6 Under-The-Radar Pro Days You Have To Know About

Photo: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Pro Day season is nearly complete. Did you know that Jayson Oweh is a freak athlete? Micah Parsons, too? Elijah Moore is quick as a whistle, Penei Sewell is strong as an ox, and Jaelan Phillips moves like a man 15 pounds lighter.

It’s fun to get hype about good athletes, so I’ll never knock a football fan or analyst for going crazy for great numbers from great players—and it’s an important box to check for potential first-rounders. But I don’t want to talk about first-rounders today. I want to talk middle-round guys and later. 

So many quality athletes tested over the last month, and in the hype of the top of the draft, some strong, stock-raising performances got buried. I think every name I’ve listed is a strong candidate to be drafted earlier than the current expectation, as their top-flight athletic testing either cements their role as a desirable prospect player or checks the final box on an otherwise solid evaluation.

Let’s talk real Pro Day risers.

Spencer Brown, OT, Northern Iowa

The tackle class is just peppered with top-flight athletes. Expected first-round names all delivered on their billings: Oregon’s Penei Sewell ran a 4.68s short shuttle and a 5.09 40-yard dash at 330 pounds; Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater ran a 4.88 40-yard dash and cleared the OT arm length benchmark with 33-inch arms; Texas’ Samuel Cosmi delivered elite-tier agilities at a bigger weight (314 pounds) than expected; Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood showed elite explosives.

There are plenty of names we missed (Brady Christensen! Dillon Radunz!), but nobody—and I mean nobody—tested better in this class than Brown. 

A high school tight end with no major school offers, Brown has put on almost 70 pounds of weight at Northern Iowa as he transitioned to offensive line play. He carries it well in a towering 6-foot-8 frame with 34-inch arms, delivering a 4.40s short shuttle, 4.84s 40-yard dash, and stunning sub-7-second three-cone despite his high-cut frame. That is ludicrous movement ability, and it’s reflected on the film.

We haven’t seen Brown take a live snap since 2019, as the FCS 2020 schedule was moved to the spring, when Brown had already performed at the Senior Bowl and entered the NFL Draft cycle. With that said, there’s only so much you need to see of Brown to understand what you’re paying for: an extremely raw, but truly once-in-a-year athlete at a position in which we’re seeing better and better development over the last few years. If you trust your offensive line coach, drafting Brown on Day 2 makes sense as an insurance policy for your aging veteran starter.

Darrick Forrest and James Wiggins, SAFs, Cincinnati

The best safety duo in all of college football was at TCU. Trevon Moehrig is a likely first-round pick, while his running mate, Ar’Darius Washington, was a top-flight college safety who simply lacks NFL measurables. The second-best duo belonged to college football’s third-best defense: the Cincinnati Bearcats.

Wiggins has long been an NFL prospect. A longtime Feldman Freak, and literally called “The Freak” within Cincinnati’s program, injuries robbed us of Wiggins’ 2019 season and parts of his 2020 season—when he’s on the field, he’s a top-five safety in this class. The Freak delivered on his billing, with a 4.40s flat 40-yard dash, 10-foot-7-inch broad, 38-inch vert, and 22 reps on the bench. Those 210 pounds that he carries allowed him to play as a downhill filler in the unique Cincinnati defense, and in the league, will make him a quality box safety.

His running mate, Forrest, was the deep safety behind Wiggins in the Bearcats approach. He arguably had the more impressive day, beating Wiggins in both the broad (11-foot) and vert (39-inch) with a 4.42s 40, also clearing 200 pounds—impressive for a college roof player. Forrest’s length and density should allow him to fill combo roles in the league, which gives him extra value as a Day 3 pick.

I expect both Cincinnati safeties to go before Round 4 is over, and I think Wiggins is a starter when healthy. Forrest may take a year or two, but don’t be surprised if he’s contending for a starting job after locking down a special teams job.

Buddy Johnson, LB, Texas A&M

It’s easy to find good pro days at Group of Five or lower levels for players that don’t have much run—how about a top-ranked SEC team? 

Johnson was listed as a 240-pound MIKE linebacker for the Aggies, which was apparently a bit of a fib as he came in at sub-230 at his Pro Day. He’s not thin; he’s just short. At only 6-foot flat, Johnson has a compact build and can hang between the tackles, even though he doesn’t have the ideal length to take on blocks. But with that compact build, Johnson delivered high-level movement traits: 39-inch vert, 10-foot-8-inch broad, 4.57s 40-yard dash, 4.03 short shuttle, 7.04s three-cone. Only the three-cone is below the 80th percentile for linebackers.

I’ve yet to watch Buddy, so he’s on my list for this week. But athletically, he’s comparable to Lavonte David and Kevin Pierre-Louis, he’s got multiple years of production starting in the SEC, and he’s played special teams to boot. This feels like a longtime NFLer.

Tyler Coyle, S, Purdue

Remember the Rondale Moore Pro Day? It was sick. Moore jumped 42.5 inches in the vertical, which is a top wide receiver number historically, apparently broke 4.3s flat in the 40, and added a 6.68s three-cone to boot.

It was an amazing day… and it may not have been the best Boilermaker performance.

Coyle, who I had never heard of before the day, had a 39-inch vert, 11-foot-1-inch broad, 4.36s 40-yard dash, and a 4.00s short shuttle (don’t ask me about the three-cone). All of those numbers are at least 85th percentile for safeties, and he delivered them at 6-foot-1 and 209 pounds—great size. 

Coyle, like Johnson, is a player I haven’t watched yet. But like Johnson, he has a ton of special teams experience, which is good news for sticking on an NFL roster, as well as three years of starting experience and, oh, that athletic ability, too.

Ihmir Smith-Marsette, WR, Iowa

Well, today is 11.

Smith-Marsette didn’t light up the stat sheet in Iowa, but I’m confident he’ll be a better pro than he was a college player. Smith-Marsette’s film is straight good, with solid reps as both a field-stretcher and an underneath target with RAC ability. Smith-Marsette’s special teams value is sick, as he returned 50 kicks through 2018 and 2019 for 1,200 yards and two touchdowns. And Smith-Marsette’s athleticism is good.

Teammate Brandon Smith was one of the earliest big testers of the cycle, but Smith-Marsette quietly had a great Pro Day as well. A 37-inch vert jump and 10-foot-4-inch broad jump detail his explosiveness, as well as a reported 1.44s 10-yard split on his 40-yard dash—that’s just bananas acceleration. Only four wide receivers in Mockdraftable’s database have had a better 10-yard split.

Smith-Marsette almost broke my top-10 list for wide receivers, and simply checks every box that matters to me in the cycle. He’ll be a solid pro.

Honorable Mentions

All of these guys did very well, I just see their names mentioned more often in the discourse so it wasn’t critical to give them space. But all exceeded expectations, so shout out to them!

  • Purdue LB Derrick Barnes (6’0, 238 pounds, 33 ⅜” arm, 37” vert, 4.57s 40-yard dash)
  • USC WR Amon-Ra St. Brown (5’11, 197 pounds, 39” vert, 10’7” broad, 6.81s short shuttle)
  • Ohio State TE Luke Farrell (6’6, 250 pounds, 37” vert, 9’10 broad, 4.36s short shuttle, 7.14s three-cone)
  • Texas A&M iDL Bobby Brown (6’4, 321 pounds, 34 ¾” arms, 33” vert, 9’5” broad, 4.98s 40-yard dash)
  • Stanford iOL Drew Dalman (6’1, 299 pounds, 33” vert, 33 bench reps, 5.11s 40-yard dash, 4.52s short shuttle, 7.33s three-cone)