Indianapolis, IN – Last year the Razorbacks had four players drafted off of their 11-2 team finishing with a national ranking of No. 5 team by the Associated Press. The 2013 NFL draft could see as many as five former Arkansas players having their name called by various teams with six or more having a legitimate shot at making an NFL roster.
Much has been made about quarterback Tyler Wilson entering this year’s combine and rightfully so. Wilson set several school and SEC records along the way to earning first-team All-SEC during his junior campaign in 2011.
Through his workouts in front of NFL coaches during the week long preparations for the Senior Bowl and while performing throwing drills at the combine Wilson has upped his draft status into a possible first round pick. The only trouble Wilson may have is finding a team in need that is willing to call his name over picking a “can’t miss” position player in hopes that he slides to the second round.
By most draft boards Wilson is listed in the top four of pro-ready quarterbacks; Geno Smith (Virginia), Matt Barkley (USC), and Mike Glennon (N.C. State). But the NFL teams in need of a high-profile quarterback are far less than in years past which could force Wilson into a second round pick all depending on how each team drafts in the beginning stages of the draft.
Wilson’s top target in 2012 was wide receiver Cobi Hamilton. Hamilton was among the top receivers in Division-I last season and showed big play ability throughout his four-year career at Arkansas.
With the opportunity to shine after the graduation of Joe Adams, Greg Childs, and Jarius Wright, Hamilton showed his toughness and grit as every team the Hogs played last season knew Wilson was looking for Hamilton each time he dropped back in the pocket. Hamilton stepped up to the challenge showing he could be a No. 1 receiver in the SEC.
Hamilton may see his draft stock jump at Arkansas’ pro day should he participate. Scouts would like to see his forty-yard dash time improve over his combine posted 4.56; the combine takes the slowest forty-yard dash out of two attempts. At six-foot two-inches Hamilton has the ability to be an outside receiver in the pros if he can flash better speed on his breaks, keep his hips low, and show greater concentration each time he is targeted.
The rumors around the Broyles Complex were Hamilton did not find the weight room until his senior season. If true his 11 reps of 225 pounds would explain his low numbers. His gifted athletic ability may have allowed him to dominate at the high school and college level but his workout routines as a pro could define how long he plays in the NFL. Getting off the line on press coverage is not as easy in the pros as it is at the collegiate level.
Barring any setbacks or wild jumps in his pro day numbers Hamilton forecasts as a third to fourth round pick come April 25-27.
Dylan Breeding, a four-year player with the Hogs, with utmost certainty will not hear his name called during the 2013 NFL draft, because NFL teams typically do not draft punters. But Breeding will get a chance to prove his worth as a free agent signee. The two-time second-team All-SEC performer proved his ability during his junior and senior seasons averaging 45.3 and 45.58 yards per punt respectively.
Breeding posted a 4.74 40-yard dash, did 11 reps of 225 pounds, and had a vertical jump of 29.0 inches showing high athletic marks for his position. As far as punters go Breeding was among the top performers at his position during the combine.
Three-year starter Alvin Bailey started every game the Razorbacks played during his tenure at Arkansas. As an early entry to the NFL many scouts thought Bailey could use another year of seasoning at the college level to work on certain techniques that could have improved his readiness in the NFL.
On the positive side, scouts like Bailey’s ability to maul when trapping along with his willingness to make contact on run blocks. When placed in one-on-one situations he does well but can lose his teachings by bending at the waist instead of with his knees to reach defenders. Bailey allows defenders to get into his space too easily at times making contact within his space instead of punching out with his hands to knock the opposition of balance.
Bailey was a workout monster before hitting the Fayetteville campus benching over 400 pounds and squatting 600 pounds. He threw up an impressive 27 reps of 225 pounds and ran a 4.95 forty-yard dash which places him among the top offensive linemen in the draft.
Pro day workouts may not do much to help Bailey’s draft status. Coaches and general managers like his durability, knowing he played against top talent in the SEC, but may let him slide into the mid-rounds before taking a chance on the talented offensive guard. Another year at the college level and Bailey may have been a first or second round selection.
Tight end Chris Gragg posted the fastest forty-yard dash at his position with a 4.50 run, his second attempt. His first attempt was clocked at 4.44. Gragg’s speed and above average hands will make him an offensive threat in the right offense as a pro.
Depending on which team drafts Gragg and how said team intends to use him, look for Gragg to be more of an H-back working in space against the opposition’s linebackers and safeties off the line or in the backfield instead of as a hands on the ground prototypical tight end; see New England Patriots tight ends.
Weighing in at 244 pounds and with a flat-bench rep of 18, tied for seventh best among all tight ends this year, Gragg may have trouble blocking NFL level defensive ends as an every down position player.
Another potential roadblock for Gragg is durability issues. In 2012 Gragg only played in five games dealing with a deep bone bruise in his leg suffered against Rutgers after missing the entire 2009 season due to injury. Gragg and Wilson spent very little time on the field together last season which ended up hurting both players’ offensive statistical numbers.
The physical beast among Arkansas players at the combine was Knile Davis. Davis hulked out on the bench press pushing 31 reps to be among the best at the combine regardless of position. He also turned in a top forty-yard dash time of 4.37.
Davis physical abilities have never been in question only his ability to stay on the field. Listed at five-foot ten-inches weighing 227 pounds Davis is not a small guy or afraid of contact but the injury bug has followed him throughout his high school and college career. After exploding onto the scene in 2010 he missed 2011 with an ankle injury and missed two complete games in 2012 which raises red flags for every NFL team.
NFL teams will appreciate Davis as a pass rush blocker and a receiver out of the backfield. There is little Davis could do at Arkansas’ pro day to help his draft status. He has first round physical ability but may have too many unknown health variables for a team to take a big risk drafting him in the early rounds.
The most curious omission from the NFL combine among former Razorbacks that are draft eligible has to be running back Dennis Johnson. Johnson led the Hogs in rushing in 2011 and 2012 while playing behind Davis and Ronnie Wingo Jr. and dealing with various nagging injuries.
During the 2009 season Johnson earned All-American honors as a kick returner compiling 1,031 yards on 40 attempts. He left Arkansas as the SEC’s all-time leader in kickoff return yards.
Johnson’s career rushing statistics will not overwhelm but most of that is due to circumstance not necessarily ability. In parts of five seasons at Arkansas he averaged 6.42 yards per carry throughout his career. He also showed great pass blocking ability and above average receiving hands catching 49 passes over the past two seasons.
Look for Johnson to make the most of his pro day. Consistent top forty-yard dash times along with above average numbers posted on other physical drills could make Johnson a late round draft choice, doubtful but still possible.
Other former Razorbacks looking for an NFL contract:
OT Jason Peacock
CB Darius Winston
RB Ronnie Wingo Jr.
OG Tyler Deacon
DE Tenarius Wright
LB Alonzo Highsmith
LB/FS Ross Rasner
DT D.D. Jones
DT Alfred Davis
DE Colton Miles-Nash
Arkansas Razorback’s NFL Draft Grades in 2013
QB Tyler Wilson – 83.5
WR Cobi Hamilton – 72.9
OG Alvin Bailey – 67.0
RB Knile Davis – 65.4
TE Chris Gragg – 58.9
P Dylan Breeding – 51.4
How NFL.com projects the grades of all players regardless of position:
100-96, top pick, future Hall of Fame player
95-85, first round pick, immediate starter
84-70, 2nd to 3rd round pick, eventual starter
69-50, 4th to 7th round pick, draft worthy
49-20, free agent player, not draft worthy