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Pro Day Roundup: Takeaways from top NFL Draft prospects


The top 2018 NFL Draft prospects are looking to impress as they compete in their Pro Days:

After gathering in Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine, the football community took its show on the road.

For the last few weeks, college teams across the county have held pro days to showcase their top prospects for the upcoming draft. From scouts to position coaches to coordinators to head coaches and general managers, NFL teams dispatched various contingents to these campuses in their ongoing attempt to gather as much information as possible on these players.

As of Thursday, many of the biggest names in this year's class, including two Heisman Trophy winners, had held their pro days. Here is what we learned from them:

Pro Day: 3/14
Takeaway: Oklahoma's pro day coincided with the first day of free agency. So while front offices were busy signing, re-signing and trading veteran players from the home front, they sent staffers to Norman to watch the Sooners, particularly the Heisman Trophy winner. According to senior analyst and longtime Cowboys personnel executive Gil Brandt, Mayfield completed 62 of 70 passes, including seven uncatchable passes and one drop.

Meanwhile, Orlando Brown, one of the highest rated offensive tackles in this year's class, rebounded from his showing at the NFL Scouting Combine last month in Indianapolis. "There is the most diverse range of opinions on Orlando Brown than perhaps any player in the draft," NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock said. "A lot of people watch the same tape and say he's a second-round pick, and someone else says he's a sixth-round pick."

Pro Day: 3/15
Takeaway: While he battles Mayfield for the title of the most accurate passer in the QB class, Rosen showed his skills at UCLA's pro day, which was held outdoors. Mayock liked what he saw on the breezy day. "I thought he threw the ball beautifully. By the way, not a surprise," Mayock said. "The most natural thrower in the draft. Clear feet. Clear vision. He's beautiful. His issue is going to be, in my opinion, durability and the ability to survive in the NFL pocket."

Pro Day: 3/19
Takeaway: Chubb's buzz has grown since his pro day in regards to the Giants, who this week traded Super Bowl-winning defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul to the Buccaneers. Chubb picked up first-team All-American and All-ACC honors in his senior season in addition to winning the 2017 Hendricks (best defensive end) and Bronko Nagurski (best defender) awards. He finished second in the nation with 26 tackles for loss, including 10 sacks and three forced fumbles.

Chubb played in a 4-3 defense during his four years in college but said he would still be a good fit in a 3-4. Giants coach Pat Shurmur brought on James Bettcher to run his defense after three successful seasons as the Cardinals' defensive coordinator. If you had to label his defense, it would be 3-4. But "multiple" is a better description. Besides, any coach, no matter the scheme, will maximize the strengths of a player like Chubb.

"I think I fit pretty well," Chubb said at the combine of possibly playing in a 3-4 scheme. "If you watched my film throughout college, I stood up and dropped a lot as well. I not only pass rushed, I dropped and covered backs, covered tight ends. So I wouldn't be uncomfortable doing it."

Pro Day: 3/20
Takeaway: Tired of running in shorts and a T-shirt, Barkley is ready to put the pads back on. The Heisman Trophy finalist, not surprisingly, dazzled people with his numbers back at the combine. And while he and his college coach both thought he could improve those numbers, Barkley saw no reason to work out at the pro day. People have already seen plenty of film to know Penn State's all-time rushing touchdown (43) and total touchdown leader is one of the top prospects, if not the top.

"I do truly believe I'm the best player in the draft. There are a lot of great players from the Bakers (Mayfield) to the Josh Allens to the Bradley Chubbs and so on," Barkley told NFL Network at his pro day. "I give respect to those guys, but I personally think I'm the most versatile player in the draft. And not just talking about stat-wise. I think I bring a value to a team that doesn't show up on film, doesn't show up in the stat book."

Pro Day: 3/21
Takeaway: Following his breakout season as a redshirt freshman in 2016, Darnold was immediately pegged as the top quarterback prospect once he became eligible for the draft. When it's all said and done next month, that may still be the case more than a year later. Darnold made his closing case at USC's pro day, not skipping a beat in rainy conditions on campus.

"I watched Darnold throw during a workout on a windy day about a month ago," NFL Media draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. "It was dry that day. I thought he threw it even better Wednesday in the wet weather than he did in the dry weather. He's a competitive guy, and it showed in the way he successfully overcame the elements.

"Andrew Luck's pro day at Stanford in 2012 is as good of a workout as I've seen for a QB. He threw into the wind that day and looked great. Darnold does not have quite the same arm strength as Luck, but I thought Darnold's anticipation and timing were outstanding Wednesday. The touch that he displayed stood out. It was one of the better pro days I've seen."

Pro Day: 3/22
Takeaway: Nelson was one of the stars at the combine, where momentum gathered for him possibly landing in the top five, which is rarefied air for a guard. Recent pay days at the position are evidence of a growing demand for quality interior linemen, making Nelson that much more valuable on a rookie contract. Meanwhile, teams also looked at Mike McGlinchey, who played left tackle next to Nelson.

Pro Day: 3/23
Takeaway: Wyoming's pro day was another opportunity for Allen to show off his prototypical size and arm strength, which are second to none in this draft. He showed those traits on Friday as well as his ability to throw on the run – left or right. Additionally, Allen separates himself from the class with his experience taking snaps from under center as opposed to shotgun.

Where Allen is questioned, though, is his touch and accuracy. Naturally, Allen's team wanted to emphasize that at his pro day, and he answered some of those concerns with some nice touch passes. His grand finale was a set of deep passes to show off his arm. It was as ridiculous as advertised.

"I've been laughing for about the last 10 minutes," Mayock said after Allen wrapped up his throws. "When you talk to scouts and coaches they always tell you that you have to see a guy throw live. So [we] watch all this tape and it looks like a big arm. We were fortunate enough to see him live at the Senior Bowl, and today he was just kind of showing off. So from my perspective, here's what I saw: He's worked really hard on his footwork and his touch. The accuracy has followed. It looks really good. I think the one caveat I would offer, though, is that it's great to get in habits in a pair of gym shorts. But when you're under fire in an NFL game, how is the footwork going to hold up? So I think he's checked every box. I think he did everything he could do today, but I think we still have the caveat of, ok, what's it going to look like when he gets in pads in the NFL?"

Takeaway: Jackson is one of two Heisman Trophy winners in this year's quarterbacks class – Baker Mayfield is the other -- after becoming the youngest player ever to win the award as a sophomore in 2016.  That year, the Louisville product set ACC records for the most rushing yards (1,571) and rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (21). He went on to finish his career with 4,132 yards and 50 scores on the ground. Through the air, Jackson completed 57 percent of his passes for 9,043 yards (238.0 per game) and 69 touchdowns to 27 interceptions.

At the combine last month, Jackson shot down rumors that some teams asked the 6-foot-2, 216-pound quarterback to work out as a wide receiver. "I'm strictly a quarterback," he said at the time. Jackson did not run the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis and opted out again at Louisville's pro day, feeling he had shown enough of his speed on film.

"I feel like game speed is going to tell it all," Jackson said Thursday after his pro day. "You've got to catch me first, so I feel like I proved that."

Jackson, however, did show off his passing skills. Working with a real center as opposed to just having a staff member flip him the ball like most prospects do, Jackson threw 59 passes in all. The NFL Network crew broke down the workout.  

"I thought it was good. I thought the ball came out of his hand better today," Daniel Jeremiah said. "I thought he had improved some areas with his base. I thought the concerns we had, though, with him driving the ball outside are still there. I think that's still something he's working through. He was just inconsistent in that regard. I would have liked more volume of those drive-type throws than the long, long running list of underneath throws and touch throws down the field that we got, but it was a solid pro day. I don't think it was anything spectacular, and I don't think he was terrible. It was just a solid, solid day."

"He hit it down the fairway," Bucky Brooks said. "He didn't mess it up. I think if you look at this performance compared to the way that he looked at the combine, this was an improvement. I feel like he was in a better rhythm. He threw it with more confidence. He was more decisive. Yes, I would have liked to see him push the ball outside the numbers, but what he was able to do working inside, I think it just kind of confirms how you're going to have to play with him if he has to play right away in your system. You're going to have to throw the ball inside the numbers, quick rhythm throws, put him on the move. But in terms of a pro day, [it was] a solid overall day."

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