Apr 1, 2020 - Sports

Canceled pro days hurt fringe NFL hopefuls

A player running on a football field

Photo: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

ESPN's Todd McShay released his updated mock draft yesterday, which got me thinking: how will the cancellation of pro days due to COVID-19 affect draft boards and the hundreds of fringe NFL hopefuls?

The state of play: Top prospects, like all the guys on McShay's newest rankings, will be mostly fine. But for players who either weren't invited to last month's combine or performed poorly while there, pro days offer one last chance to prove themselves.

  • Presumptive No. 1 pick Joe Burrow understands its significance so well that he pushed for a pro day even amid the pandemic just to help improve his LSU teammates' draft stock.

By the numbers: There are thousands of draft-eligible players each year, but only a few hundred receive combine invites (337 in 2019) and even fewer actually get drafted (254 in 2019).

What they're saying: Lower-tier NFL draft hopefuls such as Ron'Dell Carter, a defensive end from FCS powerhouse James Madison, discussed his current predicament with WashPost's Kent Babb:

"We're stuck. All we can do now is work out, work out, work out — until we get a call ... It's just one of these things where no one knows what's going on. Like, no one knows. Nobody has been in this position before. The NFL probably doesn't even know what to do right now."

Pro day success stories:

  • Phillip Lindsay (RB, Broncos): The 2018 Colorado standout wowed scouts at his pro day, signed with Denver as an UDFA and has already made one Pro Bowl and rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons.
  • Austin Ekeler (RB, Chargers): The D-II star out of Western Colorado didn't earn an invite to the 2017 combine, but his pro day 40-yard-dash and vertical would have placed him fourth and first among RB, respectively. He's since scored 22 TD in three seasons for the Chargers and just inked a four-year, $24.5 million deal.

The bottom line: Though it's not the end of the road for players like JMU's Carter, that road has gotten bumpy in a hurry, and it will be up to them to hustle and get creative to prove they belong.

Go deeper: NFL will hold draft as scheduled but cancel public events due to coronavirus

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