With the NFL Scouting Combine a few weeks in the rear view mirror, now comes the fun part of the silly pre-draft season -- individual workouts and Pro Days.
In plain English, this is the part of the Prospect Assessment Calendar where everyone will freak out (positively and negatively) over how well quarterbacks throw with no defensive backs, no pass rush, no pads, against air. In other words, it removes about every relevant element to how a player performs under duress.
Hell, it removes duress itself!
The Houston Texans are in the market for a quarterback (in case you hadn't heard), and of the three that are generally accepted as "on their radar" -- Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, and Blake Bortles -- Bridgewater was the first one up in the Pro Day department on Monday.
The reviews were mixed.
If we have to find one voice to echo the general sentiment among experts and observers, NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock probably sums it up best. "I thought it was very average at best," Mayock said.
So how concerning should this be for Texan fans who prefer Bridgewater over Manziel or Bortles (or Clowney, or...)? Well, only Bill O'Brien knows that answer (I'm assuming O'Brien's opinion on quarterbacks will hold more sway in the war room come draft day than Rick Smith's.). It will be up to him to judge just how much the Pro Day counts toward the "final grade" for his quarterback.
For what it's worth, I think at most it should be the equivalent of a pop quiz in a college course. Like 5 percent, something like that. The film that Bridgewater laid down in his three seasons as a starter at Louisville, especially his final season where he tossed 31 touchdowns and only four interceptions while completing 71 percent of his passes against actual human beings, should count like the final exam.
Like two thirds of his grade. Minimum.
We are living in a new age of quarterbacks, where numerous signal callers have come into the league in the last three seasons and enjoyed success right away, some the ultimate success (Russell Wilson). In between and around these new standard bearers have been around the same number of quarterbacks who have flamed out and given zero reason to believe that they will ever be even average.
Using the starters who have come into the league in 2011 and 2012 (a dozen total), if any correlation exists between Pro Days and performance as a professional quarterback, it is hit or miss, at best (like everything in the draft process).
For points of reference on this, I've included links below to assessments of each 2011 and 2012 drafted starting quarterback's Pro Days. Some of the gushing over eventual flameouts and tepid assessments of current Pro Bowlers is pretty eye opening as to just how haphazard this part of the process is. I've also included a Pro Day Correlation Rating, on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being virtually no correlation between quality of Pro Day and quality of on field NFL play, and 10 being direct correlation.
Also, I've put in BOLD some of the more eye opening quotes for each quarterback, either positively or deeply negatively correlated.
Basically, as you'll see, it goes back to what I say all the time -- nobody really knows anything.
CAM NEWTON, Carolina Panthers (2011, 1st Round, 1st Overall) Report By: Evan Silva
At 5 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Cam Newton finally took the field for passing drills at Auburn's Pro Day.
The results were mixed.
Newton connected on 50-of-60 passes, which is a substandard "completion percentage" for an elite quarterback prospect at an on-campus workout. For comparison, Matt Ryan was 48-of-52 at Boston College's Pro Day in 2008, and Sam Bradford went 49-for-50 last March.
There were four bad overthrows on which Newton either simply threw the football way too far downfield for his target to have a chance, or his pass sailed much too high.
By no measure was this Pro Day outstanding. CBS Sports draft analyst Rob Rang gave Newton a "B," conceding that he "would've given Newton a 'D'" for his Combine workout. SI.com draft analyst Tony Pauline rated Newton's workout "solid, not spectacular."
Still, the general consensus is that Newton has made major strides since the Combine. NFL Network's Mike Mayock had the most glowing review of Tuesday's Pro Day.
"This kid can drive the football," said Mayock. "He can drive it on the deep, outbreaking comeback, he can drive it on the inbreaking Bang-8 or dig route.
"He can make every throw."
NEWTON PRO DAY CORRELATION RATING (1 to 10): 3.21
JAKE LOCKER, Tennessee Titans (2011, 1st Round, 8th Overall) Report By: Evan Silva
The biggest pre-draft criticism of Jake Locker is the former Washington Huskies quarterback's failure to consistently demonstrate accuracy, particularly inside the pocket. In 40 college starts, Locker completed just 53.92 percent of his passes. It's the lowest mark among quarterbacks likely to be drafted this April.
He was much better at Wednesday's Pro Day.
Locker completed 40-of-42 attempts, and his only misfires were on throws of 50 or more yards downfield. He did place three short passes high of his intended target, but Huskies receivers hauled them in.
Locker's Pro Day performance compared favorably to that of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, who completed 50-of-60 throws on March 8. Blaine Gabbert went 44-for-49 at the Missouri Pro Day, Andy Dalton 49-of-52 for TCU, and Colin Kaepernick 36-for-38 at Nevada.
LOCKER PRO DAY CORRELATION RATING (1 to 10): 2.56
BLAINE GABBERT, San Francisco 49ers (2011, 1st Round, 10th Overall) Report By: Don Banks
You have to take a pro-day workout partly as the dog and pony show it is, but Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert officially has given the Carolina Panthers a decision to make at the top of the 2011 NFL Draft.
Throwing for the first time before representatives from all 32 teams, Gabbert threw accurately and moved with smooth athleticism in a well-reviewed, 25-minute pro day workout on Thursday at the University of Missouri. If the No. 1 Panthers want to take a quarterback, they now must put Gabbert and Auburn's Cam Newton side by side and choose the one they feel has the most potential to be a clear-cut franchise passer.
Gabbert turned some heads here and won himself some believers among those who wondered if he could make the transition to playing quarterback under center after starring in the spread offense in his two years of starting duty at Missouri. Starting all 64 of his pass plays by taking a center snap, Gabbert looked fluid and comfortable throughout his drills, and his accuracy never suffered no matter if he threw on the move or after setting up in the pocket.
"He's my No. 1 quarterback, and to me he's the one quarterback in the draft who, if you've got to bang the table for a franchise quarterback, he's the guy,'' NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said after Gabbert's workout. "The kid confirmed everything you want to see in a franchise quarterback. I thought he did as good as he could have. His footwork was real clean. His arm was real accurate, and his arm strength was great.''
Gabbert certainly looked like the real deal in the controlled environment that is a pro day, with its scripted passing workout.
I took a limited and informal poll among some NFL personnel evaluators and asked them how Gabbert compared at this point in the pre-draft process to recent first-round quarterbacks like Matthew Stafford and Sam Bradford, both of whom went first overall? The consensus was that Gabbert, despite having relatively modest success as a collegiate starter, certainly measured up based on his pro day showing.
GABBERT PRO DAY CORRELATION RATING (1 to 10): -12.17
CHRISTIAN PONDER, Minnesota Vikings (2011, 1st Round, 12th Overall) Report By: ESPN wire reports
Most scouts wanted to see how Ponder threw long, a question mark among some anxious to see if he'd gotten past the shoulder and arm injuries that severely limited his production over the last year-and-a-half of his collegiate career.
"Great competitor," Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said afterward, noting that Ponder also brings rare leadership intangibles. "An interesting guy and a great prospect."
Ponder's stock has risen rapidly after being selected as the MVP of the Senior Bowl he followed up with a sterling performance at the NFL combine last month at Indianapolis and another Wednesday.
Quarterbacks Cam Newton from Auburn and Missouri's Blaine Gabbert are widely considered locks as first-round draft picks in next month's NFL draft and Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher believes Ponder should be right there along with them.
"Tell me what he can't do?" Fisher asked. "With all the goods he's got?
"They wanted to see if we were going to throw some deep ball," said Ponder, who now heads for a half dozen private workouts for NFL teams. "I threw the ball down the field like they wanted me to. I showed them and hopefully they're happy with it."
PONDER PRO DAY CORRELATION RATING (1 to 10): 1.98
ANDY DALTON, Cincinnati Bengals (2011, 2nd Round, 35th Overall) Report By: Adam Caplan
Former TCU quarterback Andy Dalton shined during the school's pro day on Friday.
Dalton, according to one personnel source on hand, went 49-for-52, and two of the incompletions were drops. Pro day performances shouldn't be overvalued because they are a small part of the process, but he did quite well.
On one throw, he rolled out right and completed a 60-yard pass on the run, which is important when evaluating at his arm strength. The one legitimate knock on Dalton is his perceived lack of ideal arm strength. However, there are certain times when he has shown better than expected power on his throws.
During last month's NFL Scouting Combine, Dalton connected on a few deeper sideline throws of more than 40 yards.
During this year's Rose Bowl game against the University of Wisconsin, Dalton made several solid power throws, which opened some eyes of several personnel evaluators.
DALTON PRO DAY CORRELATION RATING (1 to 10): 7.88
COLIN KAEPERNICK, San Francisco 49ers (2011, 2nd Round, 36th Overall) Report By: Evan Silva
The Nevada Wolf Pack held its Pro Day on Tuesday, and the main attraction was quarterback Colin Kaepernick. A four-year starter, Kaepernick has made the first round in each of our first two mock drafts. We profiled his exceptional Senior Bowl in January.
According to a league source, Kaepernick hit 36 of his 38 throws on campus, not including a couple of drops. 25 teams were represented at the workout, including quarterback coaches from the Jaguars (Mike Sheppard) and Panthers (Mike Shula).
Per the source, Kaepernick got "great" feedback from scouts and personnel types and has lined up a total of 10 visits and/or workouts. We know for sure Kaepernick will meet or has met with the Broncos, Dolphins, 49ers, and Titans because we've been documenting them throughout the pre-draft process.
KAEPERNICK PRO DAY CORRELATION RATING (1 to 10): 8.51
ANDREW LUCK, Indianapolis Colts (2012, 1st Round, 1st Overall) Report By: Doug Farrar
PALO ALTO, Calif. -- A huge media throng showed up at Stanford on Thursday to see quarterback Andrew Luck engage in a Pro Day throwing session in which there were 48 scripted throws and just three incompletions -- and all three incompletions were placed perfectly by Luck. It's difficult for the consensus first overall draft pick to raise his stock at a Pro Day throwing session, but Luck did just that by displaying every attribute he possesses, showing off a few he's been working up to new levels, and ending his performance with a 75-yard bomb that was right on point -- but dropped.
LUCK PRO DAY CORRELATION RATING (1 to 10): 10.00
ROBERT GRIFFIN III, Washington Redskins (2012, 1st Round, 2nd Overall) Report By: Bryan Fischer
Griffin was sharp throughout his 30 minute work out at Baylor's indoor practice facility. On the mark with his throws both rolling out and dropping back from under center, he impressed the nearly 200 scouts and media that were looking on wearing neon-green socks borrowed from the basketball team. The ball hit the turf only a handful of times -- almost all due to drops -- and there were several deep balls with great touch. As the presumptive No. 2 pick in the draft, it's hard to impress much more than he has but that's exactly what Griffin ended up doing. He even had a few of the NFL personnel enjoying his choice of music for the work out.
Though he hasn't even been picked, expectations for Griffin and the franchise are already running high after the Redskins traded three first-round picks and a second-rounder to St. Louis in order to move up. Griffin wore a shirt that had 'No pressure, no diamonds' emblazoned on the front of his chest and actually looked forward to experiencing things at the next level even if he's being hailed as a savior.
"There was lots of pressure at Baylor. He and I did a lot of talking. Lots of talking pregames, a lot of times between seasons," Griffin's father, Robert Jr., said. "We feel like, at the professional level, there won't be as much pressure. Yes, there are millions of dollars involved and stuff like that. But the individual pressure we don't feel will be as much. The biggest thing for him is to work on his craft."
After Wednesday, it's pretty apparent every team would be happy to have Griffin play for them.
GRIFFIN PRO DAY CORRELATION RATING (1 to 10): 5.42 (and one of the dumbest quotes ever from his father that the pressure at Baylor was higher than what he'd see in the NFL)
RYAN TANNEHILL, Miami Dolphins (2012, 1st Round, 8th Overall) Report By: Doug Farrar
First, Tannehill showed that the right foot wasn't a problem -- from the start, he was rolling left and right, displaying excellent pocket mobility, and proving that there's nothing lost regarding his impressive athleticism. He rolled off 65 completions in 68 scripted throws under the watchful eyes of 22 NFL teams and performance coach Chris Weinke, who has recently tutored Cam Newton, Christian Ponder and Kirk Cousins. Only one could be termed an overthrow -- a 40-yarder to receiver Jeff Fuller. In similar fashion to Luck and Griffin, Tannehill proved that he could make every throw an NFL team could desire.
"I couldn't be more happy with his performance today," Weinke said after the workout. "He processes at a fast pace, very good understanding of offense and had the luxury playing for a former NFL guy in college [Mike Sherman, his coach at A&M]. There is no question in my mind that he's a franchise quarterback."
"Athletically, he passes all the tests," Mike Mayock of the NFL Network said of Tannehill. "More importantly, they moved to the throwing portion. Nine spot throws, then 50 throws in the field, and nine red-zone throws. My take was, it was a high-level workout. It was a franchise-type workout. Three-step drop, five, five with a hitch, seven ... every throw an NFL quarterback has to make -- both statutory and on the move. From an accuracy perspective, here's my take after watching every throw this kid made on tape all year. All the out-breaking routes were beautiful -- the kid can make every throw outside ... but they're the easier throws to make. Single-high safety, one-on-one coverage, you can trust it and rip it. Where he struggles on tape are on the in-breaking throws, and let's face it -- there's a lot more traffic on the inside. I never thought he trusted it, and that's where I thought he got in trouble, staring down receivers."
I agree with Mayock's evaluation, and Tannehill's relative ease with rollout throws compared to his inconsistency in the pocket has me comparing him to Washington's Jake Locker, who went to the Tennessee Titans with the eighth overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft.
"The guy was a quarterback in high school, just a football player," Schneider said. "First and foremost, that's what we're looking for. Especially at that position. Guys that have always been in the quarterback schools, the special camps, and all that kind of stuff. They make me a little nervous to a certain extent. This guy is a real football player. He played defense. You could see him last year when he stepped in, he just went out and played. He had like this natural toughness about him that the players really rallied around and went on a winning streak and he did a great job. I felt like this year, he had well over 60 drops. He did a nice job."
Before Thursday's Pro Day, the quarterback list had Luck and RGIII at the top, with a group of lesser alternatives lagging behind. With the performance that he had to wait to give, Ryan Tannehill separated himself from the pack -- and the top of the draft order most certainly felt the aftershock.
TANNEHILL PRO DAY CORRELATION RATING (1 to 10): 4.11
BRANDON WEEDEN, Cleveland Browns (2012, 1st Round, 22nd Overall) Report By: Michael David Smith (quotes from Mayock)
The reviews are in on the Pro Day performance from Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden, and observers said he looked good.
NFL Network's Mike Mayock lists Weeden as his No. 4 quarterback in this year's draft, behind Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Ryan Tannehill. Weeden isn't as good an athlete as any of those quarterbacks, but he showed good enough measurables that his athleticism isn't a concern.
"I'm guessing he's going to go in the second round," Mayock said. "He ran a 4.9 40, he did all the shuttles, he did all the jumps, he's more athletic than people thought he was."
Also not a concern is Weeden's arm: He had good passing numbers at Oklahoma State and threw well today.
"He made every throw you can make," Mayock said. "The ones I wanted to see were outside the numbers. I know he can drive it inside the numbers, I know he can throw the seam, the deep in cuts -- he showed me that in the game. What I saw today was the ability to drive it outside the numbers. . . . He showed every throw, he made every throw, and it was really impressive."
WEEDEN PRO DAY CORRELATION RATING (1 to 10): 0.13
RUSSELL WILSON, Seattle Seahawks (2012, 3rd Round, 75th Overall) Report By: Russ Lande
Wilson put on an impressive passing display. He clearly has an NFL-caliber arm and can make all the throws. He had excellent accuracy on short passes, and he showed good touch and accuracy on deep balls. He was inconsistent on intermediate throws, hoever.
A source who attended the workout said Wisconsin coaches considered Wilson the best leader to come through the program in many years. The fifth-year senior and N.C. State transfer was voted a team captain in his only season with the Badgers.
Wilson is unlikely to start in the NFL because of his height (5-11), but we believe he'd be an ideal backup to Carolina Panthers starter Cam Newton. He has elite athleticism and good passing skills, as he showed in Wednesday's workout, and his knowledge of the game will allow him to easily run the Panthers' offense. An NFL source who attended the Wisconsin workout concurred.
WILSON PRO DAY CORRELATION RATING (1 to 10): 6.77
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NICK FOLES, Philadelphia Eagles (2012, 3rd Round, 88th Overall) Report By: Sigmund Bloom
First, there is Foles, who has a chance to be the fourth (or possibly even third) QB off the board with a good postseason because of his size and arm strength. He passes the eyeball test, but he hasn't done much to endear himself to NFL teams beyond that, and his pro day performance did nothing to stop that trend.
CBS Sports' Rob Rang echoed these sentiments saying that there was a perception that Foles stock was sliding after the Senior Bowl and Combine and that his pro day was crucial for that reason. One of Rang's sources called the workout "average," the other "terrible," and Rang would only commit to Foles' grade being "draftable" after his pro day.
Foles had trouble throwing spirals, although SI.com's Tony Pauline tried to put a good spin on the performance (better than the spin Foles put on the ball) by passing on that scouts thought Foles took something off of his passes because of the wet conditions. Rang did point out that Foles did improve his combine 40 time (from 5.15 to 5.02-5.09) and vertical (from 30.5" to 33.5") at his pro day, but speculated that he might be a third-day pick now, and I must agree, unless a team is engaging in the worst kind QB scouting -- wishful thinking.
FOLES PRO DAY CORRELATION RATING (1 to 10): 1.62