2018 NFL Draft

Andrew Luck highlights strong pro day for Stanford's 'Fantastic Four'

Andrew Luck highlights strong pro day for Stanford's 'Fantastic Four'

By Rob Rang | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com
PALO ALTO, Calif. - If Robert Griffin III's spectacular Pro Day workout Wednesday tightened whatever gap there was between he and Andrew Luck, the Stanford quarterback responded Thursday at his own on campus workout the same way he has taken on every other challenger to his throne as the elite player in this draft - with unassuming dominance.

Fighting wind gusts of an estimated 20 miles per hour, Luck completed 45 of the 48 passes quarterbacks guru George Whitfield told scouts before the workout his pupil would be throwing. Only one pass - a deep ball early in his session - was thrown poorly. The pass held up in the wind and fluttered, though it was caught. The three incompletions were perfectly thrown passes delivered to wide receivers Griff Whalen and Chris Owusu, as well as one thrown to tight end Coby Fleener that simply slipped through the fingers of his normally sure-handed targets. Luck did this after completing every one of the estimated 20 warm-up throws.

"(Luck's) throwing session was the kind of workout we all expected," one high-ranking team official thought to be considering a quarterback told me, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "The quick release, mobility, anticipation and touch were all there. He also showed a bit more arm strength than you might have thought based on tape, especially on that last deep ball. It was wind-aided, of course, but that ball went 70-plus (yards) and he didn't wind up; he just let it rip."

The workout wasn't flashy. Frankly, having attended the Pro Days of other top quarterback prospects Mark Sanchez, Sam Bradford and Jake Locker in recent years, I'd rank it second to Bradford's. That said, Bradford had the luxury of throwing inside and had more to prove after missing the 2009 season with a shoulder injury.

"I think I wanted to come out here and put my best foot forward in front of the scouts," Luck said following the workout. "I thought I did that. I thought I made the throws I needed to make."

The workout was taken in by representatives of virtually every team. Surprisingly, Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson were not seen, though the Colts did have at least two representatives on hand, including quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen. The Washington Redskins, owners of the No. 2 overall pick, were well represented. Owner Daniel Snyder, head coach Mike Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen were all present. Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt, Pittsburgh general manager Kevin Colbert and Oakland Raiders' general manager Reggie McKenzie were among the other decision-makers on the field.

While Luck certainly was the headliner of the workout, scouts expect he'll be joined in the April 26 first round by three other Cardinal.

Fleener, the lone senior of Stanford's "Fantastic Four" and the one battling the hardest to be included in the first-round conversation, certainly looked the part of a top 32 prospect Wednesday, dazzling scouts with his speed, agility and sure hands. Fleener, measuring in at 6-5, 241 pounds, was clocked between 4.45-4.50 seconds in the 40-yard dash and more important, carried over that speed into a positional workout that featured several impressive catches, including one down the deep middle in which he was forced to turn back toward the ball and adjust to a high pass thrown slightly behind him.

Fleener, NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated tight end, also tested very well in the vertical jump (37 inches). He'd proven his strength at the Scouting Combine by posting 27 repetitions of 225 pounds, tied for second among all tight ends tested this year.

Fleener's workout was viewed by some as even more critical than Luck's choreographed throwing session, as the tight end wasn't able to participate in the Combine due to a high right ankle sprain. The injury threatened to rob Fleener of this opportunity, as well. After slipping running the three cone drill, Fleener was seen having his right ankle re-taped. He seemed no worse for the wear, however, during his positional drills.

Other than Luck, the prospect most scouts feel is the safest of Stanford's incredible 2012 draft class is right guard David DeCastro. Tenacious, physical and athletic, DeCastro has earned comparisons to some of the greatest guards in recent NFL history. Stanford head coach David Shaw compared DeCastro to former All-Pro Steve Wisniewski, a man he helped coach while both were with the Raiders.

Having participated fully at the Combine, DeCastro spent at least 20 minutes of the early portion of Thursday's workout talking with Cincinnati offensive line coach Paul Alexander - one of eight OL coaches I was told attended the workout. DeCastro's trademark agility and explosiveness were on display during his positional drill.

As impressive as DeCastro was, former linemate Jonathan Martin was disappointing.

Advertised as a top-notch athlete, the First Team All-Pac 12 left tackle was timed at 5.33 seconds in his first attempt at the 40-yard dash. Worse, this attempt was aided by the wind. Martin came in at 5.43 seconds, according to scouts, on his second attempt against the wind. Perhaps more alarming was that the 6-5, 307-pound Martin lifted the bar only 20 times during the bench press and wasn't as fluid or explosive as DeCastro during position drills.

Martin was also just average in the vertical (30") and broad jump (8'8") - at least in comparison to how other highly regarded offensive tackles performed at the Combine. While Martin's disappointing Pro Day will no doubt raise some concerns, three impressive years protecting Luck's blind side speaks for itself and will almost surely keep the big man in the draft's initial frame.

Having turned in one of the Combine's most impressive all-around workouts at any position, Owusu elected not to participate in timed events Thursday but he starred during receiver drills. Owusu, who was clocked at 4.36 seconds in the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis, showed that his explosiveness translated nicely onto the field Thursday, running sharp routes, showing generally reliable hands and providing the speedy target on the outside to help Luck alleviate any concerns about his arm strength or touch on the deep ball.

Scouts know Owusu well. He had been graded as a possible top 100 prospect heading into his senior season before concussions cut his 2011 campaign short. If teams are willing to pass him medically, there is no question he has the talent to help a club as an outside vertical threat and kick returner.

Several other members of the Cardinal, while not candidates for the early rounds, helped their chances at hearing their names called at some point in the draft with strong efforts Thursday.

"It's not just about the top guys that made today's workout so impressive," McKenzie said following the workout. "Obviously, (Stanford) has some guys who are going to be drafted very high. What was impressive was the number of guys on the field today that will get into a camp. That's the mark of a big-time program. And (Stanford) proved that they have a lot of those guys today."

Some of "those guys" were versatile defensive backs Delano Howell, Michael Thomas and Johnson Bademosi - each of whom could earn late-round looks as safeties.

Howell, a three-year all-conference selection, has solid tape and helped prove he has the athleticism to compete in the NFL with solid times in the 40-yard dash (4.52-4.57) - an improvement of nearly a tenth of a second from his fastest time at the Combine. Thomas, who was not invited to Indianapolis, also ran well (4.52-4.61) and added an impressive 38" vertical jump and 10'4" broad jump.

Perhaps the most intriguing, however, was Bademosi, who was clocked at a startling 4.35 on his first 40 attempt and also demonstrated incredible explosiveness in the vertical (40") and broad jump (10'5"). Graded by some clubs as a corner and others as a developmental free safety prospect, Bademosi may have earned himself a draft selection with his effort Thursday.

Whalen, also not invited to the Combine, wasn't particularly explosive in timed drills - running between 4.55-4.62 in his two 40-yard dash attempts - but showed terrific quickness in and out of his breaks. His consistent route-running was mentioned by more than one scout attending the workout as similar to the sharp cutting ability that helped 2011 undrafted free agent Doug Baldwin emerge as the Seattle Seahawks' leading receiver as a rookie (51 catches for 788 yards).

Defensive lineman Matt Masifilo also turned heads. Measuring in at 6-3 (1/2) and 300 pounds, he posted a surprisingly quick 5.12 time in the 40-yard dash and proved the strongest of Stanford's prospects Thursday, posting 38 reps on the bench press.
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