Today I had the pleasure to be a media rep covering the NFL Pro Day at the University of California – Berkley. It was a beautiful day at California Memorial Stadium. Great weather, sunny, not windy and cool.
I arrived as the athletes were working in the weight room, and happened to be there when top Center Alex Mack was getting ready to lift. For what it’s worth, he did not lift the 225 bar 40 times. It was 20. That was already corrected in the article that Rotoworld.com quoted, as well as on Rotoworld. But as good a day as Mack had – and it was very good – he didn’t become Superman.
Back to the broad picture though. All 32 teams were represented by 50 scouts, coaches and various personnel. Largely, they were there to see Mack and Zach Follett. Follett was nursing a bad hamstring though and only lifted, pulling a 21 rep bench press.
Follett told me he was disappointed, as he wanted to take another shot at his Combine numbers. However, he already has talked to some teams and will be scheduling some workouts. While I was there, I saw him chatting with representatives from several teams, among them the Colts, Chiefs and Browns.
How interested those teams are is anyone’s guess – they could have just been chatting. Or they could be hoping he’ll tumble enough to be there when thy come back around. He also mentioned the Raiders were sniffing around as well. Any of those teams could use him and I’m sure there are more who will take a look at him prior to late April.
Back to Mack. He ran a nice 5.17 40, looked good in his other workout drills and great in his positional drills. He held the rapt attention of nearly everyone who was there and when he was done, I’d say 75% of the people there took off.
That’s not to say there was no interest in anyone else. But Mack was the biggest target for attention there and clearly someone who won’t drop too far in April’s draft. I get the sense that he could go anywhere from the middle of the first to the end, but I don’t think he gets out of it unclaimed.
Mack ended his day in a film room working some chalk and going over tape with representatives from three teams. He was easily in there for two hours, maybe more. It was great to talk to him afterwards and he was definitely pleased with his day and ready to stop training for Pro Days and Combines and start training for actual football again.
After Mack was finished, the remaining scouts were treated to a pretty sharp workout by quarterback Nate Longshore. Longshore ran around a 4.7/5.1 40 yard dash (I timed it by hand, but was unable to verify afterwards) earlier in the day.
Warming up he seemed a bit off but once the drills started, Longshore was sharp throwing the ball with good arm strength, accuracy and touch. I was impressed the way he worked and not only made himself look good, but his receivers as well.
This draft is filled with project quarterbacks and in my opinion once you get past Stafford and Sanchez, there are a ton of question marks. As Sigmund Bloom, one half of the pair from Draftguys.com who were on my show Wednesday night said, guys like Pat White and Josh Freeman are riding a bit of a wave from the fact that this class is weak.
So when you get past the first few solid quarterbacks, and you’re looking for a project it’s really just about whom you fall for. Longshore is far from a sure thing. But as a project?
A few other notes from the day.
Linebacker Anthony Felder pulled a hamstring during his first 40 yard dash. It was a shame, he definitely had high hopes for the day. Before the end of the day, he had already set up a session with one team and was looking forward to getting back on track prior to the Draft.
I liked what I saw from tight end Cameron Morrah, who ran a 4.5/4.6 in the 40 and looked solid in receiving drills. He too has some interest already from teams and has scheduled multiple workouts.
Finally, Burl Toler stopped by for a workout and looked good in receiving drills. Toler is a free agent journeyman who has bumped around various NFL and AFL teams since he was signed as a street free agent with the Oakland Raiders back in 2006. He most recently played on the practice squad for the Washington Redskins in 2007-2008 and the San Jose SabreCats from 2008 until the AFL dissolved.
It’s always interesting to me to see a guy like this work out. He’s clearly willing and definitely looked good and while teams tend to try and think about getting the freshest talent in the Draft, there’s always guys like Toler who are still young and able, but carry experiance that most rookies take a long time to gather and some never get.
Could Toler find a home again within the NFL? It will be interesting to see.
Overall, it was a great day for most of the athletes present and with the extra attention guys like Mack and Follett brought to the day, some of the more fringe projects might have gotten a tad more exposure than they might have otherwise.