Now that the dust has settled on the 2015 NFL Combine, the next phase of the process is the College Pro Days and Private workouts. The month of March and early part of April all 32 NFL club coaches, scouts and front-office executives fly to University campuses across the country, some located in remote cities to continue the evaluation process of draft prospects.
While Pro-Day visits are more relaxed for the scouts than the fall, it is still very intense for the prospects. They want to impress and not disappoint the coaches and scouts that are watching and evaluating their every move.
The day generally starts around 9 a.m. the Pro Day is split into two phases: personnel phase and coaching phase. NFL scouts in the personnel phase duplicate the combine workout starting with measuring and weighing the prospect. Even for those players that attended the combine, they must weigh in again to monitor possible weight loss or gain in the days since the combine’s conclusion. Those combine participants can choose to better their scores or stay with their combine results
All other prospects are put through the 40-yard dash, the vertical and long jump, short shuttle, long shuttle and the three-cone drill. All positions with the exception of quarterbacks, kickers and punters are required to participate in the 225-pound bench press doing as many reps as they can until non-movement.
Once the personnel phase is complete, the prospects put on their cleats and get ready for the coaching phase which includes drill work by position.
For quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston the combine workout, interviews and medical exams was just the begun, the storm of scrutiny is coming their way like several tornado screaming across the plains.
The media will come at them from every angle wanting the inside story, pitting each camp against each other, and the NFL working to keep every bit of evidence the retain in house to gain an uneven playing against the rest of the teams.
For them most of the drill work will be scripted by his position coach, coordinator, head coach or a former professional coach hired by their agent camp, will orchestrate the workout. Regardless of the script, from a personnel standpoint, I look for the following in a quarterback’s workout.
Leadership: Is he a natural born leader, does he take charge of his receivers, along with the other players in the workout? Does he command respect?
Poise: Does he have the poise and composure in the spotlight? He is in his environment and comfort zone; does he display the confidence and the consistency in every request asked of him?
Setup: You want to see foot quickness from under center in three-, five-, and seven-step drops with balance in the anchor step.
Delivery: I’m looking for rhythm and timing, which is very important for a quarterback. Can he transfer his weight from his back leg to the post leg, while keeping his feet 18-24 inches apart, retaining balance and direction of the feet and hips?
Release Point: Is the release point over the ear, over the shoulder or side-arm sling? Does he demonstrate anticipation and timing in his throws? I want to see if he has a quick release. Does he get the ball out quickly and can he throw from different platforms (feet together, off balance, jump pass when needed)? Does he have a short stroke or elongated throwing motion; is it smooth or is there a hitch in movement before release?
Arm Strength: Is there velocity on his passes, can he spin a good spiral or is it a duck? Does he have a cannon and is he a deep-ball passer? Does he have a rifle arm to throw off balance while making all the NFL passes needed to be successful at the next level?
Accuracy Short: Can he stick it on the receiver? Can he throw the back shoulder fade?
Accuracy Long: Can he hit the receiver in stride on routes outside the numbers, in the seam and crossing routes? Does he make the receiver work to make the catch? Complete progression of the NFL route tree.
Touch (short/long): Demonstrate all types of passing variations with trajectory while taking some heat off the ball.
Mobility: Foot quickness, rollout, passing drill work while throwing on the move. Is there balance, can he square his shoulders and throw with accuracy without slowing down and setting his feet?
Play-action Fake: What are his ball-handling skills like in play-action or when delivering to a running back going through the bags?
Voice: Listening for strength and clarity when barking out cadence.
Once the on-field workout is completed, they will move to the classroom phase of their job interview. In the classroom, coaches put the quarterbacks on the board and ask them to draw up several plays with the complete offense, and explain every position and those positional responsibilities on each play. He will then draw up defenses vs. those plays and explain protections, or possible audibles.
Once grilled for several minutes on the board, the film is turned on and he is asked to explain certain situations and throws he made from the past season. He will be taught terminology of the NFL club interviewing him, coaches want to see him process information, respond and regurgitate information quickly with no hesitation. Does he understand play-calling and clock-management situations? The coaches are trying to see if he indeed views the game like a coordinator and whether he exhibits play memorization in a short period of time.
There will be several important days for both Wiston and Mariota and all prospects prepping for the NFL Draft. For the quarterbacks every throw, every interview, every meeting will have a huge effect on being considered the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
For the media Johnny Football was the hype of the 2014 Draft class, while Teddy Bridgewater was falling like a rock because of a bad workout without his glove. Regardless of where they are picked, it’s what you do once you get there that is important, ask Offensive Rookie of the Year Teddy Bridgewater.