TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Much like the Crimson Tide's showing at the NFL combine last month, Wednesday's pro day on the University of Alabama campus will have a distinctly limited feel as many of its participants are still battling injuries sustained during the season.
The biggest setback to the event -- which will air live on ESPN3 at 10:30 a.m. CT -- came on Sunday night when ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Eddie Lacy will not participate in the workout because of a lingering hamstring injury. The running back, widely considered to be most valuable at his position in the draft, will instead wait for the soreness to subside and perform for scouts at a later date, according to the report.
Like many of his teammates, Lacy will have to watch the drills from afar. Center Barrett Jones said he will attend but will only participate in the bench press portion of the event. Cornerback Dee Milliner, who is the No. 2 player on Mel Kiper Jr.'s Big Board and a likely top-five selection, won't work out either. He was scheduled to have surgery on a torn labrum today.
Nonetheless, the program must go on, even with some of its headliners sidelined. For those expected to participate, the chance to make a final positive impression on NFL personnel is at stake. A bad combine? A poor interview? So-so tape? All that could be put aside with a solid showing tomorrow. With the help of ESPN college football and NFL draft analyst Kevin Weidl, here are TideNation's top three players with the most to gain from Alabama's pro day:
1. S Robert Lester: Thus far, Lester has been unable to shake the sense that he lacks the necessary athleticism to play in the NFL. He has the size (6-foot-1, 220 pounds), the experience (a three-year starter) and the pedigree (coach Nick Saban, anyone?). But in terms of raw ability, he's been found lacking. He finished well outside the top 15 performers among defensive backs at the combine in all three workouts he participated in: 40-yard dash, broad jump and vertical jump. Improving his 40 time and gaining back some of the measurables he lost in Indianapolis will be huge for Lester. Teams look for a reason to draft players with his type of production. He hasn't given them a justification yet.
Weidl's take: "What I saw on tape was a guy that's a little tight. He couldn't turn and cover all the time. He can help in run support but you have to protect him in pass coverage. His 40 time isn't ideal but it's not crippling. If he can improve that 4.66, it will definitely help him out."
2. LB Nico Johnson: Like his former teammate, Johnson has to overcome a perception problem among scouts. He's viewed as rock solid but unspectacular, lacking the playmaking ability that teams crave. But unlike Lester, Johnson didn't suffer a setback at the combine, choosing instead to skip the workouts in Indianapolis to rehabilitate from a sports hernia surgery he underwent a few days after the Senior Bowl. If he shows well in drills on campus, he could pique the interest of teams that run 3-4 defenses.
Weidl's take: "When you watch the tape you get intrigued by him. He moves well in traffic. He takes on and engages blockers, and he's a solid tackler. I don't see an exceptional athlete on tape, but he's better than expected. If he can get in 4.7 range, he could be a fringe Day 2 prospect."
3. TE Michael Williams: Williams was the lone combine snub for the Crimson Tide, failing to get an invitation to Indianapolis. For that alone, Wednesday is important for him. A solid Senior Bowl did a lot to shore up his stock, but throwing on some good measurables in front of scouts would go a long way. He ran a 4.52 second 40-yard dash at a regional combine, which would have ranked him among the best performers at the national event. If he puts up similar numbers in Tuscaloosa, he might draw some more attention his way.
Weidl's take: "At 6-6, 269, he's one of the better blocking tight ends in the class. His tape is above average as an inline blocker. He could do some things better, but he's got that frame to cover up defenders. He's a guy that can come in and be a second type tight end and red-zone guy. He's more a Day 3 type guy."