Pro day season is here. Yes, really! The Kansas Jayhawks begin the circuit that'll garner significantly more attention than ever before with the 2021 NFL Scouting Combine being cancelled because of the pandemic. And with the heightened awareness of pro days comes big opportunities for a variety of prospects in the 2021 class.
This article doesn't outline every single prospect to watch at every single pro day. It outlines the prospects with the most to gain at their respective pro day workouts over the next two months.
Northwestern Pro Day
Tuesday, March 9
Biggest opportunities: OT Rashawn Slater, CB Greg Newsome
For Slater, everything will essentially come down to his weigh-in. If he's well below 6-foot-4 with arms under 33 inches, the "he's a guard" idea will grow. Even if he's right at 6-4 with arms hitting that 33-inch threshold some teams have for their tackles, he'll be good as gold in many draft rooms. Also, being a "smaller" tackle, an explosive workout from Slater would go a long way in cementing him as the consensus No. 2 offensive tackle in this class.
Newsome has gotten some first-round buzz, and he's being touted as a long speedster. The arm measurements, 40-yard dash, and jumps will be enormous for him.
Clemson Pro Day
Thursday, March 11
Biggest opportunities: OT Jackson Carman, RB Travis Etienne, WR Amari Rodgers
Carman is one of the biggest prospects in the entire class. He's listed at 6-5 and 335 pounds and appears to have vines for arms. Many of us want to know -- how close is he to that listed weight? How long are his arms? How well will he test if he's around 330 pounds?
Etienne and Najee Harris are neck and neck for the race to be the first running back off the board, and the Clemson star should be much faster than the Alabama workhorse. Setting the bar high, with a time somewhere in the 4.40s -- or maybe the 4.30s -- would be tremendous for Etienne.
Rodgers is built like a back at under 5-10 and 211 pounds. He looked quicker than expected running routes at the Senior Bowl. We know he's a stud after the catch. But just how fast is he?
Florida State Pro Day
Monday, March 22
Biggest opportunities: CB Asante Samuel Jr., EDGE Janarius Robinson, DT Marvin Wilson, S Hamsah Nasirildeen
Florida State has had a tumultuous couple of seasons since the Jimbo Fisher departure, and many of their recent marquee talents didn't live up to the recruiting hype while in Tallahassee. That goes for all of the above listed players except Samuel, who quietly pieced together a college career as a steady playmaker. We want to see his height-weight measurements and how twitchy he is in the agility drills. Long speed can always help a cornerback's draft stock too.
As for the rest of the group -- Robinson, Wilson, and Nasirildeen -- all were big recruits, especially Wilson, and we only saw glimpses of their talent over the past few seasons. Fortunately though, each of them are premier natural athletes for their positions, or so they appear on film. Robinson and Nasirildeen are in good standing. They should be picked somewhere from the second to the fourth round.
Wilson needs an impressive weigh-in and workout more than anyone else. Teams rightfully don't adore prospects who saw their college careers take a downward spiral.
Purdue Pro Day
Tuesday, March 23
Biggest opportunities: WR Rondale Moore
Hopefully, if he's fully healthy, Moore runs at his pro day. I want it so badly. Need it so badly. The hyper-explosive burner should run really fast, and after a career at Purdue that featured a litany of big-play creation and injuries, a super-fast time in the 40 and blaze in the agility drills could be parlayed into a cemented first-round draft status for Moore.
North Texas Pro Day
Thursday, March 25
Biggest opportunities: WR Jaelon Darden
Darden is a sleeper wideout prospect who did nothing but produce at North Texas and finished his career with a dazzling 74-1,190-19 line. Yes. 19 touchdowns. He's a lightning bug of a wideout, listed at 5-9 and 174 pounds. He's going to need to run really fast to be considered an early Day 3 type of prospect.
Penn State Pro Day
Thursday, March 25
Biggest opportunities: EDGE Jayson Oweh, LB Micah Parsons
Oweh is a two-time member of Bruce Feldman's "Freaks" list that denotes the 40 biggest freak athletes in college football. While that could indicate the expectations will be so high, the Penn State edge rusher doesn't really have a big opportunity in front of him, people want to see precisely how freaky he is. Oweh took a step forward from a technical perspective on the field in 2020, but his athletic profile will be the driving force in what gets him drafted.
Parsons is a speedy and thick linebacker we only got to see for two seasons for the Nittany Lions due to a 2020 opt out. A strong weigh-in and workout will likely solidified his status as the No. 1 linebacker on the majority of team's boards.
Virginia Tech Pro Day
Friday, March 26
Biggest opportunities: OT Christian Darrisaw
Darrisaw had a phenomenal 2020 for the Hokies, and at a listed at 6-5 and 314 pounds, he has requisite franchise left tackle size. Personally, I don't think it'd hurt Darrisaw if he measures in heavier than, say, 320, because the appeal with him over Slater or Alijah Vera-Tucker is his size and length.
On film, he glides all over the field and plays with effortless power and balance. The workout will certainly be impactful. I'm very interested in his weigh-in.
Miami Pro Day
Monday, March 29
Biggest opportunities: EDGE Gregory Rousseau
Rousseau has more on the line at his pro day than any other prospect in the entire 2021 class. Of course, he opted-out after a 15.5-sack redshirt freshman season in 2019. And depending where you look, he's either listed at 6-7 and 255 or 265 pounds. Plus, his arms look unfathomably long on film.
With his year away from the game to train, did Rousseau slim down to get more explosive to play on the edge? Or did he bulk up to indicate he can hang with the big boys on the inside in obvious passing situations? And how truly athletic is he? He looks explosive, but how about his change-of-direction capabilities? Rousseau's draft stock will all but fully hinge on everything we can take from his pro day in late March.
Ohio State Pro Day
Tuesday, March 30
Biggest opportunities: IOL Wyatt Davis, LB Justin Hilliard
Davis took a step back on the field in 2020 after a nearly flawless sophomore season in 2019. Even though there were more disappointing reps this past season, Davis still appears to be a stocky interior blocker with high-end athleticism. He needs to show off every ounce of his athletic talent to give himself an outside chance to go in Round 1.
Once the No. 3 outside linebacker recruit in the nation, we didn't get to see Hilliard in a full-time role for the Buckeyes in his long stay in Columbus due to his lengthy injury history.
On the field -- he's a blisteringly fast second-level defender with serious range, coverage, and pass-rushing chops. How well he tests, especially compared to expected-to-be-very-athletic Baron Browning, will be critical in any fluctuation in his draft stock.
LSU Pro Day
Wednesday, March 31
Biggest opportunities: WR Ja'Marr Chase, DT Tyler Shelvin, WR Terrace Marshall
Chase probably won't work out -- he could justifiable sit out and tell everyone to watch the 2019 film when he eviscerated everyone in the SEC then went bananas in the national title game against first-round cornerback A.J. Terrell. But, in the slight chance he does work out, he'll have an opportunity to assert himself as the consensus top wideout prospect in this class if he runs faster and has more explosive jumps than expected.
Everything of importance regarding Shelvin's pro day revolves around his weight. He can't play in today's NFL at over 370 pounds. And after opting out, teams and draft analysts alike will want to see him closer to 350 -- if not lower. A bonus too -- he'll likely be even more explosive and agile than he was on film, and he moved like he was much lighter in 2019 for the Tigers.
Marshall's game is predicated on his size/speed profile at 6-3. Is he a low 4.5 guy -- which would be respectable given his size -- or can he run in the mid 4.40s?
Notre Dame Pro Day
Wednesday, March 31
Biggest opportunities: DE Ade Ogundeji
Ogundeji turned heads at the Senior Bowl with a chiseled 253 pound-build at just under 6-5 with ridiculously long 35 1/4-inch arms. His arms are a fantastic first impression on film, but the Notre Dame standout also looks like a fluid, dynamic athlete capable of winning through a gap with his first step or effortlessly change directions when chasing a quarterback or runner.
We know how incredibly long Ogundeji is -- now we need to see his measured athleticism. With a strong workout, he can't be ruled out of Round 1.
Minnesota Pro Day
Thursday, April 1
Biggest opportunities: WR Rashod Bateman
Bateman is billed as one of the most complete wideouts in the class with better size than all the premier receiver prospects bound to go early in Round 1. His objective is an old school one -- run somewhere in the 4.40s, and he'll go in the first round. A vertical above 35 inches would go a long way in reaching that goal too.
Houston Pro Day
Friday, April 9
Biggest opportunities: EDGE Payton Turner, WR Marquez Stevenson
Turner might be the biggest dark horse prospect in the edge-rusher class, listed at a rocked-up 6-6 and 270 pounds with a well-developed arsenal of pass-rushing moves and good twitch. We need to see how explosive he is out of the gate to determine whether or not he can win with his speed rush in the NFL.
At 5-10 and 182 pounds, Stevenson has the physical makeup to run extremely fast. On film, he's a blur. His final season at Houston was marred by a serious injury, so his pro day will be critical for his draft stock. Remember, fast prospects don't last long on draft weekend.