NFL DRAFT 2020: SMALL SCHOOL PRO DAY STANDOUTS
By Rebecca Rennie
Pro days have importance across all levels of college football, but arguably more-so at the lower levels. Only a handful of small school prospects were a part of the recent NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Many fringe prospects can put themselves in a stronger position by showcasing NFL caliber athleticism in their workouts.
It was intended to offer a regular update over the course of the next month or so on the pro day standouts from FCS, D2 and D3 schools. Given the current circumstances, this might end up being the only one. Rightfully, many are postponing workouts for the time being. If some go ahead, potentially with workout videos sent out to teams without attending, we’ll update on those results. Precautionary measures are the only way to proceed for now though.
Among those who were able to test over the past week or so, several helped their draft stock with strong performances:
A reliable and consistent target, Pearson’s film shows off his length, jump ball skills and strong hands. The Gamecocks receiver drew a late round to priority free agent grade as part of The Touchdown’s recent wide receiver rankings. Mentioned in his profile was a concern over his burst and overall athleticism.
Safe to say that he exceeded expectation in his workout, one of the first in the 2020 pro day schedule. Pearson was clocked as quickly as 4.44 in the dash and jumped 41.5” in the vertical. He added to that with a 10-8 broad jump, 4.18 shuttle and 7.22 3-cone.
It’s questionable as to whether Pearson’s play speed on film reflects the timed speed he recorded but it certainly will send scouts back for another look. His ability to high point is legit and “Baby Julio” may have cemented a late round selection. Offering a high character and high effort on the field, the 6’3”, 205lb receiver is a smooth runner with great hands and plus catch radius. His 30 touchdowns over the past two seasons reflects his abilities as a red zone target.
Salukis’ safety Jeremy Chinn is rightfully regarded as one of the top small school prospects in the 2020 draft. He may not be the only player from the Southern Illinois secondary to hear his name called, however. Harper made his case for a Day 3 selection with an eye-opening workout at Northwestern’s pro day. The 6’1” 196 lb corner has size and length, now also proving his speed and athleticism to complete the measurables.
Harper tested as fast as 4.41 in his dash, while also showing agility in his exceptional 6.70 cone time. Strangely, his shuttle didn’t show the same short area burst at a relatively disappointing 4.41 seconds. The lower-body explosion was undeniable however, hitting 40” in the vertical and 11-2 in the broad. The testing adds to good statistical production as a senior. Harper totalled 42 tackles, 12 PBUs and 2 interceptions in 2019.
An Oklahoma State transfer, Harper was dismissed from the Cowboys due to an unspecified violation of team rules. How teams view that situation will be a factor in his eventual grades and selection. Harper’s game film shows much promise, particularly in zone coverage concepts. Mostly executing a slide step technique more so than a backpedal, Harper keeps his eyes inside and shows good reads, range and closing speed.
He’s not deployed often in press situations but his length and the physicality he brings to his game could lend itself well to developing his game more in such assignments. Allowing a bit of separation at the top of routes, Harper’s consistency in keeping in phase is there in flashes but could improve. While coverage skills are prioritized, there’s a lot to like in his run support. Harper frequently brings force as a tackler (see below) and gets stuck into piles to finish plays.
This has felt like a particularly strong year for D2 and D3 prospects in 2020. It’s challenging enough making the pros from the FCS, let alone below. Yet there are so many intriguing players beyond the FCS. Add Washburn offensive lineman Kyle Hinton into the mix as a late rounder or priority free agent.
A college left tackle, the 6’2”, 295lb lineman projects to a move inside for the next level. Even then he lacks ideal size and length. His impressive combination of strength and agility shows positive measurables beyond simply the height and weight, however. He’ll likely be scheme specific for the pros but will fit well in some systems. Teams have shown interest following his NFLPA Collegiate Bowl appearance and recent pro day.
His workout showcased the impressive combination of movement, athleticism and power. Hinton ran under 5.0 seconds, jumped 34.5” in the vert, and totalled 34 reps in the bench press. His arms measured in at 32.5” with an almost 80” wingspan, which should pass thresholds with some teams for an interior lineman.
The athleticism absolutely translates to his game film, even in the context of playing lesser competition. Hinton consistently demonstrates easy fluid movement, lateral agility and upfield burst out of his stance. His combination blocks in the run game are a highlight of his game films. The aggressive blocker frequently finished his outmatched opponents to the turf with definitive pancake blocks.
As a pass protector, Hinton’s quick changes of direction are part of impressive overall adjustments and reactions. His recognition and redirecting allows him to pick up late blitzers, make secondary blocks and handle second-phase counters comfortably. He may lack elite size but shows traits worthy of developing.
Though preferring his defensive teammate Chris Williams as a prospect, there’s no doubt that Cam Gill has potential to stick around in the NFL for some time himself. His workout confirmed his athleticism that combines well with fantastic energy on the field. He has limitations but ought to be a special teams demon and rotational/depth asset with a versatile skill set.
Gill has been a productive pass rusher and excels in pursuit on the second level. He doesn’t have ideal length and looks a little tight hipped on film but could offer potential as a situational pass rusher and contribute off ball in space. In fact, Gill didn’t work out at linebacker at his pro day, instead working at DE in addition to some DB drills. The potential to be used on every level of the defense will be appealing.
Gill showed off his well-rounded athleticism in testing at Wagner’s pro day. Gill ran a 4.58 dash, jumped 34” and 10-2 in the vert and broad, with a solid 21 reps on the bench. At times his aggression saw him get caught out of position but in general the 6’2, 238lb defender flashed well at the East-West Shrine event. He totalled 60 tackles, 20 TFLs, 9.5 sacks, 2 PBUs and 3 forced fumbles to conclude his Wagner career.
After catching a couple of Kennesaw State games this season, Rechsteiner consistently stood out as a playmaker and athlete. The latter was emphatically confirmed at his recent pro day. The 5’11, 230lb full back recorded a 4.48 dash with speed that shows up on game film. He added a 35.5” vertical, 10-0 broad, 6.95 cone and 4.22 shuttle. His obvious power was reflected in his 35 bench reps.
Seeing plenty of action within the Owls’ triple option attack, Rechsteiner will offer more to his projected full back role than just as a blocker. He adds value as a receiver and ball carrier. Once free on the open field, Rechsteiner is a truck that is challenging to stop once at top speed. The agility and burst at his size stand out, with impressive suddenness in his changes of direction.
The physicality as a blocker is propped up by good balance and leverage in his technique to go with the core strength. He’s proven to be a reliable receiver out of the backfield when asked, though with minimal targets in the primarily ground-based offense. Rechsteiner totalled 909 rushing yards at 8.12 yards a carry and 7 touchdowns as a senior.
He could be looking to pursue a career in pro wrestling. The son of wrestler Rick Steiner has reportedly wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father and Uncle Scott. An NFL opportunity could delay that possibility for now; either way, he has some interesting potential career opportunities. He certainly has one of the best highlight videos of the year.
There may be limited demand at the position, but there’s plenty of youthful supply at full back from the 2020 draft class. That includes small schoolers such as Rechsteiner above and college linebacker Drew Wiley. He looks the part with a stout build at 6’1” and 242lbs with the physical game to match.
It’s possible for Wiley to be looked at as a two-way prospect and special teamer, but his workout on offense at his pro day is a sign of where some teams may primarily project Wiley to. Recent examples such as Patrick Ricard of the Ravens and former Giant Nikita Whitlock have found success contributing on both sides of the ball.
Wiley’s play for Villanova showcased his defensive versatility, playing both off-ball and rushing off the edge. His game featured a strong motor, physicality and aggression throughout. More than just effort, Wiley played with great footwork, loose hips and decent range. His strong pro day included mid-4.6 speed, 32.5” vertical, 9-9 broad and 18 bench reps. Most notably, he reportedly exceled in full back drills, running crisp routes and catching cleanly.
Feature Image Credit: Kyle Hess/KSU Athletics