NASHVILLE, Tenn. – From the high-pressure stakes of the Scouting Combine to the comfort of their own college practice facilities, NFL hopefuls get one final chance to impress scouts during their respective pro days this coming spring.
It's another key part of the draft evaluation process that's already in full swing with college all-star games and the upcoming combine, said Titans Director of College Scouting Blake Beddingfield.
Each Division I program will host a pro day starting in March to early April, showcasing specific players and giving others a chance to take part in drills in front of NFL scouts and general managers.
In addition to the big names, other players may too be discovered. An NFL scout might be in attendance to evaluate a team's quarterback, but come away impressed with the receiver he was throwing to.
During pro days, players will go through the same six measurable drills as the combine, with 40-yard dash times usually garnering the most publicity. Each player will also go through a more comprehensive positional workout.
At the combine, a quarterback will throw a slant, an out, an in, a seven route (post-corner) and a go-route. At his pro day, QB's will toss upwards of 100 passes to give scouts ample tape to evaluate their short, intermediate and deep throws.
The comfort level is what brings the best out of many players at their pro days. Not only are they in a comfortable setting at their own practice facility, they're working out with teammates and coaches they've worked with all season, or in some cases multiple years.
Last year, Zach Mettenberger was one of the stars of LSU's pro day, showing off his big arm and easing the worries of scouts about his recovery from an ACL tear.
"It's interesting to see how players continue to stay in shape," Beddingfield said. "I talk to players all the time about maintaining their fitness level and conditioning. In just a few months from their pro day, they're going to be playing football in the NFL. You'll be in rookie camp and getting integrated with the veterans on the team. It's a mentally exhausting time for those guys."
The entire draft process can be a grind for NFL prospects, with a whirlwind of events that are entirely new experiences.
"I think once they get to the football part of it again they're excited," said Beddingfield. "They're training for something completely different after the all-star games – the speed tests, the jumping, the agility drills and the mental testing. It's all different than they've ever done before."
Possibly more intriguing than the performance of college athletes is the demand pro days put on NFL scouts.
The month of March may be the busiest of the calendar year for Beddingfield's team. All five area scouts, both regional scouts and the combine scout will be on the road seven days a week during the month-plus of pro days.
Rigorous travel schedules and sleepless nights are the only way to cover the necessary ground and see as many players as possible. Between the nine scouts (Beddingfield included), the Titans will have representation at nearly every pro day around the country.
There is no rest for the weary this time of year as pressure mounts for each scout leading up to the NFL Draft on April 30 – a stress comparable to a college student cramming for a final exam.
"This is when they put a bow on their reports and tie it up," Beddingfield said. "This is an important time to get the last bit of background information that you can get and really feel comfortable about these players when you write your final report before our pre-draft meetings."