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UB Pro Day Wrap-up

The University at Buffalo held its "Pro Day'' inside the Bills Fieldhouse Thursday. No one was sure how many NFL scouts were there because some of them weren't wearing team apparel. But I counted about a dozen teams in the house.

Many of them came to see two guys in particular: cornerback Josh Thomas and safety Davonte Shannon.

Thomas had a terrific showing at the NFL Scouting Combine and could have rested on that. But he opted to participate Thursday and didn't disappoint.

He lowered his 40-yard dash from the combine from 4.46 seconds to 4.43. He also improved in the vertical (from 38.5 inches to 40 inches) and broad jumps (10-6 to 10.8) recorded in Indianapolis.

It says a lot about Thomas' competitiveness that he was willing to work out again. He positioned himself as a likely sixth- or seventh-round draft pick.

Shannon was counting on a good 40 time to improve his stock, but a pulled hamstring on his second attempt ended his day. His only recorded time ranged from 4.58 seconds to 4.65 seconds, according to the scout's stopwatches.

He did make a good impression before getting hurt with a 41 1/2-inch vertical leap, a 10-6 broad jump and 18 reps on the 225-pound bench press. It was believed he needed to run under 4.6 seconds to improve his chances of being drafted. But a guy who was productive as Shannon was (four-time All-MAC, UB's career tackles leader), he'll be in some team's training camp this summer.

Other Bulls who looked pretty good was cornerback Dominic Cook, who ran the 40 in the mid-4.5 range and benched 225 pounds 18 times. He also showed good feet in positional drills. Cornerback Sherrod Lott did some good things in positional work.

The most impressive bench press was turned in by running back Brandon Thermilus, who did 31 reps. Linebacker Justin Winters had 20 reps, the same as guard Peter Bittner.

---Allen Wilson

 

Tough break for Shannon

Safety Davonte Shannon was the player a lot of NFL scouts came to UB's Pro Day to see on Thursday. Unfortunately, they left without seeing as much as they wanted.

Shannon pulled up near the end of his second 40-yard dash after hurting his left hamstring. He called the injury a "tweak,'' but it was bad enough to prevent him from taking part in individual and position drills. 

He was having an outstanding morning at the Bills Fieldhouse before the injury. He wowed scouts with a 41 1/2-inch vertical leap. Only three players jumped higher at the combine and none were defensive backs. He also did a 10-foot, 6-inch broad jump and bench pressed 225 pounds 18 times.

Despite the impressive numbers, scouts wanted to see how Shannon ran after he posted a pedestrian 4.75-second 40 time at last year's Pro Day. He did improve on that Thursday on his only attempt as hand times ranged from 4.58 seconds to 4.65.

Scouts were hoping for a little faster time, some of them saw it was about what they expected.

"It’s a little disappointing because you train so hard since the football season was over to now to really showcase your talents to the scouts,'' said Shannon, who is rated as the 15th-best safety by NFLdraftscout.com. "It’s a bummer, but I’m going to try and stay positive and work on the things I can work on and go from there.''

Besides the physical measurables, Shannon on-field production at UB has to carry some weight. He was four-year starter and the school's all-time leading tackler. He also was named first-team, All-Mid-American Conference four straight years, a few accomplished by only three other players in league history.

It's possible the 6-foot, 211-pounder could be drafted, but it's more likely he'll sign as a free agent.

---Allen Wilson

 

Road to the Draft: CB Patrick Peterson

ROAD TO THE DRAFT

Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

6-foot, 219 pounds

Draft projection: First round (top five)

Lowdown: Peterson could be the “cleanest” pick in the top 10 of the draft. He has the size and speed to be an All-Pro and no off-the-field issues. He solidified his status as a top-five prospect by running unofficial 40-yard dash times of 4.32 and 4.37 seconds at the scouting combine. That’s amazing speed for a corner weighing 219 pounds. He won the Bednarik (top defender) and Thorpe (top defensive back) awards last season. As a sophomore he held down top wideouts A.J. Green of Georgia and Julio Jones of Alabama. Green had four catches, Jones three. Last season Jones got 10 catches for 89 yards against the Tigers. He’s also a special teams star. His 29.1-yard kickoff return average ranked first in the SEC and ninth in the nation. His 16.1-yard punt return average ranked first in the SEC and fourth in the nation. He’s buddies with Green Bay Packers star Charles Woodson, who texted him from the sidelines during the Super Bowl.

Who does he pattern his game after? “Charles Woodson. I don’t want to be the next Charles Woodson, but I definitely want to pattern my game after Charles Woodson. He can play each and every defensive position on the field. If they gave him the opportunity to play D-tackle or D-end, he’d definitely do it. That’s something I want to show the world that I can learn the scheme and understand the scheme as well. Playing if they need me to play dime, if they need me to play corner, strong safety, rover, I’m definitely down for it.”

---Mark Gaughan


 

Kiper on the No. 3 pick

Here's a short audio clip on ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. assessing the Buffalo Bills' No. 3 pick in the NFL Draft.

---Mark Gaughan

 

Kiper targets ILB Wilson early 2nd

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. held a conference call for reporters today and assessed the prospects for early in the second round of the draft.

The Bills have the 34th overall pick - the second pick of the second round. They have a glaring need at inside linebacker. The top inside linebacker in the draft is Martez Wilson of the University of Illinois. Here's how Kiper views Wilson, who is 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds: "Cleary the best inside linebacker in this draft. Struggled at outside linebacker early in his career, then had the injury (a disk injury in the neck in 2009). One hundred tackles this year. Great workouts. He’s going to be a guy I think between 33 and 45 comes off the board."

Kiper on defensive linemen early in the second round: "For D-linemen in the second-round mix, a lot of these guys are going in the first. For second round, I have Brooks Reed of Arizona going in the late first. You would have thought second. But I’ll say late first or second for Brooks Reed, the defensive end outside linebacker from Arizona. I’ll say for right now. (California’s) Cameron Jordan’s a lock first. Cameron Hayward from Ohio State is more of a second – borderline first, but more of a second. Allen Bailey from Miami probably a second or a third. Drake Nevis probably a third. Marvin Austion from North Carolina second or a third. … Christian Ballard, Iowa, end or tackle, second, maybe late first."

Reed played well for the South team at the Senior Bowl, which was coached by the Bills' staff.

Kiper sees Arkansas' Ryan Mallett and Texas Christian's Andy Dalton as the two quarterback prospects who could go in the top half of the second round.

---Mark Gaughan

Dinner with Buddy & Cam

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton got thumbs-up reviews from numerous observers Tuesday for having virtually no "entourage" at his school's pro-day workout for NFL scouts. His father, and his agent, Bus Cook, were not at the stadium. He showed up for the start of the pro-day at 12:30 p.m. and supported his teammates, even though he wasn't throwing until four hours later.

However, Newton's agents - Cook and Tony Paige - were in attendance with Newton at dinner Monday night with Bills General Manager Buddy Nix, according to NFL.com's Gil Brandt. Brandt is the personnel legend from the Dallas Cowboys who attends a bunch of the biggest pro-day events.

Here's the full interview with Nix and a few reporters after the workout:

Q: Do you like Cam and Nick? A: "Sure. Absolutely. I think everybody has got those two."

Q: Did you get what you wanted out of Cam? A: "I tell you this, workouts are a small piece of the puzzle. We go by how they play. If the throwing is good, you can tell something about their release, you can tell something about his arm. But the only way you can tell how a guy can play quarterback is when he’s being rushed and you’ve got coverage and you’ve got to throw it in a tight spot and you’ve got pressure on you. That’s kind of what we go by…the biggest percentage, anyway. Eighty percent, probably.

Q: What did you think of Fairley in drills? A: "If anybody can tell if a guy can play football running through dummies, he’s better than I am. But you do see athletic ability. He has great ability, feet, speed and bursts and all of those things. He’s a good player. He makes plays on Saturday, and he’ll make them again on Sundays."

Q: How much does this figure into your judgment? A: "It’s just a little piece of the puzzle. It’s like the Wonderlic test. If you get a guy who makes a low score, then it’s a red flag for you. It makes you spend time researching to see if he can learn football. It’s the same way out here. If a guy runs a slow 40, or a slow 10, yet he plays fast, then that’s what you go by."

Q: What did you think of some specific throws by Newton? A: "If you’re not careful sometimes, you’ll let the percentage of the completions fool you with a quarterback a lot of them are 0-to-9-yard passes. You’d like to see him throw the corner routes and the deep routes and see what kind of accuracy he has with that. People talk about the quarterback and where he releases the ball. The main thing is to get it out on time and hit what you aim at."

Q: Did you learn something about Cam today you didn’t know? "No. He did good, and I expected him to."

---Mark Gaughan

Road to the Draft: OT Ben Ijalana

ROAD TO THE DRAFT

Benjamin Ijalana, OT, Villanova

6-3 ½, 317 pounds

Draft projection: Late first to mid second round.

Lowdown: Ijalana is the biggest small-school gem in the draft. He started all 53 career games at left tackle and helped Villanova win the 2009 FCS national title (formerly Division I-AA). His height is not ideal for tackle, but he has good feet and long arms (36 inches), which helps him compensate. He’s also tough. He played the last six games as a senior with a bilateral sports hernia. He's another player the Bills could think about with the 34th pick. Ijalana, who has Nigerian-born parents, was a big central defending soccer player growing up and says he didn’t know much about American football until age 14.

Ijalana was a New Jersey district high school champion in wrestling. He says that sport helped him in football.

“It was vital. Wrestling is probably the hardest physical activity I’ve ever been involved in,” he said. “It’s intense. It’s insane. You’re moving around. A match is 6 minutes. It’s about movement and staying up. It’s a matter of what you do after you get tired, because you’re going to get tired. You’re going to get exhausted. And you still have to move and fight through it. When you think of a game, 60-70 plays, fourth-quarter drive, overtime; guys putting their hands on you. It definitely helped me.”

 ---Mark Gaughan

Nix on Newton workout

Auburn University quarterback Cam Newton looked pretty good in his pro-day workout Tuesday. The entire five-hour session, which included about two dozen Auburn athletes, was aired on ESPN3.

Bills General Manager Buddy Nix was there and offered some perspective on the "football-in-shorts" session.

“I tell you this, workouts are a small piece of the puzzle," Nix said. “We go by how they play. If the throwing is good, you can tell something about their release, you can tell something about his arm. But the only way you can tell how a guy can play quarterback is when he’s being rushed and you’ve got coverage and you’ve got to throw it in a tight spot and you’ve got pressure on you. That’s kind of what we go by, the biggest percentage, anyway. Eighty percent, probably.”

Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley showed great agility in drills, which was no surprise to anybody who saw even one of Auburn's games last fall.

Nix on Fairley: “If anybody can tell if a guy can play football running through dummies, he’s better than I am,” Nix said. “But you do see athletic ability. He has great ability, feet, speed and bursts and all of those things. He’s a good player. He makes plays on Saturday, and he’ll make them again on Sundays.”

Did Nix learn anything new about Newton at the workout? "No. He did good, and I expected him to."

---Mark Gaughan

Wilson deal worth $7M

The Bills gave themselves some security at the safety position with the three-year extension for George Wilson last week. Starting strong safety Donte Whitner is virtually assured of signing elsewhere, presuming the NFL has a normal offseason with a free-agent market. We should know on that score on Friday, the new deadline for labor talks.

Wilson's three-year deal is worth a total of $7.05 million, The News learned. It includes $4.75 million in base salaries over the three years.

---Mark Gaughan

 

Road to the Draft: QB Greg McElroy

ROAD TO THE DRAFT

Greg McElroy, QB, Alabama

6-2, 220

Draft projection: 7th round.

Lowdown: Some team looking for the next Ryan Fitzpatrick might want to consider Alabama’s McElroy. He’s smart and he’s a winner. The problem is he does not have a good arm. Fitzpatrick, when he came out of Harvard, in 2005, was viewed as having a better-than-average arm. All the intangibles, however, are there in spades for McElroy, who has had an amazing football career already.

At Dallas’ Southlake Carroll High, McElroy had to wait three years to start, because he was behind Chase Daniel at QB. All Daniel did was go on to throw for 12,515 yards and 101 touchdowns in his career at Missouri. But when McElroy got on the field as a senior, he led his team to a 16-0 record and the Texas 5A championship. At Alabama, McElroy had to wait three years behind John Parker Wilson. But when he took over the job as a junior in 2009, McElroy led the Crimson Tide to a 14-0 record and a national title. When South Carolina upset Alabama in October, it was McElroy’s first loss since middle school. McElroy’s record as a starter in high school and college: 40-3.

McElroy also graduated with a degree in marketing and got only one B (all As otherwise) as an undergrad. He scored 48 out of 50 on the Wunderlich test at the combine – the same score as the Bills’ Fitzpatrick. McElroy’s father is senior vice president of sales and marketing for the Dallas Cowboys.

McElroy is a big fan of New England QB Tom Brady.

“Coach Saban doesn’t ever say here let’s throw on the film and watch No. 12 from New England, but you watch him. He’s the most fun guy to watch in the league right now. There’s a lot of efficient quarterbacks, but as far as his control, his balance, the way he sets up in the pocket, the way he is so mechanically sound, it really is such a joy to watch. It really is such a joy to watch. He’s so fluid. He never gets flustered. Just his subtle movements, all of his subtleties, every little detail is addressed. Coach Saban would never let me watch another quarterback play. He thinks that’s soft or something. But yeah, I obviously have spent time watching Tom Brady. He’s a hero of mine and a guy who I would love nothing more than to try to pattern my game off of.”

(The Road to the Draft is a daily feature on the Billboard Blog up until April 28.)

---Mark Gaughan

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