It is that time of year.
NFL scouts descend on college campuses for various pro days. Forty-yard dash times reign supreme. After a series of tests, including the vertical jump and the broad jump, players break down into individual drills.
It was after these drills in early 2007 in Baton Rouge that dozens of NFL scouts arrived at one conclusion: LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell was the No. 1 pick in the draft.
In 2013, after countless hours of campus visits, workouts and background checks on every player, the draft commenced. Not one of the top 17 picks made the Pro Bowl.
Only three first-round picks were Pro Bowlers as rookies. They were safety Eric Reid of LSU (49ers, No. 18), guard Kyle Long of Oregon (Bears, No. 20) and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee (Vikings, No. 29). Only one other rookie made the Pro Bowl – running back Eddie Lacy of Alabama (Packers, No. 61).
Yes, it is that time of year, where workouts seem to carry much more value than what a player did in his college career. Which brings us to LSU wide receiver Jarvis Landry.
When Landry ran a plodding 4.77 40-yard time at the NFL combine, the red flags were up more than May Day in Moscow. Landry was also measured at 5-11. Landry suddenly was too slow and too small.
That chatter didn’t seem to abate, even though he blamed his slow time at the combine on a tight hamstring, and even though Landry improved with times of 4.58 and 4.51 at LSU Pro Day on April 9.
I’ve always thought Jarvis Landry was an outstanding football player. Was I misguided? Just to be sure, I looked through some video.
I watched the one-handed, left-handed catch as Landry dove to the ground with an Arkansas defender underneath him. I watched the one-handed touchdown grab in the end zone against Arkansas in Fayetteville in 2012.
And, I watched the third-down catch against Georgia when Landry caught a ball between three defenders, took a knee to the head that knocked off his helmet, yet still held the ball.
Were all of those plays mirages?
Landry was the 2013 LSU most valuable player. Of his 1,172 yards, 453 of those came on third down. He was the best third-down receiver in college football in the best league in the country.
If the scouts put on the tape, they will also see a player who was outstanding making tackles on punts and kickoffs. But, suddenly, he’s too small and too slow.
One year ago, Alabama running back Eddie Lacy ran times of 4.59 and 4.62 at the school’s Pro Day. He was the 15th-fastest running back. But when the season ended, Lacy was the 2013 NFL Offensive Rookie of the year. He played 15 games, rushed for 1,178 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. He fumbled once.
My guess is the Packers drafted Lacy based on his college production, and they were rewarded handsomely. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if we say the same thing about a small, slow receiver from Lutcher High School.
Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.