat line from the Mountain West’s Defensive Player of the Year: 156 tackles, nine sacks, 20.5 tackles for losses. His TFL count tied the conference record. He finished his career with 389 tackles and a school-record 43 for losses.

A scout predicted he’d run in the 4.8s — not that he cared. However, Vigil (6-2, 237) was timed as fast as 4.63 with 26 reps on the bench.

Illinois

The Fighting Illini won’t have anyone drafted. Running back Donovonn Young (5-11, 219) ran in 4.75 but put up an impressive 26 reps on the bench. Tight end Matt LaCosse (6-6, 250) ran in 4.64 with 20 reps on the bench. None of the three had much production on the field, though: Young rushed for 379 yards (4.0 average) and six touchdowns; LaCosse caught 14 passes for 117 yards (11.7) and no touchdowns.

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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