Representatives of 19 NFL teams traveled to Fresno State on Wednesday in large part to see if All-America free safety Phillip Thomas and record-breaking running back Robbie Rouse could improve upon their combine performances.
Each was able to do so.
Thomas, a Thorpe Award finalist who led the country with eight interceptions in 2012, shaved more than a tenth-of-a-second off of his combine time in the 40-yard dash, clocking in at 4.53-seconds, according to multiple sources. Thomas had been timed at 4.65-seconds in the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis.
Thomas also showed great fluidity and ball skills during positional drills orchestrated by a member of the New England Patriots.
The workout may have been even more important for the short (but not small) Rouse, who registered a disappointing 4.80-seconds in the 40-yard dash after measuring in at 5-feet-5 (3/8), 190 pounds in Indianapolis.
While clearly shorter than scouts would prefer, Rouse is a powerfully-built runner whose vertical and lateral burst helped him generate a school-record 4,647 rushing yards over his career.
Rouse was clocked at a much more respectable 4.57-seconds in the 40-yard dash Wednesday, perhaps pushing him back into the draft. Regardless of whether he's drafted or not, Rouse's game-tape speaks for itself. He'll get an opportunity and will prove to be a tough cut for an NFL team due to his natural elusiveness and surprising power.
"The 40 [yard dash] that I ran at the combine was definitely not what I wanted to run and for me to come out here and run the 4.5 that I wanted was definitely a goal that I set," Rouse said. "It felt good to get it."
Some of the scouts on hand for Wednesday's workout at Fresno State had traveled from San Diego State's campus a day earlier where a number of former Aztecs and 10 former Hawaii Warriors had worked out.
While the most well-known defensive back at the workout was SDSU's all-conference pick Leon McFadden, the Senior Bowl standout largely stood on his numbers from the combine, though he did register a 34.5-inch vertical jump.
Perhaps the defensive back who helped himself the most at the workout was Hawaii junior Mike Edwards, a talented cornerback and kick-returner who originally signed with Tennessee out of high school.
Edwards ran well at the combine (electronically timed 4.56 seconds) but proved faster Tuesday at the pro day workout, registering times between 4.41-4.45 seconds, according to multiple sources. He also demonstrated his fluidity during drills. Scouts would have liked to have seen him fare better during ball-drills, however, as he'd shown a greater ability throughout his career in breaking up passes (26) than intercepting them (three) while with the Warriors.
Another intriguing "defensive back" at the SDSU workout played receiver while with the Aztecs.
Wideout Brice Butler caught 24 passes for 347 yards and four touchdowns in 2012 for San Diego State but some of the scouts on hand for the workout asked him about his willingness to make the switch to cornerback, the same position his father -- Bobby Butler -- used to play for the Atlanta Falcons from 1981-1992.
The younger Butler certainly helped his cause Tuesday by turning in blazing times in the 40-yard dash (4.36 seconds) and three-cone drill (6.62 seconds), as well as showing off his explosiveness in the vertical jump (39 inches) and broad jump (10 feet, 9 inches).
The 6-3, 206-pound Butler currently ranks as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 96-rated wide receiver. After this sparkling workout, he'll be rising up draft boards regardless of which position he'll be performing at in the NFL.