Tuesday’s Notre Dame Pro Day meant different things to all nine former Irish players that participated. For wideout Michael Floyd and safety Harrison Smith, it was about not tarnishing stellar performances at the NFL Scouting Combine back in February in Indianapolis. Cornerback Robert Blanton and Darius Fleming looked to improve a few areas from solid efforts at the Combine, running back Jonas Gray simply wanted to show off how mobile he is five months removed from ACL surgery and having only participated in the bench press at the Combine, and offensive tackle Taylor Dever needed to show his upper-body strength after a disappointing bench press in Indianapolis.
Irish wide receiver Michael Floyd impresed at Notre Dame's Pro Day and improved his lock on a first-round draft pick.
Three others not invited to the Combine knew how important Tuesday’s showing was for their draft stock. Cornerback Gary Gray, offensive guard Trevor Robinson and kicker David Ruffer worked out in front of scouts and had mixed results.
Floyd and Smith didn’t run a 40-yard dash or max out on the bench after turning in great numbers in February. They did nothing to hurt their status, with Floyd still expected to be selected in the first round and Smith a likely second-round player with an outside shot at being picked at the end of the first.
“This kid looks so smooth,” said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, who is also part of NBC’s Notre Dame coverage team. “Great footwork. I think Mark Barron, the safety from Alabama, is in the top 20. Harrison should be the next safety. I see him late first round, but probably the top half of the second round. He’s 6-foot-2, 215 pounds with great movement skills. Somebody’s going to get a steal with Harrison Smith.”
Smith feels as if he’s proved himself after shining at the Combine and Pro Day. He’s on call now as teams continue to contact him.
“It’s a whole process,” Smith said. “I showed them this is who I am. If people like it, I’m happy. Since this process started, I’ve done nothing but help myself.”
Former Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen was on hand to throw passes to Floyd and Jonas Gray, a decision made by Floyd when preparing for Pro Day. Floyd was sharp and exhibited great footwork both in his routes and when making catches near the sideline.
“In my book he is (the best receiver in the Draft),” Mayock said. “If you take the off-the-field stuff away from Michael Floyd and just watch the tape, I think he compares very, very favorably to Justin Blackmon. In my opinion, I think Jacksonville at [No.] 7 starts his interest. I don’t think he gets past 16 with the Jets. I think there are some teams like Chicago hanging down there at 19 that would love to have Michael Floyd.”
Floyd was all smiles after he finished. He joked around on the bleachers inside the Loftus Athletic Center with Clausen after a throwing session that lasted at least 45 minutes.
“I think it went well,” Floyd said. “I did all the routes and what the coaches wanted to see. I did my best. I’m in a great position to reach my goal and play in the NFL. ... I’m just glad I stayed and get to graduate in May. My family is proud of me, my teammates are proud of me, and I’m proud of my teammates, too.”
Jonas Gray had surgery in early December and wowed NFL scouts and coaches with the progress he’s made. With a slight limp only emerging late in the workout, Gray exploded off the line of scrimmage, was able to plant, cut hard and catch passes at full speed. His agent and doctors advised him not to run the 40, however, until he’s done with the rehabilitation process.
“Just to see him catch the ball and move shows teams he’ll pass the medical and get in a camp,” Mayock said.
Complete results from Tuesday have yet to be released, but Robinson’s effort in blocking drills and on the bench (31 repetitions at 225 pounds) served him well. Dever looked pretty good in drills, but the number everyone’s waiting to see is his bench press total. He was 44th out of 48 linemen at the Combine with 18 reps.
Blanton ran a 4.7-second 40 in Indianapolis and clocked around a 4.55 Tuesday. Fleming posted a 4.72 at the Combine and turned in a similar number as Blanton here in South Bend.
“I think the two guys that really helped themselves as far as [measurements] are Blanton and Darius Fleming,” Mayock said. “Both ran in the mid-4.5s. I’ve been a believer for a real long time that Blanton’s a real quality safety prospect. Some people think that is a [negative]. It’s not; it’s a compliment. I think he can be a starting safety in the league. I also think he can play all four special teams. He’s a draftable kid who’s a real good value in the middle of the draft.
“Darius Fleming to me is underrated. He’s one of those tweener-sized guys — 247 pounds. Where do you play him? He’s more explosive than teams thought; he ran in the mid-4.5s. He caught the ball in the linebacker drills and he’ll be a core special teams player. He ran really well today. I think he’s a middle-round pick.”
Gary Gray, who’s been dealing with a pulled groin since January, struggled at times, dropping a couple balls and having to start over on some directional drills. After being heavily criticized for not looking back at the ball, it was clear he’d spent a great deal of time in recent months working on his awareness.
“Under the circumstances I think I did pretty well,” Gray said. “There were some things I did pretty well,” he said. “I ran a decent 40 time (low 4.6). I had to put the [groin] out of my mind. When I did the pro agility it really started hurting. I just had to try and block it out.”
Ruffer spent the afternoon alone at the outdoor LaBar Practice Complex kicking in front of a smaller group of scouts. Even in a crosswind, he booted several balls through the back of the end zone.
“There were two field goals I didn’t like — had a little pull — but other than that I was pleased,” he said. “This [wind] is typical for South Bend. I wanted to kick outside because not every team plays indoors. I think this would be a little more realistic than kicking indoors. I think I helped myself. It’s doubtful I’ll get drafted. Hopefully I’ll get into a camp and push somebody that’s out there and just make the best of it.”
Check back at BlueandGold.com later today and throughout the next couple days for individual feature stories, video and complete Pro Day results.
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