The annual NFL Scouting Combine is seven days of nearly nonstop work for team scouts, but it does have one major advantage: It’s all held in one place.
That’s the point of the Combine, of course. Approximately 300 draft-eligible prospects come to Indianapolis every winter in order to take part in workouts, interviews, medical examinations and cognitive tests in front of a whole league’s worth of scouts, general managers, coaches and other personnel evaluators. It’s convenient, if fast-paced.
That weeklong event usually takes up roughly the last week of February. In March and April, the entire scouting dynamic is reversed. Now it’s time for the scouts to hit the road, and they’ll be flying all across the nation for the next seven weeks or so. The Combine is over; now it’s time for Pro Days.
All of the major colleges and many of the smaller ones hold their own Pro Days, where draft-eligible prospects from their teams run through many of the same drills they did at the Combine. Here, the athletes have the advantages of their home turf, as well as some added preparation time to get ready for the key drills. The date, time, place and structure of the drills are all controlled by the school holding the Pro Day. Many times, a high-profile prospect looks to his Pro Day to improve upon a drill result he didn’t like in Indianapolis, such as a faster time in the 40-yard dash.
The sheer volume of the Pro Days, and the relatively compressed timeframe they are squeezed into, means a lot of travel for NFL scouts. It also calls for some rather complicated coordination of who on the staff is going where. Take next Monday for example. On the same day, Alabama State, Alabama-Birmingham, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Dakota State, San Diego and Troy are all holding their workouts. The very next day, it’s Albany, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Buffalo, Chattanooga, Michigan State, Missouri Southern, Northwestern, Tuskegee and Youngstown State.
And so on.
Let’s say the Buccaneers want to have a cadre of decision-makers at the workouts of all the most highly-regarded cornerbacks, as so many mock drafters expect they would. Well, Dee Milliner has the Alabama Pro Day on March 13, which happens to be the same day that Marcus Trufant will be on display at the Washington Pro Day. A week before that (next Wednesday), Johnthan Banks has the Mississippi State Pro Day, and almost a week later Xavier Rhodes and the Florida State Seminoles work out on-campus on March 19.
Obviously, Alabama’s Pro Day will draw a huge crowd of NFL scouts, as Milliner is just one of many top ‘Bama prospects heading for the draft. Others include T D.J. Fluker, RB Eddie Lacy and G Chance Warmack. Here are a few other notable Pro Days that will feature players expected to go early in April’s draft or players who are in need of a bump in draft stock, listed chronologically (find a complete list of dates here on NFL.com):
- Missouri…March 7 (DT Sheldon Richardson)
- Texas A&M…March 8 (T Luke Joeckel, DE Damontre Moore)
- Florida…March 12 (DT Sharrif Floyd)
- Oklahoma…March 13 (T Lane Johnson, QB Landry Jones)
- Cal…March 14 (WR Keenan Allen)
- West Virginia…March 14 (QB Geno Smith, WR Tavon Austin)
- Tennessee…March 20 (WR Cordarrelle Patterson, WR Justin Hunter, QB Tyler Bray)
- Utah…March 20 (DT Star Lotulelei)
- Central Michigan…March 21 (T Eric Fisher)
- Georgia…March 21 (LB Alec Ogletree, LB Jarvis Jones)
- Notre Dame…March 26 (TE Tyler Eifert, LB Manti Te’o, S Zeke Motta)
- LSU…March 27 (LB Barkevious Mingo, DE Sam Montgomery, CB Tyrann Mathieu)
- SMU…March 27 (Margus Hunt)
- USC…March 27 (Matt Barkley)
- BYU…March 28 (DE Ezekiel Ansah)