Pro Day Tour: Eyes On Potential Birds
With the NFL Scouting Combine in the rear-view mirror and free agency nearly underway, the college pro day circuit is often the final piece of the evaluation process for NFL teams.
Largely regarded as the final phase of the pre-draft process, events that transpire over the next few weeks will occasionally alter a prospect’s pro outlook – for better or worse. Below are some pro days I'll be attending, along with several prospect fits for the Eagles that I will be keeping a close eye on. I'll have a report for InsideTheBirds.com from each pro day I attend.
(PHOTO: Temple Athletics: A strong showing at the NFL Scouting Combine helped Temple G/C Matt Hennessy, above, solidify his spot as a Day 2 selection)
Rutgers (March 13)
Coray Williams, SS: Not a Rutgers player but appearing at this pro day, Williams hails from Division III’s Wesley College, the same school that produced former Eagles quarterback Joe Callahan. Williams is an intriguing prospect who will be taking part alongside Division I prospects. A native of Sayerville, N.J., Williams amassed 140 tackles and eight interceptions over the past two seasons. At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, Williams projects as a strong safety at the next level, but has the range, ball skills, and instincts to double as a hybrid defender. Though athletic limitations and concerns of competition quality will likely leave him on the outside looking in at the conclusion of draft weekend, Williams should test well enough to garner attention as a priority free agent.
Temple (March 16)
Matt Hennessy, C/G: Following a strong showing at the NFL Scouting Combine, there is little Hennessy needs to prove at Temple’s pro day next week to solidify his spot as an early Day 2 selection. A three-year starter for the Owls, Hennessy measured in at 6-foot-4, 307 pounds in Indianapolis. The Temple alum is technically sound -- his feet and hands work in unison -- and is a fluid mover in space. The versatile interior lineman would be an ideal successor to All-Pro Jason Kelce, but the Eagles may have to take him at pick 53 to secure his services.
Shaun Bradley, LB: Deemed a prospect on the rise following his performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, Bradley dazzled evaluators with his speed in the 40-yard dash (4.51) and explosion in the vertical jump (32.5 inches) and broad jump (121 inches). Bradley, a three-year starter at Temple, is an instinctive second-level defender and a strong tackler that rarely finds himself out of position. The on-field portion of his pro day will be a key piece in determining Bradley’s draft stock, as evaluators will want to see how well he moves. At 6-foot-1, 235 pounds, Bradley’s best fit will likely be as a weak-side linebacker at the next level, but his production, testing numbers, and special teams impact will almost assuredly warrant strong Day 3 consideration from teams.
Penn State (March 17)
K.J. Hamler, WR: After opting against running at the Combine, the NFL will undoubtedly be anticipating the results of Hamler’s 40-yard dash time. Considered to be among the premier downfield burners in this historic draft class, Hamler is one of the most polarizing early-round prospects. While his slight stature (5-8, 178 pounds) is often the determining factor that inhibits first-round consideration by some, others view the prolific speedster as a late first-round certainty. Despite his ability to affect a game on any touch, I have a hard time envisioning the risk-averse Eagles pulling the trigger on the diminutive Hamler with the 21st overall pick given the surplus of talent expected to be on the board when the team is on the clock.
Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE: While the lengthy edge rusher could certainly be in play for the Eagles at pick 21, Gross-Matos is more likely to come off the board later in the opening round by a team in dire need of pass rush reinforcements, such as the Seattle Seahawks. Gross-Matos is as good of an athlete as you’ll find in this draft coming off the edge, consistently winning with short-area quickness and a rapidly developing array of pass rush moves. The Penn State standout only took part in the bench press, vertical jump, and broad jump in Indianapolis, so he’ll have an opportunity to answer some questions on the field next week.
Robert Windsor, DT: Windsor, an undersized interior defensive lineman (6-4, 290) earned a starting role in 2018, receiving honorable mention All-Big Ten honors and third-team All-Big Ten recognition in successive seasons. The former Nittany Lion demonstrated his burst at the Combine, running a 4.9 40-yard dash, but his NFL outlook projects him to be little more than an effort player with a relentless motor. He must add strength in order to stick at the next level. Windsor has the potential to evolve into a prominent rotational player in time, however, but is viewed as a late Day 3 prospect.
Maryland (March 25)
Antoine Brooks Jr., S: Brooks, a chiseled 5-foot-11, 220 pounds, rounds out my top-10 safeties in this year’s class. Though a bit limited in range and flexibility, the former Terrapin is an instinctive, fast-flowing player that craves contact. He will need to improve his on-field discipline and fluidity playing in space, but there is plenty of intrigue when assessing Brooks’ overall game. While his Combine testing numbers were relatively modest when compared to some of his counterparts, Brooks will have a chance to enhance his draft outlook at Maryland’s pro day later this month.
Florida (March 31)
C.J. Henderson, CB:
Depending on how the board falls in the opening round, Henderson, the second-ranked cornerback prospect is this class, could conceivably be available when the Eagles are on the clock. Given the Eagles' lackluster cornerback play in recent years, it would be hard to pass on the elite cover man from Florida. Henderson provides length and athleticism on the perimeter, to go along with the exceptional ball skills and fiery attitude that teams covet in defensive backs.
Starting cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills could both conceivably be on the outs this offseason, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see a heavy Eagles presence in Gainesville.
Jonathan Greenard, EDGE: Greenard spent his first four season at Louisville before transferring to Florida for his final season. The 6-foot-3, 263-pound pass rusher enjoyed his best season to date in 2019, racking up 15.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, an interception, and eight quarterback hits, on his way to earning first-team All-SEC recognition. With immensely violent hands, an explosive first step, and an unparalleled work ethic, Greenard played himself into second-round discussion. While his Combine showing produced largely modest results, Greenard will have a legitimate opportunity to entrench himself as a surefire second-round pick at Florida’s pro day. If the Eagles set their sights on Greenard in hopes of bolstering their pass rush, they’ll likely have to take him at 53. Tyrie Cleveland, WR: As I outlined in my InsideTheBirds.com story last week, Cleveland’s size and speed intrigues me as a potential late-round sleeper. One of a talented quartet of Gator pass catchers, Cleveland saw limited opportunities throughout his four-year career, totaling only 79 receptions, 1,271 yards, and eight touchdowns. Cleveland impressed at the Reese’s Senior Bowl, showing off his long speed and ball-tracking ability, and posted stellar testing numbers in Indianapolis, most notably in the 40-yard dash (4.46) and vertical jump (39.5 inches). He’ll have a chance to finish off the pre-draft cycle strong at Florida’s pro day later this month, a feat that will likely elevate his draft stock from sleeper status to mid-round target.
Virginia (April 8)
Bryce Hall, CB:
Had it not been for an early-season leg injury, Hall would likely earn the distinction of being unanimously heralded as a top-two cornerback prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft. At 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, Hall has the requisite size-speed ratio to matchup with receivers on the boundary or in the slot, to go along with plus ball skills and outstanding tackling prowess. With one of the latest pro days on the slate, Hall should be full-go in early April, solidifying himself as a late second/early third round pick.
Joe Reed, WR/RB: One of the premier return specialists in college football last season, Reed (6-0, 224 pounds) figures to factor into the third phase of the game early into his rookie campaign. In addition to his special teams value, the thickly built wideout potentially offers roster flexibility at the next level, as I expect him to make the transition to running back in the pros. Reed impressed in the testing phase of the Combine, particularly in the 40-yard dash (4.47), bench press (21 reps), and vertical jump (38 inches). Given the Eagles’ glaring need for an impactful returner and dynamic offensive threat, Reed could be a viable option in the later rounds or as a priority free agent.
Jordan Mack, LB: After spending his freshman season as a defensive back, Mack transitioned to linebacker the following season. The 6-foot-3, 241-pound defensive centerpiece appeared in 46 games over his Cavaliers careers, compiling 289 tackles (24.5 for loss), 14.5 sacks, and six forced fumbles. Mack is an intelligent, disciplined defender that has the innate ability to quickly diagnoses plays. I project Mack as a priority free agent. Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a contributor to InsideTheBirds.com. He also writes for Pro Football Network.