Russell, Stanton impress scouts
With more than 100 NFL coaches and front-office members in attendance, LSU's pro day felt like a reunion from last month's scouting combine in Indianapolis. While Florida had the most players invited to the combine, LSU should have the most players selected in the top 40 picks, hence the turnout in Baton Rouge on Wednesday.
QB JaMarcus Russell
headlined the event. After opting not to work out at the combine, the potential top pick was the focus of all eyes, and Russell did not disappoint. For starters, he showed up nine pounds lighter (256) and in noticeably better shape than he did a few weeks ago in Indianapolis. Russell ran his only 40-yard dash attempt in 4.84 seconds, which is more than respectable considering Ohio State QB Troy Smith
(6-foot, 222 pounds) ran in the 4.7-second range.
Most impressive was Russell's passing session, which lasted nearly an hour and consisted of 75 attempts. Russell was not perfect -- he mistimed a couple of throws and bounced one of his out-route attempts to the left side. Nevertheless, I can't remember being in such awe of a quarterback in my decade of attending combines and pro days.
Russell's arm strength is sensational; he makes the toughest deep-outs and post-corner passes look seamless. He also displayed outstanding footwork and the ability to make strong, accurate throws on the run, both to his right and left.
By no means do I think a team will be persuaded to take Russell because of what they saw inside LSU's indoor practice facility on Wednesday.
However, if the Raiders were already leaning toward taking Russell, their representatives in attendance (including new head coach Lane Kiffin) should feel even better about selecting him.
In addition to Russell, DS Laron Landry
and WRs Dwayne Bowe
and Craig Davis
showcased their skills. Landry wisely chose to stand on his 40 times from the combine (4.37 and 4.40), but did participate in the 20-yard shuttle (4.36 seconds), three cone (7.11 seconds), broad jump (10-6) and vertical jump (38 inches). Landry also recorded 20 reps on the bench press after opting out at the combine, although the recording scout claimed he failed to lock out his arms on 17 of the 20 reps.
Both Bowe and Davis were able to improve their 40 times from the combine. Bowe made the bigger improvement by running a 4.40 on Wednesday, compared to his time of 4.57 at the combine. Davis strained his groin during his first 40 attempt (4.49) at the combine, but was healthy enough to run a 4.38 on his home turf.
While Bowe is considered the better overall pro prospect, Davis showed better speed and hands running routes during Russell's passing session. Davis did tweak his groin toward the end of the workout, which could prevent him from running privately for NFL teams between now and the draft.
DS Jesse Daniels
, DE Chase Pittman
and RB Justin Vincent
also worked out at LSU's pro day on Wednesday. Vincent was not invited to the combine and Pittman couldn't run because he was ill with the flu.
Other Pro Day Briefings
Michigan State Spartans (March 14)
Noticeably absent from LSU's festivities were Lions head coach Rod Marinelli and offensive coordinator Mike Martz. While his decision may have had more to do with proximity than draft interest, Marinelli chose to attend Michigan State's pro day instead. Drew Stanton
reportedly took full advantage of his audience, throwing the ball with impressive timing, accuracy and arm strength. By all accounts, Stanton increased his chances of being the third quarterback taken in the upcoming draft -- behind Russell and Notre Dame's Brady Quinn
. In fact, a source who attended both private passing sessions told me Stanton's was more impressive than Russell's.
Oklahoma Sooners (March 13)
After an exceptional showing at the combine a few weeks earlier, RB Adrian Peterson
managed to build on the momentum during Oklahoma's pro day on Tuesday. Peterson stood on some of his outstanding workout results from the combine, including an electronic time of 4.41 seconds in the 40, a 38½ vertical jump, a 10-1 broad jump and a 4.4-second short shuttle.
His time in the long shuttle (11.79) is good for a back his size (6-foot-1, 217 pounds), but the individual portion of the workout was what drew rave reviews from NFL brass in attendance. While no team intends on playing him as a wide receiver, Peterson spent the majority of his positional drills running routes -- out of the backfield, in the slot and split out wide.
Despite recently giving veteran RB Jamal Lewis
a one-year deal, the Browns are expected to seriously consider taking Peterson with the No. 3 overall pick in the upcoming draft.
Arkansas Razorbacks (March 13)
DE Jamaal Anderson
was under a microscope after opting out of the combine workout. Fortunately for him, Anderson had nothing to hide. The 6-foot-5, 284-pound underclassman verified his unusual combination of size and athleticism by running both his 40-yard dash attempts in the high 4.7-second range, while also posting high marks in the short shuttle (4.22), three cone (6.88), broad jump (9-8), vertical jump (32½) and bench press (22 reps).
Anderson can be inconsistent and his technique needs some polishing, but his type of natural physical tools can't be coached. That's why I still believe Anderson is the second-best defensive end prospect in this year's talent-laden crop. Arkansas' other first-round talent in this year's draft class, CB Chris Houston
, elected not to run after posting remarkable all-around results at last month's combine.
Ohio State Buckeyes (March 13)
Ted Ginn Jr.
disappointed the approximately 70 NFL coaches and front-office members in attendance at Ohio State's pro day by opting not to work out for the second time in less than a month. Scouts hardly need to see Ginn Jr. run in shorts to conclude he's one of the most explosive wide receivers and return specialists in the 2007 class. Still, with so much money riding on a first-round pick, personnel departments understandably become paranoid this time of year.
There is increasing concern regarding the severity of Ginn Jr.'s foot injury, which he suffered more than two months ago celebrating his touchdown return in the national title game. Ginn Jr. is hoping to schedule a private workout in early April. For now, any team contemplating drafting him in the top half of the first round has to be cooling on the idea.
After taking his lumps over the course of the past two months, Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith demonstrated resiliency with a strong overall showing during his pro day workout. The dual-threat quarterback was much more efficient during his passing session, while also showcasing his athleticism and competitiveness during his agility drills. The only real negative was the subpar showing in the 40 (4.71 and 4.77).
While those are above-average times for the quarterback position, Smith was expected to run faster -- particularly on the notoriously fast track at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Teams considering Smith as a possible slash-type player at the next level cannot be pleased by his top-end speed.
Despite all the other talent working out in Columbus on Saturday, it was wide receiver Roy Hall who stole the show. Hall, who was buried on the depth chart behind Ginn Jr., Anthony Gonzalez
and Brian Robiskie, only notched 52 career receptions.
He showed some promising signs late in his senior season, including three catches for 38 yards and a score versus Michigan. But even area scouts aware of Hall's untapped potential couldn't have predicted his performance. At 6-foot-2, 229 pounds, Hall blazed a 4.41-second 40 and leaped 37½ inches on his vertical jump.
While it's unusual for a player to get drafted almost completely on potential shown at a pro day workout, it has happened at powerhouse programs before. Most recently, the Patriots found a quality backup quarterback in the seventh round of the 2005 draft in Matt Cassel
. He almost never saw the field at USC, playing behind Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer
and Matt Leinart