Friday, March 21, 2008

Pro Day Production | by Pat

For the final big test before April's NFL Draft, ND held its annual Pro Day on Wednesday in front of 31 scouts from 23 different NFL teams. has the complete rundown of all the various times and quotes from the day, but here are some of the highlights.

John Carlson was the main attraction as he was trying to prove that his average performance at the NFL Combine was due to lingering effects of the virus he caught in the preceding weeks. By all reports he did well enough to make sure he will be in the discussion for the top tight end taken in the draft. After running a 4.89 at Indy, Carlson ran a 4.67 and 4.72 in his two attempts on Wednesday. He also improved his vertical leap from 30.5 to 35.5 inches. In all Carlson worked out for a full hour for scouts, longer than any other player. It has to impress at least a few teams that despite being one of the top tight ends in the draft, Carlson has not shied away from any workout or drill during the pre-Draft evaluation period.

Newly signed Under Armour rep Trevor Laws and John Sullivan stuck with position specific drills while Zibby performed some of the timed workout drills that he skipped at the Combine. His 3-cone time of 6.79 seconds would have been good for second best at the Combine among safeties. He also notched 32.5 inches in the vertical jump test and 9'1" in the broad jump. One other note was that despite the reported 4.52 time at the Combine, Zibby's official 40 time that was distributed to all NFL teams was actually 4.44. It might not sound like much of a difference, but getting under that 4.5 mark will only help him when NFL teams start digging deep for reasons to move players around on their draft boards. Zibby's spot in the draft is still a big question mark, but he does appear to be trending upwards instead of sliding into lower rounds.

“He got everyone’s attention,” Weis said.

Including former NFL all-pro cornerback Deion Sanders, who raved about Zbikowski while covering the combine for the NFL Network last month and who is expected to invite the 5-11, 212-pounder to Dallas to work out with him prior to the April 26-27 draft.

“I hope that happens,” Zbikowski said. “But whatever happens, I’m going to continue to work hard, stay positive and be happy with whoever wants me. This isn’t a time to let up with my effort.”
Also working out at the ND Pro Day were a handful of Irish players who weren't invited to the NFL Combine. Joe Brockington, Travis Thomas, Dwight Stephenson Jr., Geoff Price, and J.J. Jansen all performed for scouts in hopes of catching someone's eye. has their times and while none of them are expected to be drafted, there is a chance a few might catch on as free agents. If you're interested in Travis Thomas's take on the 2007 season and his NFL chances, NBCSports has an interview and accompanying video from last month that is worth a read.

I thought it was a bit funny at first that walk-on long snapper J.J. Jansen was timed in the 40 (4.85 if you're curious), but then I remembered an anecdote on why the 40 yard dash came into favor as a football testing device. As the story goes, NFL legend Paul Brown began to use the 40 as a measure of football speed because he figured that was about the average distance a player covered on a typical punt. Given that Jansen's duties in the NFL will involve hiking the ball accurately and then running 40 yards downfield as fast as he can, I guess running the 40 makes sense after all. Charlie seemed to think that Jansen has a legit chance to make an NFL team.
"We had Lonnie Paxton at New England who had gone to Cal-something, one of those Cal schools that isn't Cal, I know he signed a contract, his second contract was four years, $6 million. And all he did was long snap. No position. I think he (Jansen) has a skill that allows a team to sign him cheap the first time around, you'll be able to get him at the minimum, what's it $300,000 or $400,000. That's a lot of money, but for a team when you don't have to play a veteran that you're paying a million dollars, you can pay a guy for the minimum, it's a good deal."
One last note. WNDU has a short video report on the Pro Day so you can watch Carlson run around and catch the football a few times if you so desire. The noteworthy part is when Jeff Jeffers mentions some of the younger Irish players in attendance and notes that Jimmy Clausen is 17 pounds heavier than he was last season. For those starved for winter conditioning updates, there's your first notable scoop of the spring.