Arkansas Football: 3 Players with the Most to Prove at Pro Day
March is synonymous with madness and the NCAA tournament for college basketball. But, it is also a big month for college football with it being full of pro days for NFL teams to analyze potential draft picks.
The Arkansas Razorbacks don't have as many prospects as they normally do, but there are a few who will be looking to make good impressions on NFL teams in hopes of increasing their draft stock or hearing their name called at all.
The Hogs will hold their pro day on Wednesday, March 5, along with several other programs. Scouts will be making their way to Fayetteville to evaluate several prospects, so there's no need to elaborate on how big of a day it will be for a few players.
Here we take a look at three players from the Hogs who have the most to prove on pro day.
K Zach Hocker
Arkansas' draft prospects are thin this year, but kicker Zach Hocker has a chance to hear his name called. He's rated the No. 6 kicker in the draft by CBSSports.com, but he is also listed outside of the seventh round to free-agent zone.
Hocker had a very good career as a Hog, being a big part of the team all four years from 2010-13. He ended his time as a Razorback in November with a 77.2 field-goal percentage. While that is not great, his number could have been significantly higher had he not had a down junior year.
In 2012, Hocker lost his touch for a while, finishing 11-for-18 (61.1 percent). The lowest percentage he had other than his junior year was as a sophomore when he had a percentage of 77.8 (21-27). His best numbers came as a freshman and senior. In 2010, Hocker made 16 of 19 (84.2 percent) FG attempts, and last year as a senior, he posted a mark of 86.7 (13-15).
The problem for Hocker isn't his leg strength, which he has shown he has plenty of. In fact, he was 19-of-30 (63.3 percent) on field goals of 40-plus yards and was 5-of-7 (71.4 percent) from 50 and over. In 2013, he hit three of four from 50-plus yards out and five of seven from over 40.
He's shown he can hit long attempts and holds a career long of 54 yards. The big question is whether he can have the consistency expected from an NFL kicker.
Wednesday, Hocker will have a shot to showcase his skills for scouts. He has a lot to prove if he wants to make an NFL team, but with a strong showing at Arkansas' pro day, he could work his way into possibly hearing his name called or at least getting a free-agent deal.
DE Chris Smith
First of all, defensive end Chris Smith doesn't have to prove he has the talent to be selected in the draft. He is rated the No. 11 defensive end by CBSSports.com and is currently projected as a third- to fourth-round pick.
What he can prove is that teams should consider drafting him with a higher pick. Smith had a good outing at the combine, displaying his quick feet and explosiveness. His stats in college show he can be a disruption in backfields.
For his career, Smith recorded 21.5 sacks, 30.5 tackles for loss and 122 tackles. He led Arkansas in sacks in his last two seasons, racking up 18 and 24.5 TFL.
You take one look at his frame and it looks like a prototypical one for an NFL end. He is instinctive and highly flexible as a pass-rusher. His first two steps are explosive, and he has shown very good lateral quickness.
However, at 6'1", he doesn't have optimal height that most NFL ends have. His stature could make scouts view him as a tweener. Smith had trouble in college getting by linemen who were standing up and was even handled at times by tight ends. He will also have to get better at making an impact in pursuit of running backs from the backside and in the open field.
Smith showed at the combine he has the speed and explosiveness to make an impact at the next level, but if he wants to secure being selected in the higher rounds, he will need a strong showing at the Hogs' pro day.
C Travis Swanson
The highest rated prospect for the Razorbacks this year is center Travis Swanson, who is rated the No. 98 overall prospect in the draft and the No. 3 center by CBSSports.com.
He was rated the No. 1 center in the draft, but he dropped two spots in the latest rankings. Swanson has the potential to be selected in the second round, and there are several teams in need of a center.
Swanson isn't as fast as might NFL teams would like, clocking a 5.28 40-yard dash time. However, he has very good athleticism and can help runners get inside lanes by sealing off defenders. One of the biggest things teams want in O-linemen is durability, and Swanson was the model of that, starting all 50 games of his career as a Hog.
The big thing he has to get better at is his quickness. Swanson will be up against much more athletic D-linemen at the next level, and that means if he wants to have an impact, he's going to have to be quicker with his footwork and hands.
There's a reason he was a first-team All-SEC selection in 2013. Swanson has the tools to succeed in the NFL and will hear his name called on draft day. However, with a big pro day, he could make himself a second-round pick.
Bryan Heater is the featured columnist for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Follow him on Twitter @BHeaterRivals.
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