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Redskins, WR Cody Latimer reach agreement on deal



The Washington Redskins have agreed to terms on a deal with wide receiver Cody Latimer, a source confirmed to ESPN’s John Keim.

Latimer had 24 receptions, 300 receiving yards and two touchdowns in 15 games (10 starts) for the New York Giants last season.

Before 2019, Latimer had started only five games since being a second-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos in 2014. But Latimer was able to get into the Giants’ lineup and make the most of his opportunities last season because starters Sterling Shepard (concussion) and Golden Tate (suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, concussion) missed time.

Latimer, 27, spent his first four seasons with the Broncos before signing with the Giants in 2018. For his career, Latimer has 70 receptions, 935 receiving yards and six touchdowns.

The NFL Network first reported the news about Latimer.

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Sources — NFL teams to draft virtually from home



High-level officials from multiple NFL teams are now preparing to do the April 23-25 draft virtually, from home, away from their team facilities, league sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Saturday.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a leaguewide memo on March 26 that it was “unanimous and unequivocal that the Draft should go forward as scheduled,” despite the coronavirus pandemic that has disrupted work for most of the nation.

NFL vice president Troy Vincent has already invited several draft prospects to participate “live” in the NFL draft.

The NFL draft, the biggest event on the league’s off-the-field calendar, was originally scheduled as a lavish affair in Las Vegas before those plans were dropped when the league announced it would not be open to the public.

Goodell had acknowledged there would have to be significant changes and told teams to prepare to conduct the draft outside team facilities and with a limited number of people.

The league’s general manager subcommittee recommended delaying the draft to Goodell, sources told ESPN.

General managers had expressed concern that, in this current environment, with offseason activities canceled and some teams’ facilities closed, there won’t be enough time for player physicals, gathering psychological testing, getting further verified information about the players and some teams having to conduct the draft from home, sources told ESPN.

Prospects and their families will not be present on-site at the draft.

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How 2019 NFL second-round draft picks fared, what’s in store in 2020



The 2020 NFL draft is a few weeks away. Last week, we looked back at how each 2019 first-round pick performed in his rookie season. Today, we move on to the second-round picks from last year.

The second round was bountiful, with 20 starters coming from the 32 picks and a few stars mixed in. The Titans found a game-breaking wide receiver in A.J. Brown, who eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark. What’s in store for him and another breakout star receiver, DK Metcalf of the Seahawks, in their second seasons? Eagles running back Miles Sanders took his time but developed into the dual threat many envisioned. What does a sophomore season look like for him?

NFL Nation reporters assess how every second-round pick did in his first season and then project what 2020 will bring on this scale:

  • He’s a star

  • On his way

  • He’s a starter

  • Has a lot to prove

Byron Murphy, CB, Washington

Analysis: There was a lot to like about Murphy in 2019, but he has a lot to learn. He was thrown into the fire early after Patrick Peterson was suspended for the first six games. Murphy was able to hold his own after he was moved inside and then outside. With Peterson set to return for 2020 season and Robert Alford, who missed last season with an ACL injury, expected back, Murphy will be able to play in one spot consistently and get some needed guidance from two veterans.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Josh Weinfuss

Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple

Analysis: Ya-Sin, who was projected by some to be a first-round pick, started 13 of 15 games as a rookie. One of his biggest challenges was going from being a man-to-man cornerback at Temple to playing more zone with the Colts. Ya-Sin was often praised by the coaching staff for his ability to shake off bad plays. “He had some really good moments, and he had some ugly moments,” general manager Chris Ballard said in January. “Let me tell you what I love about this kid: He’s exactly what we thought he was going to be in terms of grit, toughness.” Ya-Sin was called for nine penalties, second most on the team. He had 62 tackles, five passes defended and an interception. He’ll have the inside track to start alongside veteran Xavier Rhodes this season.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Mike Wells

Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida

Analysis: He has a chance to be a Pro Bowl right tackle if he can be a little more disciplined. The biggest thing is penalties. Taylor was tied for the NFL lead with 15, nine of which were holding penalties. They were mainly a result of being slightly out of position and grabbing to compensate. Clean up some footwork and that number should go way down. Even with those issues, Taylor was one of the Jaguars’ better offensive linemen last season and the organization is excited about his potential.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Michael DiRocco

Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina

Analysis: As his rookie season wore on and he got more comfortable, Samuel became the Niners’ most versatile and dangerous offensive weapon. He accounted for 961 yards from scrimmage, which ranked second among all rookies, and scored six touchdowns. He also set a record for rushing yards by a wide receiver in the Super Bowl with 53. To take the next step to full-blown stardom, Samuel will need to cut down on drops (his seven were tied for second most in the league), but his role in the offense should only continue to expand as he enters Year 2, making Samuel a vital piece on coach Kyle Shanahan’s chessboard.

Rating: On his way. — Nick Wagoner

Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss

Analysis: Little seemed on his way to being the left tackle until suffering his second concussion in a month during an Oct. 2 game against the Texans. He didn’t get onto the field again until Week 11, and then landed on injured reserve. Doubts about his rookie season prompted the Panthers to trade for veteran left tackle Russell Okung, giving Little time to grow into the position. He still could be the future left tackle, but now there’s no need to rush him into that spot.

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — David Newton

Cody Ford, OT, Oklahoma

Analysis: Ford was on a learning curve in his first season blocking for a quarterback who does most of his work outside of the pocket. He split the right tackle job with Ty Nsekhe but shined toward the end of the season when he held his own against pass-rushers such as Von Miller, DeMarcus Lawrence, T.J. Watt and J.J. Watt. Ford is not a finished product but is an NFL starter right now. Whether his long-term position is tackle or guard remains to be seen.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Sean Murphy-Bunting, CB, Central Michigan

Analysis: Coach Bruce Arians called out Murphy-Bunting in the preseason because he wasn’t making the plays in games he was making in practice. But that was due to his learning the outside and nickelback roles. Murphy-Bunting started 10 games, lining up on the outside and moving inside in nickel situations. He had a game-winning interception at Jacksonville in Week 13 and had a pick-six against the Lions in Week 15. “Coming from that day that he said that until now, I feel like it’s been a big improvement,” Murphy-Bunting said.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Jenna Laine

Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson

Analysis: Mullen became a starter at cornerback in Week 8 after the Raiders dealt 2017 first-round pick Gareon Conley to the Texans. Solid but not spectacular, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Mullen showed a certain “stickiness” in coverage and finished with an interception, 10 passes defensed and 50 tackles. But perhaps he impressed coach Jon Gruden most when he started the season finale, with a playoff spot still in play, a week after being stretchered off the field. “He is the brightest light of the whole thing for me,” Gruden said in his season-ending news conference. “He’s got a huge upside, and to get our second-rounder playing well is something I’m mostly very excited about.”

Rating: On his way. — Paul Gutierrez

Dalton Risner, OT, Kansas State

Analysis: Risner started 16 games at left guard and played all but 38 snaps. The Broncos drafted him because they believed he could be a fixture at guard “for a long, long time,” coach Vic Fangio said. Risner could also play tackle or center, if needed, given that he started at both positions in college. Risner will be the starter at left guard in 2020, and because of his talent, approach and work ethic, many believe he will be a captain at some point. Even as a rookie, the veterans lauded his leadership.

Rating: On his way. — Jeff Legwold

Drew Lock, QB, Missouri

Analysis: Lock started the final five games of the 2019 season. Although the Broncos went 4-1, the jury is still out on his long-term outlook. The Broncos scored more than 16 points in seven games last season, but three of those came in Lock’s five starts. Coach Vic Fangio and president of football operations/general manager John Elway said early in the offseason Lock would be the starter in 2020, and they have waived Joe Flacco and signed Jeff Driskel as the backup. With the current social distancing restrictions and Colorado’s stay-at-home order, Lock has had to do much of the work with the playbook remotely, and he will have to continue to do that with OTAs and the rest of the offseason program a question mark.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Jeff Legwold

Jahlani Tavai, ILB, Hawai’i

Analysis: He was a surprise pick last year at No. 43 but ended up being a factor for the Lions. Tavai played a little bit of everywhere when he was used — which is why it fits to say he has a lot to prove. It’s a matter of figuring out how Detroit wants to deploy Tavai. Does he play the middle, do they move him outside, does he rush the passer? How does he fit in a crowded linebacker room? Having a potential mentor in Jamie Collins might help, but if Tavai builds on a 58-tackle, two-sack rookie season, there’s reason to believe he’ll be a difference-maker in 2020.

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — Michael Rothstein

Elgton Jenkins, C, Mississippi State

Analysis: He took over as a starter in Week 3 and finished eighth among NFL guards in ESPN’s pass block win rate metric (95%) and first among rookie offensive linemen regardless of position. He was named to the Pro Football Writers of America all-rookie team and was part of an offensive line that blocked for 18 rushing touchdowns, the most by a Packers team in 10 years. While the Packers view him as a long-term star at guard, he could move to center at some point after Corey Linsley‘s time is up. If the Packers had to do it again, they might take Jenkins in the first round.

Rating: He’s a star. — Rob Demovsky

Joejuan Williams, CB, Vanderbilt

Analysis: Through no fault of his own, Williams was buried on arguably the deepest cornerback depth chart in the NFL, behind Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson and Jonathan Jones, so he played sparingly. There’s still reason to think he will become a key contributor, but he hit a different type of speed bump this offseason when he was arrested after officers stopped him for speeding and found that he had a controlled substance, drug paraphernalia and prescription drugs without a prescription, according to the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — Mike Reiss

Greedy Williams, CB, LSU

Analysis: Williams stood out in training camp, which propelled him to becoming a Week 1 starter to begin last season opposite Denzel Ward. Williams started all 12 games after missing four weeks early in the season because of a hamstring injury. At times, Williams proved to be a more willing tackler than his draft reputation suggested, though he also had plenty of whiffs, especially later in the season. Williams had some rough moments in coverage but overall showed he has the ability to cover in this league.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Jake Trotter

Marquise Blair, S, Utah

Analysis: Blair could use his own category: “Should’ve played more.” He’s somewhere between having a lot to prove and being a starter because it’s a mystery to many — including some in the Seahawks organization — why he didn’t start late last season while Quandre Diggs was hurt. Missing significant time in the spring and summer because of hamstring and back injuries didn’t help, but Blair lived up to his reputation as a thumper and made some big plays over three midseason starts. Veteran strong safety Bradley McDougald ($5.43 million cap charge) has a year left on his deal, but Blair will have a chance to beat him out for the starting job next to Diggs.

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — Brady Henderson

Erik McCoy, C, Texas A&M

Analysis: Not only did McCoy fill a glaring need for the Saints after Pro Bowl center Max Unger retired last spring, but he was also widely praised as the top rookie center in the NFL last season. The 6-foot-4, 303-pounder actually led the Saints with 1,058 snaps while starting all 17 games, including the playoffs. Pro Football Focus had McCoy graded as the fourth-best center in the NFL — and the only one with both a pass-blocking and run-blocking grade above 75.0. And the Saints’ offense didn’t miss much of a beat, tying for third in the NFL in points per game (28.6) and fewest sacks allowed (25).

Rating: On his way. — Mike Triplett

Ben Banogu, OLB, TCU

Analysis: The Colts thought Banogu would be a linebacker when they selected him, but he moved to defensive end during offseason workouts. Banogu spent his rookie season as part of the Colts’ rotation at defensive end. He didn’t have more than two tackles in a game and finished with 2.5 sacks. “Flashes from Ben, but need more,” GM Chris Ballard said. “I think he’ll continue to develop.” Banogu will have an opportunity to get even more snaps if the Colts don’t re-sign veteran defensive end Jabaal Sheard. Banogu, Kemoko Turay and veteran Justin Houston are the Colts’ top three pass-rushers.

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — Mike Wells

Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama

Analysis: Smith was gradually worked into the mix and exceeded expectation. When the Vikings lost receiver Adam Thielen for almost two months, Smith stepped into a bigger role (36 catches, 311 yards, two touchdowns) and emerged as a reliable target for quarterback Kirk Cousins. That’s why it’s possible the replacement for Stefon Diggs might already be on Minnesota’s roster, given how much Gary Kubiak’s offenses rely on tight ends. In his 21 seasons as a head coach or offensive coordinator (1995-2015), Kubiak’s tight ends have received an average of 23% of targets per season. Target share should increase for Smith and Kyle Rudolph in 2020 after they were underutilized at times last season.

Rating: On his way. — Courtney Cronin

A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss

Analysis: Brown has become a primary weapon for the Titans’ offense. He was the franchise’s first rookie to record a 1,000-yard receiving season since Ernest Givins in 1986. Brown’s ability to gain yards after the catch is as good as that of any receiver in the NFL and led to his having the second-highest average yards per catch (20.2) last season. Brown had four touchdown receptions of 50-plus yards, which was the most by a rookie since Randy Moss had five in 1998 with the Vikings. The charisma Brown showed as a rookie made him one of the most popular players on the team.

Ranking: He’s a star. — Turron Davenport

Drew Sample, TE, Washington

Analysis: Sample didn’t have many chances as a rookie. Before he missed the last seven games of the season because of an ankle injury, he ranked 80th in routes run by tight ends, according to ESPN Stats & Information data. To put that in perspective, Bengals tight ends Tyler Eifert and C.J. Uzomah ranked 19th and 31st, respectively. Sample will be asked to increase his production with Eifert signing with Jacksonville. In nine games, Sample had five catches for 30 yards.

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — Ben Baby

Miles Sanders, RB, Penn State

Analysis: It took some time for Sanders to find his footing, but once he did, he became a force. A dual threat out of the backfield, he averaged more than 5 yards per carry and 97 all-purpose yards from Week 8 on — a surge that pushed him into the Offensive Rookie of the Year conversation. The offense stabilized when Sanders emerged as the lead back, benefiting from his surprisingly sure hands and explosive style of play. There is no doubt he’ll be the primary ball carrier moving forward, with the chance to be among the most productive backs in the NFL.

Rating: On his way. — Tim McManus

Lonnie Johnson Jr., CB, Kentucky

Analysis: Johnson has a chance to be a starter in 2020 after an up-and-down rookie season. Coach and general manager Bill O’Brien believes Johnson has a lot of potential, which is clear based on how much he played as a rookie. “He’s going to have to build that catalog so that he can just refer to his notes when he goes up against a guy, and he’ll know what to expect and how he should be able to play him,” former defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel said in December. Houston is hopeful that Johnson can take that step between his rookie and second NFL seasons because it is depending on him to play significant snaps in a secondary that has question marks.

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — Sarah Barshop

Max Scharping, OT, Northern Illinois

Analysis: Scharping was part of the Texans’ revamped offensive line that included left tackle Laremy Tunsil and rookie right tackle Tytus Howard. Scharping had a big jump to make last season from playing at Northern Illinois to the NFL, and he did so relatively well. O’Brien has praised Scharping for being “very coachable” and said he thought the guard improved as his rookie season progressed. Scharping is expected to be Houston’s starting left guard again in 2020.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Sarah Barshop

Mecole Hardman, WR, Georgia

Analysis: As a rookie, Hardman delivered exactly what the Chiefs hoped he would: big plays. His touchdowns last season came from 42, 83, 21, 30, 63, 48 and 104 yards. Whether he gives the Chiefs even more this season depends on his playing time. The Chiefs are holding on to Sammy Watkins and re-signed Demarcus Robinson, so Hardman might not get the ball much more than he did as a rookie. That’s fine with the Chiefs as long as the big plays keep coming.

Rating: On his way. — Adam Teicher

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford

Analysis: Arcega-Whiteside finished 29th among rookies in receiving yards with 169, unable to achieve the instant success multiple players from his draft class enjoyed. That came as a bit of a surprise given the ability he had shown at Stanford and during the preseason. Asked to learn all three receiver positions, he suffered from information overload. With better coaching and a little more seasoning, Arcega-Whiteside has the potential to blossom in Year 2. But with the Eagles looking to bolster the position in the draft, he’s going to have to earn his snaps in 2020.

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — Tim McManus

Trysten Hill, DT, UCF

Analysis: Hill was inactive for more games (nine) than he played (seven). That’s never a good thing for a second-round pick. He wasn’t expected to be a major piece on the defense as a rookie, but the Cowboys certainly expected more than six tackles, a quarterback pressure and a tackle for loss. He came to the Cowboys with questions about work ethic and maturity, and he did not help himself by falling asleep in a team meeting early in the season. The Cowboys added Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe as free agents, so Hill will have to earn his playing time in the rotation. Teams like to say a player makes his biggest jump from Year 1 to Year 2. The Cowboys have to hope that’s the case for Hill, because he has a long way to go.

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — Todd Archer

Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State

Analysis: Campbell’s season was full of injury after injury. Hamstring. Hernia. Hand. Foot. Those injuries forced the speedster to spend more time on the sideline than on the field. Campbell played seven games and his impact in those games was minimal. Campbell had 18 receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown. The opportunity will be there for Campbell to redeem himself, because T.Y. Hilton and Zach Pascal are the only two experienced receivers returning.

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — Mike Wells

Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware

Analysis: Adderley’s potential impact with the Chargers remains uncertain after he played four games his rookie season, primarily on special teams, before he was placed on injured reserve because of a hamstring injury. Adderley could face an uphill battle to earn playing time this season because of a crowded secondary. But Chargers coach Anthony Lynn recently expressed confidence in his ability. “He is a good athlete; I wouldn’t bet against the young man,” Lynn said. “But we just need to get him on the field.”

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — Lindsey Thiry

Taylor Rapp, S, Washington

Analysis: Rapp took advantage of an opportunity to move into the starting lineup following a season-ending injury to John Johnson. In 15 games, including 10 starts, Rapp intercepted two passes, returning one 31 yards for a touchdown, and had 100 tackles and eight pass deflections. Rapp’s rookie season, while considered a success, wasn’t without error. In Week 16, with the Rams clinging to playoff hopes, Rapp blew a third-and-16 coverage against the 49ers, who went on to win 34-31. Johnson will return to the starting lineup in 2020, but Rapp is expected to maintain a starting role as he takes over for the retired Eric Weddle.

Rating: On his way. — Lindsey Thiry

Andy Isabella, WR, UMass

Analysis: Isabella learned how steep the learning curve is to play in the NFL; he got on the field for 38 offensive snaps in the first eight games. He found a bit of a role in the second half of the season, catching eight passes for 181 of his 189 yards in the final eight games. Isabella’s speed is undoubtedly his best asset, but because of his lack of growth in other areas, he was limited to fly routes and jet sweeps for the most part. With an offseason to work on his short-yard separation and diving into the film, Isabella is poised to make a jump in 2020. But how big?

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — Josh Weinfuss

Juan Thornhill, S, Virginia

Analysis: Thornhill had a significant role in the Chiefs’ improved defensive performance last season. His superior range allowed him to not only make plays but also free Tyrann Mathieu for his wide-ranging role. Thornhill missed the playoffs and Super Bowl LIV after tearing his ACL in the final regular-season game, but the Chiefs are expecting him back at some point in 2020.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Adam Teicher

DK Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss

Analysis: So much for that talk he could only run go routes. The Seahawks couldn’t have asked for a better debut from Metcalf. His 58 regular-season catches was second among NFL rookies and second by a rookie in franchise history. He then set a Seahawks playoff record with 160 yards in the wild-card round, also an NFL postseason record for a rookie in the Super Bowl era. He had a touchdown in that game to go along with seven in the regular season. Also impressive: Metcalf played in all of Seattle’s games even though he had knee surgery 19 days before the opener. He and Tyler Lockett give the Seahawks one of the NFL’s better wide receiver duos.

Rating: He’s a star. — Brady Henderson

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Loss of pro days makes it harder for NFL teams to find next Austin Ekeler



Three years ago, Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler was preparing for the jump of his life — from a Division II college team to the NFL.

He attended Colorado’s pro day, trying make an impression on NFL scouts, in March 2017. Each of the 20 Division II players in attendance would get a shot at the vertical jump and 40-yard dash. The best three would continue to work out. The other 17 would be sent home, their NFL dreams likely dashed.

Ekeler, who played at Western State Colorado, was one of the players from smaller schools who waited hours for the Division I players to finish their pro day. A third of the NFL scouts, facing long drives or flights, left. Those who remained were antsy.

Then, Ekeler jumped 40.5 inches in the vertical test.

“After that, everyone was like, ‘Whoa, wait a minute,'” Ekeler said. “Everyone was writing stuff down like, where did he go to school? I was like, ‘Hey, y’all, I’m an actual contender.'”

Then he ran the 40 in 4.48 seconds.

“Before, they were trying to figure out why I’m in Division II, and my coach was like, ‘He just slipped through,'” Ekeler said. “They’d tell them my lift numbers and [scouts] were like, ‘No way does he lift that.’ They didn’t believe it. It takes a pro day. It’s an opportunity to show scouts, ‘Yeah my numbers are legit’ and to show them what I have.”

That pro day performance made Ekeler a priority free agent pursued by multiple teams, rather than a likely tryout camp invitee. He got his chance with the Chargers and early last month signed a four-year extension worth up to $24.5 million.

“His 40 time set him apart and the more we saw, the more we wanted to see,” said Randy Mueller, the Chargers’ senior executive of football operations at the time.

Opening eyes as Ekeler did is a golden opportunity the class of 2020 won’t get, because pro days are canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. That has forced agents to be creative and teams to rely on previously gathered information. Players are left to worry about the impact of it all.

Complementing game tape



Former Louisville offensive tackle Mekhi Becton pushes a truck in preparation of the 2020 NFL draft.

One phrase stands out for teams: Trust the tape. However, pro days confirm what scouts have seen on tape — especially if they’re seeing the player perform drills for the first time. The skill-position players need to have a 40 time next to their name in order to help their standing.

“If you’ve got a wide receiver … and you have a draftable grade on him and there’s a question about his speed and you never see him run? That’s not good,” said one NFL talent evaluator.

If, for example, a team has four players on its draft board during the middle rounds but three didn’t run, the one who did would have an advantage. A team would lean toward the guy with good tape and drill times. The more information, the better.

But sometimes the pro days highlight fool’s gold. If a team has a particular player as a priority free agent, but shoots him up the draft board based on his pro day — and not his film — it could be a mistake.

“You’re going to have to balance the risk/reward in the draft process,” Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said. “We view it like a seesaw. We like the subjective and the objective to kind of match up, and [then] we feel really good about that decision. And when there’s less on one side, then you want to take out some of the risk to the extent that you can.”

But, Roseman said: “There will be some effect in terms of the guy who didn’t go to a bowl game and never tested. I think that person may be affected in a different way.”

The top NFL prospects have game film against high levels of competition and there’s more medical information available. But for the other players, the cancellation of pro days means a lost chance to improve their time in the 40-yard dash. Or for low-end prospects — as Ekeler once was — the loss of another chance to impress teams.

“[Every prospect] doesn’t go to the combine, they bank on those pro days,” Mueller said, “especially the small-school kids who don’t get a pro day of their own.”

Many agents for players who were counting on a pro day this year have worked to find solutions for their clients.

An improved 40 time



Utah running back Zack Moss, who already had a video chat with the Redskins, wanted to make up for a slower 40-yard dash at the combine. With no pro days, he and many other players have had to get creative to help their draft standing by staging their own

Utah running back Zack Moss is projected as a Day 2 pick in the April 23-25 NFL draft. But questions about his speed intensified after he ran a 4.65 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine on March 2. Moss needed a pro day to prove his combine time was more about an injured hamstring than his speed. An improved 40 time could mean the difference between being drafted early in the second round or perhaps early in the third. His 4,752 yards from scrimmage (and 41 career TDs) helped his status considerably; the 40 time could cement it.

“I knew I could improve it,” Moss said. “No panic button … the fastest guys aren’t always the best players. My whole focus was showing coaches how intelligent I am about the game instead of just being a super athlete in shirts and shorts.”

Jamal Tooson, Moss’ agent, worried about perceptions of various college conferences and set up an individual workout.

“For guys out of the Pac-12, [a pro day is] more important than guys out of the SEC,” Tooson said. “When you’re coming from a program like Alabama, irrespective of how your pro day or combine went, if you played at a high level against pro-level competition, they value film heavier, in my experience.

“[For other prospects] you really have to put both the film and their workouts in front of the decision-maker’s face.”

Other agents had the same idea for their clients and followed a similar plan. They would set up multiple cameras to shoot their players running a 40-yard dash and send the footage to NFL teams. The shot would be framed wide enough that a scout or general manager could time it while watching.

When Moss ran, there was a camera set up in the bleachers, another on the sideline and one from behind. Tooson provided all those angles to teams. Moss ran the 40 twice — at 4.52 and 4.54. The clip also showed his splits; the sprints were laser timed just like at the combine.

“It’s definitely weird,” Moss said. “This entire time and process is not how I imagined it.”

But one issue with this sort of situation: Are all teams receiving the homemade video? Tooson sent the video to every team that had shown “substantial interest” and needed a running back.

“If the rest of the league isn’t getting it, that’s a competitive advantage,” one talent evaluator said, speaking in general about the videos.

Florida Atlantic receiver DeAngelo Antoine had been planning to hold his own pro day, with workouts mirroring those at the combine. His agent, James Paul, had the workout mapped out knowing what it could mean.

Antoine, who has been working out six to seven hours a day at XPE Sports in Boca Raton, Florida, has had to be patient. He attended the College Gridiron Showcase all-star game after the season, but he was limited to practice.

Paul said Antoine’s pro day is now scheduled for early April at XPE. Like other agents, he’s trying to stay close to the date of the original pro day, knowing trainers worked to have players in peak conditioning for that timeline. But if XPE remains closed, Paul said they will have to do a makeshift workout.

“Not having an opportunity to showcase my talents on a pro day, it feels like an opportunity is getting snatched away,” Antoine said. “I keep God first and everything happens for a reason. I try not to let it be the end of things. All I need is an opportunity.”

Looking for another chance



Trey Wingo and Todd McShay break down McShay’s Mock Draft 4.0, which has Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb and Henry Ruggs III as the top WRs in this year’s NFL draft.

A day before he was scheduled to run at the NFL combine, Stanford Samuels was on the treadmill. It was no warm-up. The former Florida State defensive back had to get through an hour-long stress test, taxing his muscles far more than he’d have liked before one of the biggest days of his life.

Still, Samuels wanted to run for scouts, so he agreed to do the 40-yard dash the next day. It was a bad decision. His 4.65 time was a disappointment, far worse than the times he had churned out in training.

No worries, Samuels figured. There was still his pro day at FSU to get things right.

“We’re all looking forward to pro day, and when everything starts getting canceled, it throws everybody in sense of not knowing what’s next,” Samuels said. “The anticipation factor, it gets so much worse when you don’t know what to expect.”

Until there was nothing left to anticipate. On March 13, Florida State canceled its March 27 pro day and left Samuels in a difficult spot. His less-than-impressive 40 time at the combine would stand as the sole benchmark for his speed, barring a last-minute solution.

“He didn’t necessarily need the [40] time,” said Samuels’ agent, Ryan Rubin, “but he wanted another chance to showcase himself.”

Samuels was training with a couple dozen other prospects in South Florida with Per4orm Sports, which rushed to put together a makeshift pro day for its athletes at a local park. The key, Rubin said, would be getting some NFL buy-in, so a handful of agents shelled out cash to hire a former scout, Richard Shelton, to oversee the workout, then brought in a film crew.

Samuels ran a far more palatable 4.5-second 40-yard dash, followed by a 4.53.

Rubin sent the tape of the workout around to teams. Some have shrugged off the results. It wasn’t their scout timing things, so they remain dubious. Others have bought in.

“We’ve had some teams say, ‘Send me more,'” Rubin said, “and if you can change one team’s mind, it was all worth it.”

Not just about the 40

For offensive linemen, the pro days aren’t just about running sprints. Agent Cameron Weiss said scouts have told him they want to see how a lineman bends — with his knees or at the waist. So, for client Ryan Roberts, a tackle from Florida State, his workout video focused on short-area drills. Before the video was shot, Weiss made sure the drills were identical to those performed at the combine. Everything needed to be exact.

“No one believes a 40 time on tape that they can’t verify,” Weiss said. “But the short-area burst, fluidity in hips and knees, those are things they want to see.”

Roberts played one year in a Power 5 conference (the ACC) after transferring from Northern Illinois. But he did not attend the combine and his lone postseason experience was playing in the College Gridiron Showcase. Because of the pandemic, Roberts returned to his parents’ home in Scottsdale, Arizona, where they have a home gym. He can lift weights, run on a treadmill and do yoga and Pilates.

“Making sure my body stays healthy and active,” he said. “And you can always learn and watch more film. Go back and watch NFL games, watch the line play and watch tackles who dominate.”

Therein lies another loss: a chance for Roberts to visit teams and express these thoughts on what he has learned. Lengthy video chats remain an option. Moss had one with the Washington Redskins, for example. During video chats, Tooson said, teams will draw up a play on a white board and ask Moss for his diagnosis.

But for a guy like Roberts, interviews are a chance to reveal his passion and perhaps convince teams he’s worth a draft pick.

“I’m a nerd when it comes to football; I want to learn as much as I can,” Roberts said. “I study a lot of different guys. … Joe Thomas was so patient. He’s another one I love to study, the way he’d punch and use targets. I listen to his podcast and how he talks about using his hands.”

Roberts listed another half dozen tackles or more he says he studies.

“That’s stuff I can control right now,” he said. “Sometimes your body needs a rest … and when I’m resting my body, I can push my mind.”

Making the most of it

Josh Hammond said he has always tried to shrug off the stuff out of his control, but it was hard not to be nervous when pro days started getting canceled.

“It’s crazy as all this started coming out, we were in the gym,” Hammond, a former receiver at Florida, said. “Guys had left for their pro days and texted me back saying it was canceled. Once guys started seeing that, we still had hope but we knew it was probably a matter of time.”

Hammond worked out with Samuels at Per4orm, but unlike the FSU star, didn’t get a combine invite. That meant his tape from his time with the Gators was all he would have to show NFL teams.

When Per4orm put its makeshift pro day together, Hammond was grateful, but with little more than a day’s notice and plenty of questions on where the event would even be held, he had his concerns.

“Once the pro day got thrown at us, everybody was freaking out,” Hammond said. “Why does it have to be tomorrow? But when you looked back and understood the situation, that was the best thing to do.”

The morning was chaos, said Nick Hicks, director of Per4orm. The group had been assured use of a nearby park, but when they arrived, the gates were all locked. At another park a few miles away, where another gym was hoping to hold a similar event, they found police escorting everyone out. Finally, they tracked down another spot — a half-hour’s drive away — and the caravan headed off. Shelton flew in from Jacksonville, Florida, for the day, the group ran through 40s, shuttle drills and position workouts in about three hours, and in the end, Hammond had some numbers — even if they didn’t come in ideal circumstances.

“We had as much fun with it as we could, and put up the best numbers we can,” Hammond said. “It wasn’t ideal, but we did pretty well. We made the most of it and got it out of the way.”

‘Cherry on top’

Ekeler, who signed his extension with the Chargers, understands the benefit of that pro day in 2017, even though he also was confident in his film.

“His workout was really impressive,” Mueller said. “He ran fast, but he also caught the ball well and showed NFL athleticism, and you don’t see these small-school guys show that type of athleticism and skill. I saw it firsthand. Our area scout, Tom McConnaughey, put him on our radar. This workout stamped it.”

Mueller said he, McConnaughey and another NFL scout, Travis Lash, kept after Ekeler following his pro day.

“The three of us recruited him for a month to make sure we got him,” Mueller said.

Ekeler went undrafted, but Weiss said the interest grew from perhaps one team — the Chargers — to a half dozen. Ekeler knows why: His athleticism matched what he displayed on film.

“It was like the cherry on top,” Ekeler said of his pro day. “It helped solidify, ‘This guy is a legit football player.'”

ESPN college football reporter David Hale and Philadelphia Eagles reporter Tim McManus contributed to this report.

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