The NFL recently compiled a list of all the Pro Days taking place on college campuses over the next six weeks, and if you checked it out, you know it presents a rather packed calendar for league scouts. (Go ahead: Check it out.) No matter how robust a teams' player personnel department may be, it's not feasible for each club to make it to each Pro Day.
I mean, look at March 11; there are 13 different schools holding their Pro Day on that Tuesday, in locations from Tampa to Cheney, Washington.
Fortunately, there's a system in place to address the issue. The majority of the NFL's 32 teams have an agreement to share Pro Day findings. Each of those teams agrees to make sure it has people at a certain number of workouts; it stands to reason that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would volunteer to attend the USF Pro Day in Tampa on March 11, for instance. If a West Coast team can't make it to Tampa for that one, they can get the times and numbers from the Bucs. Likewise, if the Buccaneers choose not to head to Cheney for the Eastern Washington Pro Day, some team on the West Coast will help out.
That said, the Buccaneers will have representatives at quite a few Pro Days, the Oregon (March 12) and Florida State (March 31) ones being the most obvious. There are others that, at least on paper, seem like must-see events for the Buccaneers, too. Below are five Pro Days that Tampa Bay scouts should make sure they cover, for a variety of reasons. They are listed in chronological order so that you can get an idea of the travel demands facing a Buccaneer scout who tried to hit all five.
1. Texas A&M
Date:Wednesday, March 4
Location:College Station, Texas
Air Miles from Previous Destination (One Buccaneer Place):852 miles
Reason for Attending: Questions That Need Answering
Just days before the calendar turned to 2015, it looked likely that Cedric Ogbuehi would give the Aggies a first-round pick at the tackle position for the third straight year. Depending upon how much the scouts worried about his pass-protection struggles last fall or how good they projected him to be with some more coaching, Ogbuehi could have cracked the top 10 just like Luke Joeckel did in 2013 and Jake Matthews did in 2014.
Alas, the talented 22-year-old suffered a torn ACL in Texas A&M's Liberty Bowl win on December 29, which is certain to affect his draft status. How much that injury affects where he goes will likely depend on how comfortable NFL teams feel about his medical examinations. Ogbuehi won't be able to work out on Wednesday, of course, but he should be available for examination and interviews. His injury could end up being a boon to a team picking high in the second round, like the Buccaneers.
That's one question the Bucs will be looking to answer in College Station. Here's another one: Can running back Trey Williams, who ran a 4.49 40-yard dash at the Combine and also excelled in the three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle (measuring agility along with speed), convince a team that there is a position he can play in the NFL. Williams is only 5-7 and 195 pounds and he probably would only be an occasional runner at the pro level. But he might be able to offer some value out of the slot, and even more intriguingly he could be a major weapon in the return game due to his electric moves. Could the Bucs see enough they like about that idea on Wednesday to target Williams at some point during the draft, given that they've been trying to find a spark in the return game for years?
Then there's cornerback/safety DeShazor Everett, who was not invited to the Combine but could still interest a team in the later rounds, or during the mad hours of undrafted-free-agent signings that follow the final pick. Everett is a strong special teamer but he made need to prove at the Aggies' Pro Day that he has the speed that will keep teams interested.
All of that and a potential second-round pick at guard – a position of need for the Buccaneers – in Jarvis Harrison, and there are plenty of reasons to have feet on the ground in College State on March 4.
Date:Tuesday, March 10
Location:Los Angeles, California
Air Miles from Previous Destination (One Buccaneer Place):1,300 miles
Reason for Attending: Depth in the Front Seven Pool
About a week ago I suggested five possible targets for the Buccaneers at pick #34, the second selection in the second round. Admittedly, that was pure conjecture on my part – neither Lovie Smith nor Jason Licht really wants to go on record right now with their positional rankings – but if you agree that DE Owa Odighizuwa is a player the Bucs should target, then you want them to make the cross country trip next week.
Of course that also happens to be the first day of the new league year, which means free agency starts at 4:00 p.m. ET. It's safe to assume that date and time will keep Smith and Licht occupied at One Buccaneer Place, but there are still plenty of personnel men who can take care of the scouting in L.A. Odighizuwa has to be one of the top draws.
This year's crop of pass-rushers is considered deep enough to push some intriguing prospects into the top of the second round. Of course, those players thought to be candidates for the bottom half of the first round or the early going on Day Two will be jockeying for position over the next two months. It will be interesting to see if Odighizuwa remains a question mark after his Pro Day or if he's still considered a potential get at #34.
Likewise, the Buccaneers could be in the market for a middle linebacker if pending free agent Mason Foster does not return, and that position is a bit up in the air right now, too. Depending upon which mock draft you review, you will get a number of different answers on where UCLA's Eric Kendricks stands among his peers, most notably Miami's Denzel Perryman, Clemson's Stephone Anthony and Mississippi State's Benardrick McKinney. It's widely believed that at least one of those four, if not two or three, will fall into the second round, simply because outside linebackers tend to draw more attention than inside linebackers.
There is one more very high-profile player who will put his skills on display during UCLA's Pro Day: Quarterback Brett Hundley. Now, one would not expect the Bucs to have any interest on Hundley if they plan to take Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston first overall, but if they're planning to use that pick in another way than they would appear to be in the market for a down-the-draft passer.
Date:Wednesday, March 11
Air Miles from Previous Destination (One Buccaneer Place):1,840 miles
Reason for Attending: Sheer Volume
This is where it gets tricky for our hypothetical scout. He had plenty of time to get from Texas to Cali but now has to make a very quick turnaround to get back to Kentucky. Still, it would be worth it.
Guess which school had the most players invited to the Scouting Combine this year? Okay, it was Florida State, which you probably guessed. But while there were 12 former Seminoles in Indy, there were also 11 Louisville prospects, which tied the Nick Saban juggernaut for second.
Given that, it was almost certain that some of those players would be of interest to the Buccaneers. Guard John Miller could be chief among him; he's a player at a position of need who is considered a potential second-round pick. Wide receiver Devante Parker might end up out of the Bucs' price range but there are plenty of other players to watch for the second and third days of the draft, including two running backs (Dominique Brown and Michael Dyer), two safeties (Gerod Holliman and James Sample) and two more offensive linemen (Jamon Brown and Jake Smith).
Date:Wednesday, March 18
Air Miles from Previous Destination (One Buccaneer Place):319 miles
Reason for Attending: Fact-Finding Mission
Our scout is probably enjoying this leg of the trip, unless they put him on a 20-seat puddle-jumper. Actually, with a week in between visits, he should be able to make a leisurely drive.
Maybe he'll get there early in order to begin the Bucs' fact-finding mission. Because, as was the case in College Station, there is more to be learned in Athens than 40-yard dash times.
The five-best running backs invited to the NFL Scouting Combine.
Like the Aggies Ogbuehi, Georgia power back Todd Gurley would likely have been a first-round lock if not for an ACL tear suffered last season (in mid-November). Gurley attended the Combine but obviously couldn't work out and did not submit to medical examinations. That makes Georgia's Pro Day extremely important for teams trying to determine how quickly he can return to the form that made him such a standout for the Bulldogs.
How important this information to the Buccaneers we can't know without access to Licht and Smith's private talks. Still, it's clear that they believe in building a deep backfield and sharing carries, and Gurley could be the big power back the Bucs lack. Sure, it would be a bit of a surprise to see the team address that position in Round Two, but the Bucs will want to have a fully reliable scouting report in case that opportunity arises.
There are plenty of other reasons to head to Athens, as usual, not the least of which is Combine star Chris Conley, the wide receiver who blew away most of the field in the various drills. Conley wasn't even a lock to be drafted before his trip to Indy, but now it seems quite likely that some team will take a chance on him to see if he has had hidden NFL talents all along. The Bucs, should they be interested, will certainly want to know if they have to use a pick to get him or if they can try to sweet-talk him during the post-draft free agency period.
How about LB Ramik Wilson? He's called an inside linebacker, but can he play that position in a 4-3 defense, like the one the Bucs' employ or is he better suited for SAM or WILL? That's important to figure out because Tampa Bay could be looking for an option at that spot in the third round or later. Cornerback Damian Swann may also have a chance to prove he's worth a late-round pick at a position at which every team is always looking to build depth.
5. Miami (FL)
Date:Wednesday, April 1
Location:Coral Gables, Florida
Air Miles from Previous Destination (One Buccaneer Place):594 miles
Reason for Attending: Second-Round Soul Searching
Let's be honest: Our intrepid scout is probably going to stop in Tampa and cool his heels between Wednesday stops in Kentucky and Miami. One way or another, however, he's going to find his way down to the bottom of the Buccaneers' home state. And for very good reason.
In the article to which I linked above, there are five options offered for consideration for the Buccaneers at pick #34. One of those five was Miami wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, but you could very easily put inside linebacker Denzel Perryman and tackle Ereck Flowers on that list, as well.
The issue with all of them, but particularly Perryman and Flowers, is if they will still be around at pick #34, or close enough for the team to consider trading up. That's not an answer we're likely to have for a while; as mentioned above, there doesn't seem to be much consensus yet as to how the players should be ranked at offensive tackle and inside linebacker.
Still, this trio of players has to interest the Buccaneers to some degree, right? That's the conjecture here, and one can't ignore running back Duke Johnson either, especially if he were to fall out of the second round. Like Louisville, Miami had a ton of players in Indy and will have even more on display at their Pro Day on the first of April. And if it turns out that one very hard-working Buccaneer scout decides to visit all five of those spot, that will be 4,905 air miles put to very good use.