This is dated March 21, but I didn't see it posted on ESPN.com until today...
DT Branch losing momentum
By Todd McShay
AUSTIN, Texas (March 21) -- A total of 12 prospects participated in Texas' pro day on Wednesday, including eight combine invitees (DCs Aaron Ross
and Tarell Brown
, DS Michael Griffin
, OGs Justin Blalock
and Kasey Studdard
, DEs Tim Crowder
and Brian Robison
, and RB Selvin Young
, who was actually listed as a Texas player at the combine, worked out for NFL scouts at a separate off-campus location earlier in the morning. He improved his 40-yard dash time, running in the low 4.4-second range.
After missing spring practice in 2006 for academic reasons, then being arrested for possession of marijuana, Taylor transferred to NAIA Texas College, but was unable to play football in 2006 because he was academically ineligible.
Despite his obvious baggage and lack of motivation, Taylor is gifted and versatile enough for a team to take a chance on him late in the draft. He has the physical tools and experience to compete for playing time as a defensive back, wide receiver, third-down back and on special teams.
The main focus at Texas' pro day was on the defensive backs, as Ross and Griffin are potential first- round picks, and Brown is a fringe first-day prospect. Texas' track is known to be a bit slow, which is likely the reason Ross elected to stand on his only decent 40 times from the combine. Ross did show good agility and excellent hands during position-specific drills.
Griffin braved the slower surface and the risk paid off, as he ran the 40 in the low 4.4-second range, after posting disappointing times at the combine (4.47 and 4.51). He also improved his vertical jump (39½ inches).
It is easy to envision Griffin as the second safety selected behind LSU's LaRon Landry
. While Florida's Reggie Nelson
is faster and covers more ground, Griffin is more versatile and displays the leadership skills to quickly emerge as the quarterback of a secondary.
Brown pulled his hamstring during his first 40 attempt. The good news is he blazed a 4.39, nearly two-tenths of a second faster than his electronic times (4.53 and 4.55) from the combine.
Brown impressed scouts in attendance by fighting through the pain to participate in position drills later in the afternoon. It also should be noted that Brown's father passed away just four days prior to the combine, so he is participating in the pre-draft process with a heavy heart.
A strained left quad prevented Young from working out at the combine, so the 5-foot-11, 207-pound running back was put to the test on Wednesday. Young showed good agility in the short shuttle (4.24 seconds) and three-cone drill (7.15 seconds), as well as explosiveness on his vertical jump (36½) and broad jump (10-4). He also displayed solid hands when catching the ball during position drills.
The only negative was Young's lack of ideal top-end speed, as he was timed at 4.60 and 4.62 in his two 40 attempts. Young's versatility, leadership and character should help offset his durability issues, which is why I still think he's worth a late-round pick.
Blalock, Crowder and Robison stood on their combine results, and only participated in position drills during the afternoon session inside Texas' indoor facility.
Finally, no two players had more to prove than C Lyle Sendlein
and LS Tully Janszen. Despite being snubbed by the combine, both players could hear their names called late on Day 2.
The combine selection committee made a mistake by not inviting Sendlein, who has been one of Texas' most consistent offensive linemen the past two seasons. He lacks ideal bulk (284 pounds) and doesn't run very well (5.17 in the 40), but he has the frame to get bigger and plays the game with very good toughness, technique and intelligence. His father, Robin, played at Texas and spent eight seasons in the NFL.
The only part of Janszen's workout that mattered much was his long-snapping drills. Janszen showed the same type of velocity and accuracy on his deep snaps he displayed throughout his career at Texas. Long snappers are rarely drafted, but Janszen is one of three (Virginia Tech's Nick Leeson
and TCU's Jared Retkofsky) in this year's class with a legitimate chance to come off the board late.
Other Pro Day Briefings
Mississippi Rebels (March 20)
erased any doubts about his status as the top-rated linebacker prospect in the 2007 class with another outstanding workout in front of NFL scouts on Tuesday. Willis could have easily stood on his top-shelf times from the combine. Instead, he blazed multiple sub-4.4 times in the 40, and showed excellent agility and competitiveness during position-specific drills.
Michigan Wolverines (March 16)
Michigan DT Alan Branch
is losing some momentum as the draft nears. He elected to bolt school early after a productive junior season, and also showed good mobility for his size (6-foot-5½, 324 pounds) at the combine. However, with more time to evaluate the full package, several teams I've spoken to recently are becoming increasingly concerned about his bust potential.
There's no question Branch possesses the rare physical tools to make an impact in the NFL, but he takes too many plays off on film and hasn't been overly impressive during private interviews with some teams. It also didn't help matters that he showed up at Michigan's recent on-campus workout in noticeably worse shape than a few weeks earlier at the combine.
More than anything, there seems to be a concern that Branch is capable of gaining too much weight and becoming even less motivated once he collects a paycheck at the next level. While Branch is too talented to fall out of the first round, it wouldn't surprise me if 19-year-old Amobi Okoye
(Louisville) winds up as the first defensive tackle taken in next month's draft.
On a more positive note, LaMarr Woodley
eased some concerns with a solid overall workout at pro day. After a tight hamstring prevented him from working out at the combine, Woodley displayed good overall speed and explosiveness with his results in the 40 (4.73) and vertical jump (38½).
LB Prescott Burgess
was able to improve most of his disappointing combine results in Ann Arbor, including running one of his 40 attempts in 4.77 seconds. Nevertheless, it won't be enough to prevent him from slipping out of the first day of the upcoming draft.
Following surprisingly strong showings at the combine, DC Leon Hall
, ILB David Harris
and WR Steve Breaston
barely broke a sweat during the on-campus workout. Hall stood on all of his times from the combine and only participated in the defensive back drills, where he showed good instincts and agility.
Harris and Breaston also participated in position drills. Harris' broad jump (9-2) was three inches better than his best combine result. Breaston ran the long shuttle in 11.62 seconds, after choosing not to run one at the combine.
After getting snubbed from the combine, TE Tyler Ecker
did not help his chances of being drafted by running both 40 attempts in the 4.9-second range.
Pittsburgh Panthers (March 16)
All eyes were on Darrelle Revis
, the only potential first-round cornerback who opted not to run at this year's combine. The versatile prospect proved up to task with an outstanding overall showing.
At 5-foot-11, 196 pounds, Revis posted impressive times in his two 40 attempts (4.42 and 4.39). He also turned in above-average results in the short shuttle (4.07), three-cone drill (6.55), vertical jump (38) and broad jump (10-5). The workout should solidify a spot for Revis in the bottom half of the first round.
While the draft may lack a truly elite cornerback, the depth of this year's class continues to grow. Hall remains the position's top prospect and should come off the board between picks Nos. 10 and 15. Revis, Ross and Chris Houston
are the next best cornerback prospects, and all three project as mid-to-late first-round picks.
Fresno State's Marcus McCauley
and UNLV's Eric Wright
could potentially sneak into the bottom of the first round. Wright is definitely on the rise after impressive showings at the combine and UNLV's on-campus workout, which included a pair of 40 times in the high 4.3-second range.
Florida State Seminoles (March 16)
With only three potential Day 1 picks (OLB Lawrence Timmons
, RB Lorenzo Booker
and ILB Buster Davis
), this was arguably the least anticipated Florida State pro day in more than a decade. Timmons failed to live up to expectations with his overall workout. The 6-foot-1, 233-pound linebacker ran both his 40 attempts in the 4.6-second range.
While it was an improvement from his electronic times at the combine (4.71 and 4.70), and is considered more than respectable for his position, Timmons' size and speed were overhyped at Florida State. He should still be a first-round pick, but is no longer considered to have the best upside of this year's linebacker crop.
After participating in every facet of the combine, except the shuttles, Booker posted impressive times in the short shuttle (4.37) and three-cone drill (7.04) at FSU's pro day. Booker should be selected late in Day 1 by a team interested in utilizing his versatility as a third-down back and return specialist.
Finally, Davis ran his 40 attempts in the mid-4.7 range, which was a slight improvement from the combine. Despite his marginal height and workout numbers, I still would have no problem drafting Davis late on the first day. Much like London Fletcher (Redskins), Davis has the instincts and toughness to overcome his poor measurables in the NFL.
Oregon State Beavers (March 16)
DS Sabby Piscitelli
proved his outstanding 40 times at the combine were no fluke by running a 4.42 and 4.45 in his two attempts at Oregon State's pro day last week. If Piscitelli sneaks into the first day, it will have much to do with his surprisingly successful postseason showing. TE Joe Newton
ran one 40 (4.75) and cited a tight hamstring as the reason for not running a second time. He projects as a mid-to-late-round pick.
QB Matt Moore
is another prospect who should have been invited to the combine. He is not much of an athlete, so he didn't exactly prove the committee wrong with his individual workout results last Friday. Moore ran both his 40 attempts in the low 4.9-second range, while also running a 4.46 short shuttle and 7.25 three-cone drill. More importantly, the 6-foot-3, 192-pound signal-caller showed good accuracy and adequate arm strength during his passing session.
Western Oregon Wolves (March 16)
TE Kevin Boss
, one of the better small-school prospects in this year's class, continues to impress NFL scouts with his natural ability. Despite a strong showing at the combine, Boss (6-foot-6½, 253 pounds) used Western Oregon's recent pro day to improve his results in the 40 (4.70), vertical jump (35½) and broad jump (10). Boss also notched 15 reps on the bench press after opting not to lift at the combine as a result of a left shoulder strain. It wouldn't be surprising to see Boss come off the board as early as the fifth round in next month's draft.