Pro Day Tour: Top Picks at UCLA

UCLA, led by potential first-round linebackers Eric Kendricks and Owamagbe Odighizuwa, highlighted a busy Tuesday with confirmed attendance by Packers scouts at six pro days. One of those featured the nation's top kick returner. (Chuck Cook/USA TODAY)

With college scouting director Brian Gutekunst representing the Packers, Green Bay got a glimpse of two potential first-round picks on Tuesday at UCLA.

One is Eric Kendricks as a possibility to be the focal point of the Packers’ remodeled inside linebacker position. Due to a hamstring injury sustained at the Scouting Combine — where Kendricks (6-0, 232) ran his 40-yard dash in 4.61 seconds and had a 38-inch vertical leap — Kendricks was limited to position drills.

We had Kendricks covered like a blanket on Monday with career notes, a player feature and scouting report straight from the NFL’s head scout. He is the league’s top-ranked inside linebacker prospect.

The other first-round option on display was defensive end/outside linebacker Owamagbe Odighizuwa. A source said the Packers have been digging deep on Odighizuwa, perhaps due to surgery on both hips, which cost him all of the 2013 season.

As a senior, Odighizuwa was second-team all-Pac-12 after a career-high 61 tackles, a team-high 11.5 TFLs and six sacks. At 6-foot-4 and 267 pounds, he showed an excellent blend of athleticism (4.62 in the 40; 39-inch vertical) and strength (25 reps on the bench) at the Combine. He could be a fit at the elephant position played in 2014 by Julius Peppers and Mike Neal. Odighizuwa went through drills at defensive end and outside linebacker, and stuck with his Combine numbers.

“I bring a lot to the table and I can be a valuable asset to any organization that drafts me,” he said. “And I want to convey that in every interview, every workout that I do. The way I carry myself, I want to make sure (teams) know they are drafting a first-class athlete.”

Also of note, cornerback/safety Anthony Jefferson (6-1, 195) lopped about one-tenth of a second off of his Combine time of 4.72. He’s probably headed to safety in the NFL but offers excellent position versatility.

For video of Odighizuwa, Kendricks and others, CLICK HERE.

Arizona

Receiver Austin Hill is perhaps the Wildcats’ only draftable prospect. At 6-foot-2 and 214 pounds, he had a nice day with a 4.54 in the 40, a 36.5-inch vertical, 6.73 in the three-cone and a solid 17 reps on the bench.

Hill had a big-time 2012 of 81 receptions, 1,364 yards (16.8 average) and 11 touchdowns. Hill sat out 2013 with a knee injury and bounced back with 49 catches for 635 yards (13.0 average) and four scores, which included a 92-yard touchdown.

Kent State

The top prospect is tight end Casey Pierce, who somehow wasn’t invited to the Combine despite catching 60 passes for 641 yards and six touchdowns. His catch rate was a superb 81.1 percent. Pierce (6-4, 244) ran his 40 as fast as 4.71 with a 36.5-inch vertical jump. Those numbers would have ranked third among tight ends at the Combine.

Samford

Samford hosted a joint pro day with Alabama-Birmingham, since UAB is shuttering its football program. Conditions were miserable — one observer’s umbrella turned inside-out three times.

UAB receiver J.J. Nelson (5-10, 156), who turned in the fastest 40 at the Combine (4.28), is an intriguing late-round prospect. He averaged 18.7 yards on his 35 receptions. More importantly for his NFL prospects, he returned four kickoffs for touchdowns with a 38.3-yard average on kickoffs and 10.7 yards on punts.

Two other UAB players will be worth a shot in free agency. Tight end Kennard Backman (6-4, 238) ran in 4.62, which would have been the second-fastest among tight ends at the Combine, with a 35.5-inch vertical. Backman, who also was recruited to play basketball, caught a team-high 39 passes for 399 yards and three touchdowns as a senior. Cornerback Jimmy Jean (6-2, 202) ran in 4.57 with a 35.5-inch vertical. Maybe most impressive, a source said Jean beat 10 feet in his broad jump. Rather than falling backward, he turned it into a back-handspring. The scout doing the measurements said he’d never seen that in his career. Jean had one interception and seven passes defensed as a senior.

Samford’s Jaquiski Tartt, one of the top safeties in the draft, would have been the top draw. However, he’s nursing an injury and will work out for scouts on March 30. He had a strong Combine with a 4.44 in the 40.

Tennessee State

Robert Myers (6-5, 326), a potential fifth-round prospect at guard, started two seasons at right tackle before moving inside as a senior. As a senior, he allowed no sacks while delivering the key block on 14 of TSU’s 15 touchdown runs, according to the NFL’s official report. No details were available.

Akron

The Zips’ top prospect is defensive end/outside linebacker Nordly Capi. Capi had five sacks and 10.5 tackles for losses as a senior. That’s not much production, but check out his sophomore season at Colorado State, when he had 10 sacks, 11.5 tackles for losses and a whopping seven forced fumbles. Capi transferred after a coaching change and sat out the 2012 season.

Kansas State

The Randall Cobb signing almost certainly changed the Packers’ plans. Without Cobb, they would have needed a slot receiver, and there isn’t a better slot receiver and returner in this draft than the Wildcats’ Tyler Lockett, a second-round prospect. With Cobb signed, the Packers didn’t even send a scout to Manhattan.

What did they miss? Defensive end/outside linebacker Ryan Mueller, who had 6.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for losses as a senior, helped his stock. Beyond his 4.83 in the 40, he turned in a three-cone drill that would have ranked first among defensive ends at the Combine and second among outside linebackers. Cornerback Randall Evans (6-0, 190) ran as fast as 4.39 with a 38-inch vertical. Evans had four interceptions, 14 total passes defensed and two forced fumbles.

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.


Packer Report Top Stories