The focus of draft preparation for NFL teams has shifted from the recent scouting combine in Indianapolis to the dozens of pro days to be held around the country leading up to the April 22-24 draft.
|Sam Bradford's March 25 workout could vault him to No. 1 pick. (Getty Images)|
Representatives from all 32 teams are also expected to attend the workouts of quarterbacks Jimmy Clausen (Notre Dame), Colt McCoy (Texas), Tim Tebow (Florida) and Dan LeFevour (Central Michigan), who along with Bradford are the top five rated quarterbacks by NFLDraftScout.com after Cincinnati's Tony Pike dropped to No. 7 following a poor showing in Indianapolis. With injury, mechanics and/or stature concerns dogging each, their pro days could determine the pecking order come draft day.
And that's just the quarterbacks. With teams still waiting to see full workouts from potential first-round running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, defensive ends, linebackers and cornerbacks, the pro day calendar will prove critical in shaping draft boards.
A closer look at the key pro day workouts NFL scouts, coaches and executives will be sure not to miss:
March 10 -- Oklahoma State: Big-play wide receiver Dez Bryant is expected to miss the Cowboys' pro day due to a hamstring injury that also prevented him from running at the combine. He has scheduled a personal workout March 25. Coach Mike Gundy also said he barred Perrish Cox from the workout following his suspension before the Alamo Bowl for a pair of curfew violations. Scouts will still flock to Stillwater with offensive tackle Russell Okung, a strong candidate to be selected in the top five, and quarterback Zac Robinson expected to work out. Both are coming off solid performances in Indianapolis.
March 10 -- Alabama: The Crimson Tide feature as many draftable prospects as any team in the country, but all eyes in Tuscaloosa will be on junior linebacker Rolando McClain. The 2009 Butkus Award-winner elected not to run the 40-yard dash at the combine. To assure himself of a top 20 pick, he'll need to be impressive because inside linebackers have a tendency to drop on draft day.
March 15 -- Georgia Tech: All four of the Yellow Jackets' junior stars, defensive end Derrick Morgan, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, running back Jonathan Dwyer and safety Morgan Burnett, are expected to be top 75 selections, with Morgan a top 10 candidate. Thomas, however, isn't likely to be ready to work out for scouts after sustaining a broken foot during combine preparation Feb. 16.
March 17 -- Florida: Tebow will finally unveil the throwing motion he has been working to improve. How he throws in Gainesville isn't likely to change the minds of scouts, as those who liked or disliked the polarizing prospect before aren't likely to be significantly swayed by one workout. Cornerback Joe Haden will attempt to quiet concerns about his stunningly pedestrian workout at the combine. Tight end Aaron Hernandez (who didn't work out at the combine), center Maurkice Pouncey (who didn't lift) and inside linebacker Brandon Spikes (who didn't run) will all be on the spot. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who did everything scouts asked of him at the combine, could take advantage of another opportunity to show off his tools.
March 17 -- Tennessee: Defensive back Eric Berry and nose guard Dan Williams aren't expected to work out after posting strong performances in Indianapolis, but there is still plenty for scouts to see in Knoxville. Running back Montario Hardesty should take advantage of any opportunity to work out for scouts after pulling out late from the Senior Bowl. The Vols also offer two of the more intriguing combine snubs in quarterback Jonathan Crompton and linebacker Rico McCoy.
March 24 -- Central Michigan: LeFevour needs a strong performance to win over scouts who questioned his competitive spirit after he elected not to complete the passing drills at the combine. The timing of LeFevour's pro day could make it all the more difficult for him to regain the momentum he generated with a strong week at the Senior Bowl, as his workout could be overshadowed by Bradford's the following day.
March 25 -- QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma: With his pro day nearly a full month after the combine, the Rams (and every other team in the NFL) will have received the results of the medical checks on Bradford's injured right shoulder. They'll know heading into this workout if he is a legitimate candidate to be the first pick. If Bradford is as impressive throwing the ball as Matt Stafford and Mark Sanchez were at their pro days last year, some believe the Rams could turn in their card to the commissioner a month early.
March 26 -- Boise State: The Broncos could see a surprisingly large contingent of scouts descend upon the blue turf to see if cornerback Kyle Wilson can lay claim as the second best cornerback in the draft behind Haden. Wilson was impressive at the Senior Bowl and during the bench press (25 bench reps at 225 pounds) at the combine, but was unable to run due to a pulled hamstring.
March 27 -- TE Rob Gronkowski, Arizona: Having not played a snap of football since the Las Vegas Bowl Dec. 20, 2008, Gronkowski will attempt to prove that he's fully recovered from back pain and subsequent surgery. With Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham struggling to recover from his own season-ending knee surgery, a strong performance from "Gronk" could vault him into the top tight end spot.
March 31 -- USC: It won't be the circus it was last year with Sanchez in the center ring, but the Trojans' pro day remains one of the key stops with four potential first-round picks in safety Taylor Mays, wide receiver Damian Williams, pass rusher Everson Griffen and offensive tackle Charles Brown. In the minds of scouts, Mays is the one to watch -- an impressive workout warrior who is likely to post more eye-popping results on his home turf.
March 31 -- Texas: Is Colt McCoy truly over the shoulder injury that knocked him out of the BCS Championship Game? That's the first thing that will bring NFL scouts to Austin in droves. McCoy's ability to throw accurately to the intermediate and deep levels of the field could determine if he makes the bottom portion of the first round or slips to the third. Scouts may also want to see if pass rusher Sergio Kindle and defensive tackle LaMarr Houston can repeat their strong performances at the combine, or if wide receiver Jordan Shipley, who was disappointing in Indianapolis, can bounce back.
April 8 -- OLB Brandon Graham, Michigan: Graham will miss Michigan's March 12 pro day due to a pulled hamstring suffered at the combine, but scheduled a personal workout. Scouts want to be sure the former 6-1, 263-pound defensive end has the agility and balance to handle the conversion to rush linebacker, a la former teammate (and current Pittsburgh Steeler) LaMarr Woodley.
April 9 -- QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame: Clausen was unable to work out at the combine and has a late pro day to give himself time to recover from the Jan. 5 surgery to repair two torn ligaments in his right big toe. By April, every NFL team will know its doctors' opinions of Clausen's recovery. The late workout gives him little time to reschedule should there be any problems, but a strong performance could provide the final impression needed to secure Clausen a spot in the top 10. Rob Rang is a Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange.