I took in South Carolina's pro day workout on Wednesday along with representatives from all 32 NFL teams, including New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine; Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert; Buffalo Bills assistant GM Doug Whaley; Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer; and Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Mark Tucker.
Those big names came out to see a trio of Gamecocks who figure to be early-round picks, including a pair of defenders who will be first-rounders and a wide receiver with a big question to answer. Here's how those three, and a fourth prospect, fared.
WR Alshon Jeffery
(Scouts Inc. grade: 87)
Jeffery did not work out at last month's NFL combine, and the big concern for those in attendance at his pro day was his top-end speed. Before running, though, he checked in at 6-foot-2¾ and 213 pounds, down three pounds from his combine weight and considerably lower than his 2011 playing weight of nearly 230. Jeffery was lean, but he showed little muscle tone or definition.
As for his 40-yard dash time, I clocked Jeffery at 4.47 seconds, and other scouts I talked to ranged from the high 4.4s to the low 4.5s. That's not the kind of exceptional time we've seen from other big receivers, such as Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill (4.36) and Miami's Tommy Streeter (4.40), but it's good enough for Jeffery and will help his cause somewhat. I will say, however, he doesn't appear to play that fast on tape.
Jeffery did look good catching the ball, though. He has a very wide catching radius and shows good hands, with the ability to pluck the ball away from his frame. He pulled in 12 of the 14 passes thrown his way, including a slant route on his second catch of the day in which he fully extended his arms to snatch a ball thrown high and in front of him.
Jeffery also made a nice grab on a split route from the slot, tracking a ball thrown high and over his shoulder before extending and plucking it smoothly on the run, and he ran effortlessly under a deep ball on the final throw of the session. There is little doubt he tracks the deep ball well, can win with size and is a threat when targeted down the field.
Still, concerns about his lack of overall explosiveness and suddenness continue to be an issue after his workout. Jeffery struggled to drop his weight and transition out of breaks, which was a contributing factor on the two passes he failed to bring in. Yes, the throws from former Gamecocks QB Stephen Garcia were off the mark, but Jeffery labored when gathering himself and cutting back toward the ball. That problem also showed up when he struggled to drop down on a post-corner double-move at one point.
And while Jeffery has adequate speed, he does not explode off the line, but rather builds gradually to his top-end speed. He's not going to threaten many cushions or run by many defensive backs in the NFL, and because of his struggles out of breaks he is limited within the route tree. Jeffery can go over defenders to get the ball (36.5-inch vertical jump), and he answered questions about his 40 time, but after his workout Jeffery remains in the middle of the second round in my eyes, after beginning the 2011 season in the first-round mix.
DE/OLB Melvin Ingram (94)
Ingram (6-1.5, 265) nailed the combine and looked just as good during his pro day. His arm length came in at just 29.7 inches -- an inch-and-a-half shorter than at the combine, which is odd and requires some checking -- and that's well below the four-year averages for ends and outside linebackers at the combine, but his workout was good enough to ease concerns about his ability to lock out and shed blockers.
Ingram showed quick, smooth feet during drills; was balanced and exploded out of cuts; and changed directions easily for his size. He picked up his feet well during bag work, and I was most impressed with how he held up in space. He moved smoothly and opened his hips well when changing directions, and Ingram's agility and body control are excellent for a player with his compact frame. He tracked the ball nicely in coverage drills, transitioning well out of breaks and showing solid ball skills and the ability to turn into a runner once he caught the ball.
Ingram's hands are quick and violent, and he ran tight loops during pass-rush drills. He is a great fit at outside linebacker for a 3-4 team and could contribute in a 4-3 at end or perhaps even at strongside linebacker. All of this lines up with the disruptive player we see on film, and Ingram has definitely cemented himself in the middle of the first round
CB Stephon Gilmore (91)
He's one of the fastest-rising prospects in recent weeks, and Gilmore (6-0⅝, 189) showed good movement skills during drills. He has quick feet and explodes pretty well out of breaks, and while Gilmore is a little tight when opening his hips he stayed balanced and was always under control.
Gilmore made quick transitions out of his backpedal, showing the ability to gather himself before breaking forward, and his ball skills are steady. He did a good job locating the ball out of breaks, getting his hands up and securing the pass, and at one point he looked good high-pointing a ball thrown above his shoulders. Gilmore is a bit tight on tape, but he is an aggressive tackler in run support, and when you throw in his size, instincts and solid combine workout Gilmore is catapulting himself into the late-first round.
S Antonio Allen (78)
Allen (6-1⅛, 206) is a little high-cut in his backpedal and showed some tightness during drills, and he did not display the natural ball skills we see on film. And while his 40 time was in the low 4.6s, Allen does not appear to have a second gear to catch up to the ball, and you have to wonder about his overall range.
He's a more natural mover when he can gather at the top of his pedal and break forward, as opposed to flipping his hips and running with receivers, so Allen fits more as an in-the-box-type safety who can use his instincts and physical style to his advantage near the line of scrimmage. He can also contribute on special teams, and he did nothing to hurt himself during his pro day. Allen remains in the late-third-to-early-fourth round area.