While most draft coverage is focusing on top names like C.J. Stroud, Anthony Richardson, and Bijan Robinson, we know the NFL Draft is about more than just the first round. Many forget that more players will be signed after the draft than the actual number of players chosen during the process. About 90% of those players signed after the draft did not participate in the 2023 NFL Combine.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at non-Combine players who performed well over the past month during pro day workouts and the teams targeting these players. We’ll start on the offensive side of the ball.
NFL Pro Day News and Rumors: Holton Ahlers Top QB To Watch
East Carolina quarterback Holton Ahlers entered the season as an afterthought in the scouting community and was looked upon as a player who would be lucky to receive a minicamp invite. Ahlers responded by turning in a terrific senior season and leading East Carolina to the Birmingham Bowl, where the Pirates put a beating on Coastal Carolina.
During the ECU Pro Day last week, Ahlers impressed scouts again. It wasn’t his testing numbers but rather his passing workout. Ahlers displayed a next-level arm and the ability to make all the throws. His accuracy and ability to perfectly place passes had scouts grinning.
There’s now a possibility Ahlers lands in the late rounds. The Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers, and New York Giants are all interested in the ECU signal-caller.
Hassan Hall and Ronnie Brown Top RB Options
Georgia Tech running back Hassan Hall produced a terrific campaign at Louisville in 2019 but fell off the scouting radar and was ignored by next-level decision-makers coming into the season. He fared reasonably well last year at Georgia Tech, rushing for 521 yards and catching 28 passes as a rotational back.
Hall opened a lot of eyes at pro day, timing 4.45 seconds in the 40 at 196 pounds, hitting 37″ on the vertical jump and 10’10’’ on the broad jump. His short-shuttle time was a swift four seconds flat.
Hall is productive anytime he handles the ball, and scouts also like his potential as a return specialist, a skill he showed during his time at Louisville. Hall is drawing a lot of interest from the New England Patriots, Detroit Lions, and Seattle Seahawks.
Ronnie Brown of Shepherd is another late-rounder to watch. When the conversation turns to next-level prospects from Shepherd, the names of Tyson Bagent and Joey Fisher immediately come to mind. Yet, scouts also have a very high opinion of Brown, who rushed for 1,863 yards and 19 TDs last season while also adding 56 receptions and five more scores.
Brown’s pro day workout was off the charts, as the 5’11’’, 192-pound running back timed 4.44 seconds in the 40, four seconds flat in the short shuttle, and a swift 6.98 seconds in the three-cone. Brown also reached 37″ in the vertical jump and 10’3” in the broad jump.
Brown, who’s already made trips to see the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Commanders on official 30 visits, will be quickly swiped up after the draft if he’s not selected during the event.
Buffalo WR Justin Marshall Makes His Claim
Buffalo wide receiver Justin Marshall comes off a career year in 2022, his only season with the team after transferring from Louisville. He totaled 64 receptions for 837 yards with nine touchdowns. After exceeding expectations on the field in 2022, Marshall was very impressive during the Buffalo Pro Day on March 16.
Marshall “officially” timed 4.48 in the 40, a full tenth faster than expected, though some watches had him in the low 4.4s. His other marks included 38″ in the vertical jump, 10’6’’ in the broad jump, and a three-cone time of 7.15 seconds.
Marshall measures 6’ 1 ¾”, 205 pounds, and has arms that reach a tick under 33″. He grades as a possible late seventh-round selection on my board. If not chosen during the draft, Marshall will be quickly signed with a team afterward. The Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Falcons ran Marshall through private workouts, and the receiver also attended the Bills’ local pro day.
Colton Dowell of Tennessee-Martin is a legitimate next-level prospect few are familiar with, and that’s unfortunate. He chose to return to UT-Martin for a second senior year after three productive seasons, and the gamble paid off. Dowell posted a career-best 67 receptions for 1,036 yards and six touchdowns last year.
Included in those numbers were five receptions for 53 yards against Boise State and seven receptions for 112 yards against Tennessee. During the UT-Martin Pro Day, Dowell touched 41.5″ in the vertical jump and 11’1’ in the broad jump. He chose to run the 40 last week during Tennessee’s Pro Day and timed 4.44 seconds, as well as 7.05 seconds in the three-cone.
These numbers have raised a lot of eyebrows for the 6’2 1/2”, 211-pound Dowell, who’s drawing a ton of interest from the Indianapolis Colts, NY Jets, Arizona Cardinals, and the Ravens.
Daniel Barker Could Be Late-Round TE Steal
After a terrific career at Illinois, Daniel Barker surprised many by transferring to Michigan State for his additional senior season. Barker had a solid campaign in 2022 for a Spartans team that had a losing record.
He was a Combine snub but made up for it during pro day, timing 4.75 seconds in the 40, despite straining a quad in his left leg. His other marks included 34″ in the vertical jump and 9’9’’ in the broad. Barker already made an official 30 visit with the TE-needy Lions and will participate in the Miami Dolphins’ local pro day.
Ilm Manning and Cooper Hodges Are Sleeper Linemen Prospects
For the past five years, Ilm Manning lined up at left tackle for Hawai’i, amassing 60 starts since 2018. NFL teams have different plans for the durable blocker, however, as he projects to center on Sundays.
Manning showed a lot of athleticism during pro day last month, timing as fast as 4.97 seconds in the 40 (with a quick 10-yard split of 1.76 seconds), touching 30.5″ in the vertical jump, and completing 25 reps on the bench press.
There’s a chance he could slide into the late part of the draft, but if not selected, look for the Dallas Cowboys or Chicago Bears to make a run at him. Manning had official 30 visits with both teams and a private workout with Dallas.
Cooper Hodges was another long-time starting tackle on the college level, holding down the RT spot at Appalachian State for the past four years. Like Manning, NFL teams also project Hodges to the interior offensive line on Sundays.
Hodges displayed NFL athleticism during his pro day, timing 5.06 seconds in the 40, reaching 29″ in the vertical jump, and 9’ even in the broad jump. He completed 29 reps on the bench after measuring 6’3 1/2” and 304 pounds with 33-inch arms.
Hodges has already made official 30 visits with the Kansas City Chiefs as well as the Jacksonville Jaguars and has a workout coming up with the Los Angeles Chargers.
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