To close out last week’s article on the top pro day performances turned in by non-Combine players, here’s a look at the 2023 NFL Draft prospects on defense who stood out. It’s an eclectic group of pass rushers, run stuffers, and very athletic defensive backs.
NFL Pro Day News and Rumors: BJ Thompson and Jacob Slade Impress Among DL
I highlighted BJ Thompson from Stephen F. Austin during my pro day report on March 24, but the buzz keeps growing on the edge rusher. Thompson touched 37.5″ in the vertical jump and 10’5″ in the broad, despite jumping into a stiff wind. His 40 times ranged from 4.55 to 4.62 seconds, the three-cone coming in at 7.06 seconds, and the short shuttle at 4.46 seconds.
Thompson has had a handful of official 30 visits, including the Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, and San Francisco 49ers, with the latter three putting the athletic defender through private workouts.
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Jacob Slade entered the season largely ignored by scouts who did not feel he was a Sunday prospect. His play over eight games last year changed that opinion, and Slade’s pro-day workout squarely cemented him as a late-round pick/PFA type.
Slade and his 285-pound frame timed 4.94 seconds in the 40 with a super quick 10-yard split of 1.70 seconds. His three-cone time was impressive at 7.63 seconds, and Slade touched 31″ in the vertical jump.
Teams like his athleticism and mobility, and Slade is also getting looks as a potential developmental offensive guard. The Buffalo Bills are showing interest in the Spartan, and he’s had a lot of talks with the Lions.
Mariano Sori-Marin and Maalik Hall Both Stand Out at Linebacker
After a terrific senior season that saw Mariano Sori-Marin lead the Gophers with 88 tackles, the run-stuffing linebacker surprised scouts at his pro day. His 40 time of 4.62 seconds was .25 faster than expected, and some watches had him as quick as 4.55 seconds.
His three-cone was a terrific 7.17 seconds, and Sori-Marin hit 35″ in the vertical jump. Teams now believe Sori-Marin is capable of playing any of the three linebacker positions in a 4-3 alignment, and he’s getting a lot of love from the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans.
Readers of my weekly “Risers & Sliders” column should be familiar with Maalik Hall- he was my “Small School Prospect of the Week,” last September 19. He had a tremendous campaign in 2022, leading the defense with 77 tackles, 11.5 TFLs and eight sacks. Hall was equally impressive during his pro day when he timed as fast as 4.42 seconds in the 40, 4.34 seconds in the short shuttle, as well as touching 38.5″ in the vertical jump and 10’7″ in the broad.
Teams must now decide how quickly the 6-foot, 235-pound Hall can transition from being an up-the-field linebacker, which he was in college, to an off-the-ball linebacker, the skill he must display on Sunday. Regardless, special teams are where Hall must make his mark next season. The Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens, and New Orleans Saints have been in constant contact with Hall, with the Saints individually working him out after the pro day.
Ty Okada, Nico Bolden, and Jerrick Reed All Impressed Scouts at Pro Days
The Bobcats had one of the few pro days which bled into the month of April, but the 10 teams who made the trip to Bozeman saw one of the better workouts from any safety in the nation. Ty Okada’s marks included 40 times which ranged from 4.44 seconds to 4.50 seconds, 3.98 seconds in the short shuttle, and 6.85 seconds in the three-cone.
If that was not enough, he touched 40.5″ in the vertical jump and 10’9″ in the broad jump. Okada was graded by most, including yours truly, as a low-level street-free agent moving toward the draft, but that opinion must be revisited. He’s getting a lot of attention from the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and Los Angeles Rams.
I’ve had Nico Bolden graded as a next-level prospect the past two years despite the fact he was ignored by scouts entering the season. Bolden responded with a career-best 103 tackles in 2022, then blew away scouts during his pro day.
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Measuring 6’3 1/2″ and 208 pounds, Bolden timed 4.44 seconds in the 40 despite tweaking his hamstring during the run. He also timed 7.04 seconds in the three-cone and touched 41″ in the vertical jump and 10’7″ in the broad jump. He’s already made an official 30 visit to see the Minnesota Vikings and is garnering interest from the Cleveland Browns.
Jerrick Reed is an athletic run-defending safety who posted a career-best 94 tackles last season and also broke up 11 passes. He’s always been known as super athletic and proved as much during his pro day.
Reed timed as fast as 4.44 seconds in the 40 at 196 pounds, hit 38″ in the vertical jump, and 10’2″ in the broad. His three-cone (7.16 seconds) and short shuttle (4.31 seconds) were slightly disappointing and lend credence to the belief Reed is a straight line, downhill safety. Regardless, Reed has already made an official 30 visit to Seattle, and the Kansas City Chiefs are also interested in his services.