Breaking Down the Most Important Pro Days for the Cleveland Browns
So much attention is placed on the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis that it is easy to forget about the pro days. Every team has them and some players hold their own. The importance of them for a team increases each year as players opt to do less at the combine.
These days, choosing to do passing drills in a controlled environment with receivers you know and trust is the norm for quarterbacks. Having your own coach hold the stopwatch and running on a field you are familiar with is becoming more common amongst running backs.
With these pro days becoming increasingly more important, the Cleveland Browns must travel thousands of miles to make sure they evaluate every bit of each player.
Some have passed and others are still to come but each holds its own individual importance to Cleveland’s draft.
Here are some of the most important pro days for the Browns.
University of Buffalo's Pro Day
The Browns have made some waves at the inside linebacker position this offseason.
First, they released longtime defensive captain D’Qwell Jackson. Then new general manager Ray Farmer made a splash by signed linebacker Karlos Dansby, the brash playmaking former Arizona Cardinal, to a four-year deal.
The Browns still need to look to the future, however. Mike Pettine’s defense needs attacking, playmaking linebackers on the inside and Dansby only has a few years left. That is why the Browns needed to pay extra special attention to Khalil Mack at Buffalo’s pro day on March 4.
The Browns need a game-changer on defense, and Mack looks like he could be one of those guys. Would the Browns dare to select him with the fourth overall selection?
Gil Brandt of NFL.com said he did not think it was possible, but Mack actually improved on his monster scouting combine performance.
Mack, who weighed in at 252 pounds, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds (he only ran the 40 once), which topped the 4.65 official time that he ran at the NFL Scouting Combine. He worked out both in space and with his hand in the ground, and blew people away with his pass-rush ability.
If it was possible for Mack to improve his draft chances, he did it at Buffalo’s pro day. He continues to be one of seven guys who theoretically could be the first overall selection in the 2014 draft, a list that also includes quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel, offensive tackle Greg Robinson, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
Clemson's Pro Day
Another area the Browns desperately need to improve is at wide receiver. So far they have added a very explosive, young slot receiver in Andrew Hawkins from Cincinnati but have not found a second option behind Josh Gordon.
They are obviously looking to the draft to fill that role. If they want to pull the trigger early then Clemson’s Sammy Watkins is the guy they would target. It would cost the Browns the fourth overall selection but many feel that he is well worth the price.
NFL.com’s Gil Brandt took in Clemson’s pro day on March 6 and said Watkins performed as advertised.
Watkins (6-0 3/4, 214 pounds) kept all of his combine numbers and had an excellent workout. He’s an excellent route runner and has hands like a vacuum cleaner — he caught everything. Watkins solidified his position as a top-five player.
Watkins is not the only player the Browns could have been scouting there, however. Quarterback Tajh Boyd could be an option if the Browns decide not to select a quarterback on the first day. Also, guard Tyler Shatley is a late-round guy at a position the Browns desperately need to improve.
Louisville's Pro Day
One of the most anticipated pro days this offseason came on Monday, March 17 in Louisville. Teddy Bridgewater, who did not throw at the scouting combine, was finally going to show off his skills for the NFL scouts.
It did not quite go as planned.
NFL Network's Mike Mayock and Kurt Warner were both very unimpressed with Bridgewater’s performance. As reported at NFL.com
NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock and NFL Network analyst Kurt Warner weren't wowed by the workout, with Warner pointing out mechanical issues and Mayock saying "I expected a little bit more today."
Mayock said that while most quarterbacks have good pro days because they are able to script the workout and are throwing in a controlled environment, Bridgewater's workout was "average at best." Mayock said he saw "a lot of flutters, a lot of inaccuracy.
With the Browns holding the fourth overall selection and there likely being one of the top quarterbacks available when they pick, they must decide how much stock to put into this workout.
Was this a blip on the radar that can be negated by years of good film? Or was this a red flag, considering Bridgewater was in a controlled environment and should have excelled? Only the Browns brass knows how it feels and whether the performance will factor into their decision come draft day.
Florida State's Pro Day
On Tuesday, March 18, the Florida State Seminoles held their pro day, and it looked like one of the more interesting workouts as far as the Browns were concerned.
While all the hype involving Florida State this year surrounded Jameis Winston, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback is not eligible for the 2014 draft.
However, Seminoles wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and linebacker Christian Jones are not only available but very much in play for the Browns.
Benjamin is a name that has been linked to the Browns with their 26th pick in many mock drafts. NFL.com’s Gil Brandt said Benjamin may have solidified himself in that area of the draft on Tuesday.
Benjamin had a 33-inch vertical jump, a 4.50-second short shuttle, and then stood on the rest of his numbers from the NFL Scouting Combine. Benjamin had an impressive pro-day workout. He showed that he’s a very good route runner and caught the ball extremely well. I would imagine that this workout gives him an opportunity to be picked late in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
According to Brandt, Jones was also impressive in his pro day and looks to be a late third- or early fourth-round selection. This is exactly where I had the Browns selecting him in my latest mock draft.
Jones ran the short shuttle in 4.44 seconds, the three-cone in 7.03 seconds and had 17 reps on the bench press. He stood on the rest of his numbers from the combine. Jones was impressive at the pro day, and looks like a late third-round or high fourth-round pick.
Johnny Manziel's Personal Pro Day
While the Texas A&M Aggies held their pro day on March 5, two of their three biggest stars did not participate. Only tackle Jake Matthews worked out for scouts. Quarterback Johnny Manziel is holding his own personal pro day on March 27, and wide receiver Mike Evans is expected to join him.
The Browns, who could very well select Manziel with the fourth overall pick or maneuver around in the first round and select Evans, will be paying close attention.
Manziel, who ran a 4.68 second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, did not throw. This will be the scout’s first chance to see his improvement since the season ended. Evans, who posted very good numbers at the combine as well, should impress easily with his quarterback tossing him passes.
It is tough for a receiver to hurt his draft stock at a pro day but much easier for a quarterback. There will be a lot riding for Manziel. He clearly has doubters to sway.
Penn State's Pro Day
One of the more intriguing receiver prospects in the draft will work out with his team on April 8. Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson has the size, hands and physicality to be a first-round selection.
Does he have the speed though?
Robinson ran a 4.60 second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine. That is not a terrible number, but if he can shave some time off of it and get it closer to 4.50, then he may be able to jump into the first round. That is how small a margin these guys are working with.
Studying more tape on Allen Robinson... Wish he had more juice but I love the way he fights for every inch after the catch. Very physical— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) March 10, 2014
The Browns will also be looking at linebacker Glenn Carson. While he most likely is a late-round selection or free-agent signing, Penn State linebackers have a track record of success in the NFL. He struggled in coverage at Penn State, and Browns’ scouts will be looking for how quickly he can turn his hips and stay with receivers.