As the NFL draft process enters its final month, players not invited to the NFL Combine had the opportunity to stand out through their pro days. Big numbers here could catch the eyes of NFL scouts just as they did for Adam Thielen, Tyreek Hill, Malcolm Smith, Julian Edelman, and Phillip Lindsay – all Combine snubs who needed excellent workouts outside of the Combine environment to catch the eyes of NFL teams.
This year, a number of players put in excellent performances without having been invited to the NFL Combine. After weighing workout scores to how they predict performance in the NFL, we take a look at the top pro day performances that have gone unnoticed.
Top 2023 NFL Pro Days
Roschon Johnson, RB, Texas
Overshadowed by Bijan Robinson at Texas, Roschon Johnson was an effective and efficient runner for the Longhorns, averaging 6.0 yards per carry in his final year. He was initially recruited as a quarterback but thrived after switching to running back as a complement to Robinson.
Though a 4.58-second 40-yard dash doesn’t sound impressive, deep speed is not what people ask of 225-pound backs like Johnson. Instead, it’s his impressive 1.54-second 10-yard split and 10’2” broad jump that really stand out for a big back like him.
Griffin Hebert, FB/TE, Louisiana Tech
Speaking of big backs, Griffin Hebert from Louisiana Tech could be the next impactful NFL fullback. Originally committed as a receiver, Hebert played that position before playing tight end in his final year under a new coaching staff.
He was on pace to lead college tight ends in receiving numbers before an ankle injury ended his season, but that may not be his NFL position. At 6’1”, Hebert might be better fit to play an H-back role, following in the path of players like Trevon Wesco and Andrew Beck.
Hebert’s 4.58-second 40 time at 239 pounds is pretty impressive, but what really stands out is his 39.5-inch vertical and 10’2” broad jump — both workouts that correlate strongly to FB success. Add in Hebert’s outstanding agility scores, including a 6.95-second three-cone, and you have the makings of a potentially complete football player.
Dylan Deatherage, G, Western Michigan
Western Michigan’s left tackle, Dylan Deatherage, switched to right guard halfway through the year. He played guard throughout most of his career at Western Michigan, and that might be his best natural fit in the NFL.
Though he’s struggled against high-level competition, Deatherage’s athleticism means there’s a lot to tap into. With a 4.75-second short shuttle and 9’8” broad jump, we know he has the requisite agility and explosiveness to do everything he needs to do.
Vincent Picozzi, G, Northwestern
A double-transfer — first from Temple, then Colorado State — Vincent Picozzi won a spring battle for a starting guard spot for Northwestern after injuries cut short some of his seasons at Temple and Colorado State. Picozzi’s solid year for Northwestern might mean he still needs development to be an effective guard in the NFL, but the potential is there.
At 312 pounds, his 33.5-inch vertical — higher than any guard prospect at the NFL Combine — and 4.70-second short shuttle translate extremely well for the position.
Jake Witt, OT, Northern Michigan
Named Upper Peninsula’s Mr. Basketball, Jake Witt didn’t have much football in his high school background, playing receiver on an eight-man football team. Nevertheless, Witt was recruited to play by local schools like Northern Michigan and Central Michigan. He chose basketball at Michigan Tech but transferred to Northern Michigan and picked up football late, primarily at tight end.
Injuries forced Witt into playing tackle, where he struggled, but coaches pushed him to stay at the position, where he had a successful 2022 before declaring for the draft. Witt ran an excellent 40-yard dash, finishing in 4.89 seconds at 302 pounds, but what really stands out are his explosion numbers.
Few players across any position beat Witt’s 37-inch vertical, much less one at tackle. Tied for first among Combine tackles in the vertical, Witt also beat out every Combine OT in the broad jump at 10’3”. Throw in excellent agility scores, like a 4.62-second short shuttle and 7.44-second three-cone, and Witt has showcased some excellent tools to work with.
Henry Byrd, OT, Princeton
A multi-sport athlete — including tap dance and lacrosse — Henry Byrd demonstrates rare body awareness for an OT prospect who wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine. After starting early in his career at tackle, Byrd continued to play high-level football for the Ivy program before finishing in 2022 with unanimous all-conference recognition for his play.
With that comes an athletic frame, including a 4.67-second short shuttle and 32 bench reps. Byrd is a high-ceiling player that could hear his name on Day 3.
Shedrick Jackson, WR, Auburn
In 2022, Shedrick Jackson was fourth on his team in receiving yards, but as a fifth-year player, that’s not exciting as a prospect. Yet, players like Donovan Peoples-Jones, Darius Slayton, Hunter Renfrow, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling have demonstrated that one can find a role in the NFL without college production. In some cases, it’s through athleticism.
Jackson might have had the best workouts of any receiver in the draft, having run a 4.31-second 40-yard dash at his pro day at 193 pounds, with the fastest 20-yard split of any prospect by a good margin at 2.32 seconds — an even more representative workout than the full 40. Add in a 38.5-inch vertical and 11’2” broad jump, and you have the makings of an explosive wonder.
David Durden, WR, West Florida
David Durden is a two-sport athlete in the truest sense of the word. In 2017, Durden was drafted by the Boston Red Sox out of high school and played in their rookie-league affiliate, the GCL (now FCL) Red Sox. After retiring from baseball, Durden attended Mercer before transferring to the University of West Florida.
After sitting out the COVID-struck 2020 season, Durden played the 2021 and 2022 seasons with some excellent all-around statistics, ending the latter as the Associated Press’ first-team “All-Purpose” player and d2football.com’s second-team all-division receiver. He was a deep threat for West Florida, finishing every game but one with at least one touchdown.
At 6’1” and 204 pounds, Durden’s 4.46-second 40 time stands out, but he’s the complete athletic package, with well-above-average scores in the vertical (37 inches), broad jump (10’7”), short shuttle (4.21 seconds) and three-cone (7.00 seconds). That should translate well into any area of play, though as an older prospect, he’s a bit behind technically from where his peers are.
Garett Maag, WR, North Dakota
Receivers 6’3” and above tend to project better into the NFL with better explosion scores than speed or agility, and Garett Maag at 6’3 5/8” seems to have all three — but has a particular proclivity for explosion.
With a 40.5-inch vertical leap and 10’5” broad jump, Maag’s 206-pound frame has the ability to go up and get contested catches, something he did regularly at North Dakota. He’s a bit raw despite being a fifth-year player and finishing second on his own team in receptions and receiving yards, but was a mismatch threat for the Fighting Hawks, with at least two receptions in every game.
Maag has more than adequate speed with a 4.50-second 40 time and surprising agility scores for his size with 4.34 seconds in the short shuttle and a 6.90-second three-cone.
Derek Parish, EDGE, Houston
It took some time for Derek Parish to earn a full-time job with the Houston Cougars, becoming an every-game starter in 2021 and earning a spot on Bruce Feldman’s Freaks List. His 2022 was off to an incredible start, but a torn bicep cut Parish’s season short.
It’s a bit surprising he wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine, but Parish proved he might have deserved that invite after his pro day performance. When weighing workouts for their correlation to NFL production, Parish out-performed every edge rusher invited to the Combine, primarily through his blazing 6.76-second three-cone, one of the fastest times regardless of position in NFL history at the drill.
Doing it at 241 pounds is astounding and is reminiscent of Aidan Hutchinson’s mind-bending 6.73-second three-cone drill. Parish also ran a blistering 4.07-second short shuttle and a very fast 4.62-second 40-yard dash. Parish, along with the next player on the list, has a good shot at being the first non-invitee selected in this year’s draft.
Mohamoud Diabate, LB, Utah
After transferring from Florida to Utah, Mohamoud Diabate showcased his versatility as an off-ball threat, along with his ability to rush the passer. As an edge rusher, there’s some concern.
At 225 pounds, it’s difficult to envision Diabate succeeding, though players like Haason Reddick and Randy Gregory do provide some precedent. When accounting for his size, Diabate’s athleticism is solid but not special. But compared to off-ball linebackers, he’s astounding.
His 6.96-second three-cone is certainly impressive, but what really translates to Diabate’s position is the broad jump. And at 11’0”, it was one of the best we’ve ever seen from a linebacker. With a 4.52-second 40 time and 1.86-second “flying 20” (the final 20 yards of the 40-yard dash), there’s a lot to work with.
Trevor Nowaske, LB, Saginaw Valley State
Despite playing for a Division II team that missed the playoffs, Saginaw Valley State had a well-attended pro day, with about half the NFL teams there to primarily watch one player: Trevor Nowaske.
Nowaske didn’t make All-American teams, but he has the potential to thrive in the NFL. At 237 pounds, his 4.5-second 40 time is blazing, and adding in agility scores like a 6.75-second three-cone and 4.2-second short shuttle demonstrate his movement. Importantly, a 34.5-inch vertical and 10’2” broad jump also speaks to Nowaske’s ability to break down blockers and get to the backfield.
Ameer Speed, CB, Michigan State
After playing at Georgia for four years, the appropriately-named Ameer Speed transferred to Michigan State, where he started nearly every game. Despite playing corner, Speed was one of the most effective tacklers the program had. His coverage was a bit spotty, but there is either an opportunity to transition him to safety — at 6’3”, 210 pounds, that might make sense — or work with the ball of clay he is.
There simply are not many corners who are 6’3” with over 32-inch arms, and even fewer who can run a 4.34-second 40-yard dash. With average agility scores for his size and good explosion scores, there’s a lot to work with. Speed is the pre-eminent skill a cornerback needs, and it’s good that someone named Speed has it.
Kaleb Hayes, CB, BYU
There is a marked effect that the 32-inch arm mark has on projecting player outcomes. Players with that arm length tend to do better than those without in a large sample. That’s not definitive, but it is helpful.
Kaleb Hayes meets that mark and ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash on top of that. With a 6.89-second three-cone and 40-inch vertical, Hayes has capability in every aspect of tested athleticism. Just short of six feet tall, he still has outside capability, especially at 194 pounds. He won’t be a Day 1 starter, but Hayes might be worth investigating, especially given his tackling capability, which gives him special-teams upside and potential safety conversion versatility.
Donovan Banks, S, Tarleton State
An All-Conference but not an All-FCS selection at safety, Donovan Banks might be another player to put in the better-in-the-NFL bin, and his athletic capability showed out at his pro day. Banks may not initially draw eyeballs because of his 4.65-second 40 time, but that doesn’t mean much at safety — Kyle Hamilton is a great example.
Instead, agility scores matter more. Running 4.01 seconds in the short shuttle and 6.92 seconds in the three-cone, as well as a 1.51-second 10-split, tells us that his functional range is good despite the 40-yard dash. It’s easy to overlook someone because of their height (5’9”) and 40 time, but there’s athletic capability there.
Alijah McGhee, S, Minnesota State
Small-schoolers tend to need all-star recognition, and Alijah McGhee doesn’t quite have that pedigree. And after running a 4.57-second 40-yard dash, he might be easy to overlook.
Yet, McGhee is a 6’0″ safety that ran a 6.94-second three-cone and 4.06-second short shuttle, with a 10’6” broad jump. He should earn an undrafted free agency contract off of those functional numbers and could develop into a core special teamer that works his way up to backup or even a primary role on a team.
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