This NFL Draft period has been like no other in history, not because of the talent in the draft, but because it’s happening during a worldwide pandemic with COVID-19. The entire country is under quarantine, and that includes countless NFL Draft prospects, who were hoping to put on strong displays at their Pro Days throughout March and April. Of course, practically all of those Pro Days ended up being cancelled.
Former Colorado QB Steven Montez, considered a 7th-round draft pick by many, managed to get in his Pro Day for NFL teams before states started closing all facilities due to social distancing measures, his agent, A.J. Vaynerchuk of VaynerSports, told Pro Football Magazine. Along with Montez, Southern Illinois tight end Nigel Kilby, and Oregon WR Juwan Johnson, a receiver with great contested catch ability, also were able to take part in more traditional Pro Days.
But other prospects were not so lucky and had to either wait for their Pro Day to be rescheduled or be proactive and find an alternative solution.
The team at VaynerSports was proactive in their thinking, and wisely realized that they would need to come up with their own solution. Early on, “schools were saying they had plans of doing Pro Days later in March or early April, but we quickly realized that it would be difficult for organizations of that size to take on the liability and coordination,” Vaynerchuk said. “So we quickly focused on doing it ourselves rather than relying on each university.”
That, too, proved to be easier said than done though, as more and more practice and workout facilities were closing across the country as the states adopted the guidelines on social distancing and closing of non-essential businesses. Vaynerchuck told PFM that they “actually had numerous workouts planned and then cancelled when the state would shut down a facility we had identified. We remained persistent and were able to pull off 3 different private workouts.” The team also made sure to have a former NFL scout run the makeshift “pro day” in order to add credibility to the workout, since of course, NFL teams and scouts would not be able to attend personally.
Nonetheless, Georgia WR Tyler Simmons, Mississippi State’s JaQuarius Landrews, USF tight end Mitch Wilcox, Ohio State’s Jordan Fuller, and Texas running back Kirk Johnson all managed to film private workouts and send them to NFL teams for consideration. Simmons also participated in Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm’s workout.
One personnel executive also posited the idea that because of the lack of in-person time spent with prospects, teams picking in this year’s NFL Draft will be more conservative than usual, especially on players that have medical concerns. This is unfortunately the way the NFL Draft process has to work this year, and these additional hurdles affect each team more or less equally.
Still, it’s good to see that quick and creative thinking by players, agents, and advisors still resulted in teams receiving at least a virtual pro day, and not leaving draft prospects without a chance to make a final impression on personnel executives around the NFL.
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