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Miami Hurricanes 2021 Pro Day: What to Watch For? The Pandemic Draft Process (PART I)

A General Overview of the Current Pandemic-Ridden Draft Process and Importance of Miami’s March 29th Pro Day

Football: House of Athlete Scouting Combine Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

With no official NFL Combine this year, the Miami Hurricanes 2021 NFL Draft Prospects will reach their final official benchmark of the draft process on Monday, which will also give the five draft-eligible players the most exposure to media, scouts, coaches, and GMs to date: Miami Pro Day.

In lieu of the cancelled NFL Combine that takes place on an annual basis in Indianapolis every February, the pro days across the country have been magnified. And, in turn, make it the most important in-person event draft prospects will take part in. In past years, the pro days on college campuses served as one portion of the multifactorial draft process. However, due to the pandemic-driven offseason, the pro day serves as a one-stop shop for combine drills, face-to-face interviews/networking (which has been severely hindered), and a personalized platform for NFL evaluators to test prospects with individualized workouts.

NFL Combine - Day 6 Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The most important aspect of the Pro Day is that NFL evaluators will have the first chance to visit the Coral Gables’ campus in over a year. Similarly, the pro scouts, coaches, and GMs have likely had limited to null in-person access with sources at the school or opportunities to closely analyze the future draftees. The Pro Day is even further magnified for players who opted out for the 2020 season, such as Gregory Rousseau, and thus have not been in any football environment in well over a year. For Rousseau, the pro decision-makers will want to closely monitor what kind of shape he is in and how he moves around in drills.

So how does one value a Pro Day Workout and What Should Viewers Look For?

The exact answer to this question will drastically differ depending on the position, as well as the individual’s strengths and weaknesses at the position. In particular, the workouts and focus on certain drills will greatly differ between Brevin Jordan, who is a tight end, and Jaelan Phillips/Gregory Rousseau, who are EDGE defenders. Even more, Phillips and Rousseau’s Pro Day regimen tomorrow may vary from fellow defensive end, Quincy Roche, even though they played the same position at the college level. And lastly, kicker, Jose Borregales, will have a uniquely different schedule than the other four prospects. Part II of this Pro Day Preview will come out tomorrow and identify areas of focus for the particular players.

When accounting for how a prospect will pan out at the next level, the specific pro day workouts do not necessarily provide a foolproof mechanism of the college player’s success. For example, the 40-yard dash is largely an overrated metric as players are almost never running in a straight line for 40 yards undeterred.

To that end, a word of caution when reviewing Pro Day results and potential inconsistencies: Similar to standardized tests being used as a barometer for earning school admission and/or professional licenses, the Pro Day workouts/combines are a necessary evil in order to evaluate talent, athleticism, and the like. Through these drills, evaluators can fill in gaps and script areas that do not necessarily show up on game film. Also, scouts and coaches could force the players to workout in a way to expose potentials areas the player struggle in during game tape. That is, in the position drills, a coach may request a pass catcher run a certain route a few times if that player appears to struggle with it during live action. Scouts essentially want to make sure the traits match the tape.

One last point to note is that the numbers are not always 100% accurate, which was noted in Justin Dottavio’s article this past Friday. It is important to temper expectations, especially when coincidentally everyone is running an unofficial 4.39 40-yard dash.

So, even though the pro day results are not a perfect science and are in fact like apples to oranges when compared to game film, there is immense value that will come out of Miami’s testing. The draft process is even more muddled this year due to the number of opt outs, lack of in person meetings, and when teams try to compare the level of competition at the collegiate level, especially this year where play was largely intra-conference.

This year’s draft process is a lot less holistic. Thus, position drills will be integral, and the in person interviews will be heightened as nearly all meetings have been virtual to date for ProCanes’ hopefuls.

Will There Be Current Canes and Older Alumnus in Attendance?

In addition, teams have been unique with their Pro Days this year in the unorthodox season. For example, USC included projected top tier 2022 Draft quarterback, Kedon Slovis, to throw passes to this year’s wide receiver prospect, Amon-Ra St. Brown.

Could we see Tyler Van Dyke or Peyton Matocha throwing to Brevin Jordan? Jordan likely has developed some rapport with these signal callers as opposed to freshman, Jake Garcia. Could we see the offensive lineman such as Zion Nelson, who is a potential first round 2022 Draft pick, or Jarrid Williams, in blocking drills against the EDGE trio? Any involvement of the current Canes could provide invaluable exposure to NFL scouts and coaches for when it is their turn.

Also, keep in mind that older NFL free agents have the opportunity to try out at the Pro Day in front of the NFL personnel if they so desire. For example, some players still looking for an opportunity such as Trevon Hill, Romeo Finley, and yes, Jeff Thomas, among others, could be in attendance. This is a common sight at Pro Days and would not be a surprise/potentially assist with garnering more attention from NFL teams.

Regardless, the focus will be on the five prospects who are eligible for the 2021 NFL Draft as this will likely be the last, and most important, opportunity to impress NFL evaluators. There is a chance the players opt for additional individualized pro days before the draft in late-April, similar to Alabama QB, Mac Jones, who will be having another Pro Day this week. However, without more information on that front, the Pro Day and upcoming virtual interviews will be the final steps in the process before April’s Draft.

Thus, the five guys who will be trying to make their money tomorrow. The evaluators will closely monitor the contingent of Jordan, Rousseau, Phillips, Roche, and Borregales in different ways, which will be detailed in a Part II Preview tomorrow. For viewers, the live broadcast will be televised on the ACC Network from 1pm to 3pm.