Patriots Take Closer Look At Top Defender

Players who have the physical tools to play multiple positions in various defensive schemes are rising up draft boards. One such prospect from Florida is on that list. Rob Rang of shares his observations from this past week of Pro Days.

Days like Tuesday are why NFL teams employ robust scouting departments.

With Boston College, Boise State, Florida, Georgia, Penn State and Virginia all holding their Pro Days, scouts were spread throughout the country Tuesday. While the majority of the focus will be on Matt Ryan and the Boston College workout, the more impressive performances came from Florida and Penn State.

With significantly fewer Gators likely to be drafted this year than in recent seasons, only an estimated 15 teams attended Florida's Pro Day. Most who attended were there to see defensive end Derrick Harvey.

Harvey, who declined to run and lift Tuesday after solid performances in both tests at the Combine, nonetheless left scouts buzzing with his performance.

The 6-foot-4 1/2, 269-pounder showed great burst in pass rush drills and enough agility that scouts from teams utilizing the 3-4 alignment have already begun scheduling private workouts with Harvey. The Jets, owners of the sixth overall pick, have lined up a workout and New England (owners of the seventh overall pick due to a trade last April with San Francisco) is thought to be considering doing so as well.

While Harvey's burst makes him an intriguing fit as a 3-4 rush linebacker, his size, strength and long arms (82-inch wingspan) have most teams still viewing him as a better fit as a traditional 4-3 defensive end. The Detroit Lions, who have the 15th overall pick, have already scheduled a private workout with Harvey.

They may not get the chance to draft Harvey, however, as Carolina, owners of the 13th overall pick, are apparently quite interested in the SEC star. The Panthers were the most heavily represented team at the Florida Pro Day, with head coach John Fox, defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac and defensive line coach Sal Sunseri all attending.

Like Ryan, Penn State's Dan Connor elected not to work out at the Combine, instead saving his audition in front of scouts for Tuesday's Pro Day. Considering his performance, it is hard to fault his decision.

The 6-2, 231-pound Connor was clocked by scouts in the mid- to high-4.6s in the 40-yard dash. His 40 time, three-cone drill (6.76), vertical jump (35 inches) and 22 repetitions of 225 pounds rank among the elite scores of inside linebackers tested this year.

When asked to grade his own performance on a scale of 1-10, the Bednarik Award winner characterized the performance as a "13."

Pittsburgh was heavily represented at the workout, with head coach Mike Tomlin on hand. Other teams thought to be considering Connor had strong representation at the workout, as well, including Philadelphia, Detroit and Arizona.

As impressive as Connor and Harvey were, however, the work out most are focusing on occurred later in the day in Boston.

Twenty-two teams were on hand to watch quarterback Matt Ryan and the rest of Boston College's draft eligible players work out. The Kansas City Chiefs were especially well represented, with general manager Carl Peterson, head coach Herm Edwards, offensive coordinator Chan Gailey and quarterback coach Dick Curl all taking in the workout. The Chiefs own the fifth pick of the draft and may have enough concerns about Brodie Croyle as their starting quarterback to consider Ryan.

Among other notable attendants of the Boston College Pro Day were Atlanta director of college scouting Phil Emery and director of player personnel Les Snead, Baltimore director of college scouting Eric DeCosta, Carolina general manager Marty Hurney and Minnesota vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman. Atlanta, Baltimore, Carolina and Minnesota are thought to be among the teams most likely to drafting a quarterback early and own the third, eighth, 13th and 17th picks, respectively.

Miami, owners of the first overall pick, was represented with director of college scouting Chris Grier and quarterback coach David Lee. Executive vice president Bill Parcells and head coach Tony Sparano were conspicuous in their absence.

All in all scouts in attendance left pleased with Ryan's performance, but not necessarily wowed. Characterized by Herm Edwards as "pressing," Ryan wasn't as accurate Tuesday as scouts anticipated. The ACC's Offensive Player of the Year completed 48 of 52 passes, with three drops and only one misfire, but his ball placement was only marginal at times, forcing receivers to contort their body to make the grab. He showed the ability to make every throw, but his lack of a monster arm and only marginal overall athleticism was apparent when throwing during rollouts.

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