Pro days are just one part of a larger overall process of prospect evaluation and are often used as a double-check to what scouts see in a player’s game film. That being said, when top-rated players hit or exceed physical expectations, they can solidify their spot at the top of the draft.
This week provided two such cases.
LSU held their pro day Wednesday morning and the superstar everyone had their eyes on was elite wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. Chase has long been considered one of, if not the best receiver in this draft class, as he wins in a plethora of ways. Speed, explosion, and power are all evident on film and he uses all three skills to gain separation and secure catches.
Based on his film, Chase entered his pro day with expectations that he would run in the 4.4s in the 40-yard dash (speed), while also testing near the top of the class in the vertical and broad jumps (explosion). He exceeded expectations:
WR1 Ja'Marr Chase's Pro Day numbers pic.twitter.com/ySOshiFklp— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 31, 2021
Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith are the closest challengers to Chase’s spot at the top of the mountain in this year's class, but neither Alabama receiver participated in on-field testing at their pro days, making it a difficult task to confirm evaluations. This calculated step shouldn’t hurt their chances of being selected in the top 10, but if a team had similar grades on any of the three receivers, Chase just gave himself a slight advantage today.
Florida’s Kyle Pitts also checked all the proverbial boxes on Wednesday, illustrating why boxing him into just a “tight end” label is a dangerous evaluation. At nearly 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds, with 33.5-inch arms and an 83 and 3/8-inch wingspan, Pitts should not be able to run a 4.44 40-yard dash, but that’s exactly what he did (unofficially).
Amazing. And yet, not surprising.— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) March 31, 2021
Why he is No. 2 on my top-100 board and the top non-QB. Pitts is a unicorn. https://t.co/fMKtWesbbi
Pitts is a modern era offensive skill player and his ability to create mismatches makes him a potentially valuable asset, which is why he may get selected in the top-five picks of this draft.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are going to select QB Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) with the first pick in the draft, with the New York Jets likely grabbing QB Zach Wilson (BYU). The San Francisco 49ers just traded up to pick No. 3 which surely indicates they are also grabbing a quarterback, with most believing it will be Trey Lance (North Dakota State).
The Atlanta Falcons own pick No. 4 and they’re the first real players for an offensive skill player. Pitts makes a lot of sense for them as their offense hasn't been the same since losing Austin Hooper, and Pitts immediately fixes the problem.
The Cincinnati Bengals hold pick No. 5, and while an offensive tackle makes sense, so does reconnecting quarterback Joe Burrow with his favorite college target, Chase. If Chase slips past Cincinnati, the Miami Dolphins own pick No. 6 and they also could use a dominant WR1 like Chase.
Now nothing is set in stone, but with Chase and Pitts confirming that they are indeed incredible athletes, there’s a real chance neither will be options for the Detroit Lions when they are on the clock with the No. 7 pick.