It’s that time of year folks: NFL Draft scouting season. A glorious time. A time where workout statistics are ubiquitous, 40 times are compared, and Wunderlich test scores are dissected. Throughout the next few months, there will be events and platforms for draft prospects to prove their worth. But for my money, the preeminent event that truly signifies the redundancy that is scouting season, is the pro day. On it’s face, a pro day is where colleges across the country host media and scouts on their campuses to watch the draft eligible prospects from the schools’ football teams perform various drills and help try to boost their draft stock. But in actuality, pro days are much more than that. They are self-serving PR devices for the players themselves and the colleges that host them. Pro days also give football media material to help push them through the slower time in the months leading up to the draft. All-in-all, pro days annually produce the perfect storm of the same tired cliches and trite commentary. While they won’t commence until next month, I felt in the mood to discuss some of the common pro day cliches to which you will be exposed.
In addition to 40-yard dash and other fundamental drills during their pro day workouts, quarterback prospects throw a bunch of passes to unguarded receivers that run predetermined routes. Most of the time, the QBs are dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. Inevitably, without a pass rush, and no defensive backs draped on their targets, the quarterbacks will complete a majority of the passes. As a result, reports will flood in citing each prospect’s strong completion statistics as if it is some sort of great achievement. Some past examples:
One scout describing jake locker's pro day: "He ripped it." Completed 38 of 40 passes.
— Jim Trotter (@JimTrotter_NFL) March 30, 2011
— Rand Getlin (@RandGetlin) April 2, 2015
If, for some reason, a prospect throws a few incompletions, the first line of defense to mitigate the abomination that is a pro day incomplete pass is to note that some were the result of drops by the wide receiver:
Baylor Bears QB Bryce Petty @b_petty14 was very impressive at his pro day Wednesday in Waco. Completed 69-of-77 passes, but 5 were drops.
— Brandon George (@DMN_George) March 19, 2015
Here’s a great example of a school going out of its way to promote its quarterback’s stellar workout completion rate. After QB prospect’s Garrett Grayson’s workout at Colorado State’s pro day in 2015, the CSU football team’s official twitter account not only posted Grayson’s dominant completion stats, it also made sure to display that Grayson, in fact, had a better pro day completion percentage than top prospect Marcus Mariota! That’s right, Grayson 95%, Mariota 89%. Any questions???
Garrett Grayson completed 70-of-74 passes today. In comparison, Oregon's Marcus Mariota completed 59-of-66 at his Pro Day on March 12.
— Colorado State Football (@CSUFootball) March 23, 2015
Whether it’s in a tweet, a headline to a news story, or on your TV screen, the same verbs always pop up to describe a player’s performance at their pro days. Some of my favorites: “shined,” “wowed,” and “dazzled.”
Johnny Manziel was so good at Texas A&M’s pro day in 2014 that pretty much every possible verb was used to describe his performance:
VIDEO OF A QUARTERBACK THROWING THE BALL SUPER FAR
People love talking about a quarterback’s “arm talent.” Is there any better advertisement for a QB prospect’s arm talent than showing him throw the ball far in the air? Seemingly every year there is at least one pro day video of a QB who throws the ball 70-80 yards in the air like it’s a javelin. The clip is then shared on the internet and TV generating mass commendation.
The first of these videos that I can remember was the great former Ravens QB Kyle Boller, who threw the ball about 80 yards from his knee at his pro day at Cal in 2003.
Here’s Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes at his Texas Tech pro day last year:
— Stack Sports (@StackSports) March 31, 2017
In 2016, Trevon Boykin chucked the ball a good 78 yards at TCU’s pro day.
— RosterWatch (@RosterWatch) March 31, 2016
Andrew Luck has arm talent, folks.
One of my favorite Pro Day throws ever. Andrew Luck 70+ yards through the air. https://t.co/LWJ8QRuX4n
— Saad Yousuf (@SaadYousuf126) March 18, 2014
“ALL 32 NFL TEAMS” ARE IN ATTENDANCE
College football teams will use anything to generate hype and gain a recruiting edge. One of the most popular pro day factoids about which college football teams and the media love to boast is that scouts/staff representing “ALL 32 NFL TEAMS” were present at the school’s pro day. The message: We have such amazing talent in our program and foster such an incredible environment that ALL 32 NFL TEAMS would not dare to miss our important showcase.
— Auburn FB Recruiting (@AuburnMade) March 10, 2017
Here’s Former Tennessee Coach Butch Jones last March explaining how the fact that all 32 teams came to Tennessee’s pro day is a testament to how far his program has come:
Butch Jones on all 32 NFL teams at Tennessee's Pro Day, "Shows you how far our football program has come and where we are going."
— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) March 31, 2017
Oh, the irony. “Where are we going?” Well, the Vols went 0-8 in conference in 2017, fans threatened to boycott showing up to games, and Jones was fired in November. Nevertheless, even at the time, I’m not sure how Butch thought this was a ringing endorsement for him or the program. If Tennessee had a bunch of quality pro prospects that all 32 NFL teams were dying to see, logic follows that they wouldn’t have had two straight massively disappointing seasons. This is something that any recently underachieving team should think about before choosing to brag about pro day scout attendance.
Furthermore, it appears that a pro day with all 32 NFL teams represented is not all that rare. I did a little research and discovered that, just last year, at least 30 teams boasted 100% NFL Team attendance. Some of them:
Albany State, Auburn, Colorado, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, Houston, Indiana, Iowa, LSU, Middle Tennessee State, Miami, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, South Alabama, Stanford, Temple, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas San-Antonio, USC, Utah, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, West Virginia.
With this in mind, maybe teams have to announce that all 32 teams showed up, or else people will assume it didn’t happen. Kinda like if you don’t put your GPA or class rank on your resume, one automatically assumes that you finished with less than a B average. You’re welcome for having the courage to analyze these important issues.
Pro days, at their very core, are designed to hide a player’s flaws and accentuate the best a player has to offer. So it’s no surprise some folks will describe certain prospects’ pro days as flawless.
Check out ESPN’s Merrill Hoge in 2012. After careful inspection, he could not see a single flaw in Trent Richardson.
"I see no flaws in him"-Merrill Hodge on Alabama running back, Trent Richardson at his pro day today
— Mike Hill (@ItsMikeHill) March 30, 2012
Some more flawless performances:
HT: 6' 5 4/8
40: 4.68/4.69 ?
Speed Kills! pic.twitter.com/V1dXhEDWOv
— Michael Perrett (@PerrettM) March 17, 2017
Will be shocked if the reviews of Tajh Boyd's Pro Day are anything but glowing. He was sensational, virtually flawless.
— Larry Williams (@LarryWilliamsTI) March 6, 2014
@billyliucci on Ryan Tannehill's pro day: "I thought it was as close to flawless as you could get."
— TexAgs Radio (@TexAgsRadio) March 30, 2012
Enjoy draft season everyone!