August 20, 2018 | ° F

Pro day looks to be huge

The NFL scouting combine has come and gone, and a pro day that will be a bigger event than Rutgers has ever seen awaits.

Personally, I'm one of those that think the combine and pro days are overemphasized.

The broad and high jump show lower body power explosiveness. The three-cone drill and the shuttle drill show agility and quickness along with burst, explosiveness and acceleration. The bench press is a strength and endurance test.

I get it.

Then there's the 40. The main event.

Players start off in a three-point stance when only offensive and defensive linemen and tight ends get in that position on the field. For the big fellas in the trenches, it's more the first 10 yards that matter for power and explosion and the next 30 don't mean much. For the skill positions, the first 10 show explosion and quickness. The next 30 show endurance.

The fact that the combine looks more like the shooting of an Under Armour commercial than a football practice let alone game doesn't stop me from watching. I just don't weigh into it all that much and think too many general managers and coaches do too much.

Sure there are guys like Chris Johnson who ran a combine record 4.24 in 2008. The time rewarded the East Carolina product with a first round pick to the Titans rather than going in the second or third round. And it has been a good pick as Johnson had 2,509 yards from scrimmage last season (Keep in mind Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith ran a 4.7, as did Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice).

But with the good also comes the bad. Just ask a Jets fan about linebacker Vernon Gholston. Gholston tore up the combine the same year as Johnson, which boosted him to the No. 6 pick. Now he's a season away from going down as one of the biggest busts ever.

The position drills at least have their benefits to me. I'll just go over what the offensive linemen and defensive back drills test, since those are the positions of the top two draft picks for Rutgers. There's junior left tackle Anthony Davis — the reason there will be a circus at pro day this year — and senior cornerback Devin McCourty.

The o-line drills show how a player's footwork is and how well they open up and drop their hips, bend their knees and balance.

Defensive backs drills test how player's open up their hips and drop their shoulder when they have to turn and run with wide receivers culminating with how they react to, locate and catch the football.

Since Davis is the reason Rutgers pro day will be a spectacle like it's never seen before — he's projected as a top ten pick by most draft experts and top five by some — I'll start with him.

Davis has all the god-given talent in the world. At 6-foot-5, 323 pounds, the Piscataway native is an unbelievable athlete for his size. While Davis is not as much of a freak of a physical specimen as Maryland's Bruce Campbell, he's a much better overall tackle. He's an exceptional pass blocker, which is key in a league that has become pass driven.

Davis has the potential to be a top-notch left tackle on a team for the next decade. Davis didn't even reach his full potential during his three years on the banks. While he played well in his three years, he could have done better and that's on him. He just did not seem to have that inner drive that pushes most players, especially those without the natural abilities that Davis has.

With that goes his lack of discipline. Along with wide receiver Kenny Britt, Davis received a suspension in 2008 for the Morgan State game for violating team policy. This season, he didn't start against Army because he was late to a team function. The left tackle will be asked about these issues when he interviews with teams, and as long as he tells the truth, they'll likely be overlooked.

Davis's weight issue however is tough to overlook. He came in overweight as a freshman, which isn't a big deal, but to do so as a junior is unacceptable and a red flag. It shows a lack of discipline.

As an All-American and a top prospect that was, and still, is the top recruit Schiano's ever had at Rutgers, Davis has known he was on a path to the NFL since his high school days. He's always been that good. So maybe he's been cruising along, just getting by while he can, and waiting to turn it on once he gets to the NFL. Or maybe he'll be content with the fat paycheck he'll get as a top-10 pick.

Davis could be a stud left tackle or a solid guard. We'll just have to wait and see.

Then there's McCourty who I'm extremely high on.

He worked his way from a third or fourth round draft pick if he were lucky, to a potential first rounder in a season. Kind of like how he worked his way to a leader and star of the defense during his time as a Scarlet Knight

At the combine McCourty was one of the top performers for his position at the 40-yard dash, three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle where he clocked times of 4.48, 6.70 and 4.07, respectively. These times were crucial for McCourty, as his speed when left out on an island with a wide receiver has been in question. He was also one of the top players in the broad jump with a 10-feet, 6-inches.

Numbers like these should make McCourty a lock for the first round given what he did on the football field this past year. He proved he's a football player. What I mean by this is that he can do so much for a team.

Along with being the leader of the secondary, McCourty was a special team's gem. He returned a kick for 98-yards this past season, blocked seven kicks in his career and is good at covering kicks.

In a league of 53-man rosters, the more you can do for your team the better, making you more valuable. Such aspects of McCourty's game intrigues a lot of general managers and head coaches.

At 5-foot-11, 193-pounds, McCourty is an average size corner that may have trouble with taller and more physical wide receivers. And like his twin brother Jason, he doesn't have great ball skills. While he doesn't get a lot of interceptions, he breaks up a lot of passes.

Above all I think he's got that inner drive.

McCourty could make it as a nickelback as rookie while contributing on special teams.

So regardless of what I think of the combine and pro days, they matter for a lot for players. They gain a lot of money for some, and lose a lot for others. It has made McCourty a lot more money and can still do the same for Davis. As for the other Rutgers players participating, a better draft position or a shot to make a team as a free agent is what's at stake.

Matt Sugam is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies and sociology.

Matt Sugam

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