Several Texas Longhorns took advantage of the opportunity to work out in front of all 32 NFL teams on Tuesday at the annual Pro Timing Day in Austin, including breakout wide receiver John Harris.
A year after the event failed to produce much buzz or even a draft pick from Texas for the first time since 1937, attendance improved for this year's event, likely in no small part due to the presence of defensive tackle Malcom Brown, who is widely projected as a first-round draft pick.
Coming of a strong showing at the NFL Scouting Combine back in February, Brown opted not to participate in many of the testing drills, but he did go through a few on-field workouts for several coaches, including at least one with the Detroit Lions defensive line coach:
Indianapolis Colts defensive line coach Gary Emmanuel and Cincinnati Bengals defensive line coach Joe Hayes were two other coaches at the position spotted at the Texas facilities on Tuesday to evaluate Brown.
The Lions will probably be lucky if Brown falls all the way to No. 23 in the draft, especially since the Bengals have the No. 21 selection. Of the three teams, however, the Colts seem the least likely to end up with Brown unless they decide to trade up, as Indianapolis doesn't get its first choice until the No. 29 slot. Based on the attendance of those coaches and the mock drafts currently out there, Brown looks like a sure-fire first-round selection at this time.
There were also a number of linebackers coaches there who were presumably focused on Jordan Hicks, currently seen as a mid-round pick after posting impressive agility times in Indianapolis. Hicks opted to rest on his 40-yard dash from the Combine, but he did field drills in front of linebackers coaches from the Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Rams.
Patrios defensive coordinator Matt Patricia was the lone coordinator to visit Austin.
Jordan Hicks, "I fell like I did a good job today. I just tried to come out here and do my best." pic.twitter.com/Nd8QDgVPiM— Matt Cotcher (@MLCotcher) March 24, 2015
The one Combine invitee who was not able to workout on the day was defensive end Cedric Reed, who underwent meniscus surgery in January and is still recovering. Since he was only able to participate in the bench press in Indianapolis, he'll have to hope that he's recovered in time to go through individual workouts before the draft.
"I feel good about the process," Reed said. "Like I said, I'm able to do everything, jump, cut, do everything that I can on my knee. It's just I didn't feel 100 percent with my explosiveness and that comes with time. I wasn't going to put any more bad film on myself."
Cornerback Quandre Diggs didn't participate in a lot of drills, but he did impress onlookers with his efforts catching passes:
Compared to the other Texas defensive backs, Diggs stood out with his quick feet and fluidity transitioning and flipping his hips. As Richardson mentioned, the younger brother of Quentin Jammer also caught everything that was thrown at him and did so cleanly, coming away feeling good about his performance.
"I just wanted to show them how fluid I am, how quick," Digg said. I'm a quick-twitch athlete. Put me in the slot, go out and do those things, special teams, all those different things. I just want to show I have great footwork, and that's what I did."
The 40-yard dashes represented a mixed bag for the players in attendance -- some helped themselves and some did not:
The numbers that stand out in a positive way are the times from running back Malcolm Brown, wide receiver Jaxon Shipley, wide receiver John Harris, tight end Geoff Swaim, and defensive back Mykkele Thompson, though the times were unofficial and most scouts will likely add .1 seconds to those times because of the fast track at the Texas facilities.
Swaim also posted a 35.5-inch vertical leap that could intrigue scouts because of his proven blocking ability in multiple roles. And Thompson likely helped himself with a 36-inch vertical leap of his own, not to mention a 10'9 broad jump good enough to tie for seventh among all defensive backs at the Combine this year.
New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro liked what he saw out of Jaxon Shipley:
My dawg ship so smooth.— Kenny Dwayne Vaccaro (@KennyVaccaro4) March 24, 2015
As did a scout in attendance:
Just heard this exact quote from scout: "No lie - Jaxon Shipley just went HAM on his pro day. He was ready to eat. Couldn't believe it."— Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) March 24, 2015
The NFL senior media analyst Gil Brandt thought Shipley might sneak into the late rounds of the draft after his performance, but will certainly be a priority free agent. The biggest move, according to Brandt, was from Geoff Swaim, who may now be a sixth- or seventh-round draft pick after he ran better at the Pro Timing Day than he did in pads during his career at Texas.
Linebacker Steve Edmond was perhaps the biggest loser after he barely cracked the five-second mark in his 40-yard dash, confirming the biggest criticisms of his movement abilities over the last several years. Like Reed, however, Edmond played through a meniscus injury suffered against Oklahoma last season, but didn't have surgery after following the Texas Bowl, so he may not be fully healthy either.
The overall strong day from Harris resulted in some attention from a San Diego Chargers scout afterward:
One of the goals for him entering the day was to erase any doubts about his speed.
"Biggest goal was speed for me," he said. "I wanted to show that I could compete at the next level and have the speed to compete at the next level and have the speed to separate at the wide receiver position."
Harris played at a listed 218 pounds last year, but said that he was down to 212- 213 pounds on Tuesday. While coming off the board during the draft still isn't especially likely for Harris, he now stands a better chance of getting serious looks as an undrafted free agent based on his performance Tuesday.
Deep snapper Nate Boyer was also in attendance with a small documentary film crew and he's hoping for a shot in the league after he was honorably discharged last month following 10 years in the military. Working against him is his age -- he's 34 years old now.
The offensive skill position players benefitted from catching passes from retired quarterback David Ash, who was no doubt happy to have a competitive environment in which to throw the football after spending about seven months away from the game.
His precision delivering pases to his former teammates raised some questions about what could have been last year had he remained healthy:
Watching David Ash put throw after throw right on the money makes it obvious how different 2014 could have been for the Horns.— Matt Cotcher (@MLCotcher) March 24, 2015
The visual evidence certainly backs up that take:
After the recent issues at the quarterback position, Ash was arguably the best passer to throw at a Texas Pro Timing Day since Colt McCoy went through similar workouts in early 2010.
As usual, a number of former Longhorns were also in attendance to watch:
Kenny Vaccaro, Jordan Shipley, Cedric Benson, Alex Okafor, Fozzy Whittaker, Keenan Robinson among the former Longhorns here— Max Olson (@max_olson) March 24, 2015
It may take several more years before the Longhorns are truly a destination for scouts and coaches, but Tuesday was a step in the right direction for the program and for most of the players involved.