UK Football Pro Day shows promise of many players

NFL scouts time former Kentucky offensive lineman Jordan Swindle during the 40-yd dash during UK Pro Day at Nutter Field House in Lexington, Ky. on Friday, March 4, 2016. Photo by Michael Reaves | Staff.

Jack Pilgrim

UK football seniors took over Nutter Field House one last time on Friday to impress scouts and bid for a chance to play in the NFL.

With so much talent in the roster, each year’s crop of Pro Day talent is growing stronger and stronger, and the event continues to be a spectacle.

Scouts poured in from across the country, ranging from the New England Patriots, the Carolina Panthers, the New Orleans Saints, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Seattle Seahawks, as well as Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. All but one NFL team, the Buffalo Bills, were in attendance to catch what UK had to offer to help their respective teams.

The big talk of the day was whether Josh Forrest would improve on his mediocre performance at the NFL Combine, and, if so, it would impress scouts enough to move up on the draft charts.

Though Forrest improved on his 40-yard dash time from a disappointing 4.91 seconds at the combine to 4.75 seconds on Friday, he ranked last amongst linebackers at the combine with only 11 reps. He decided not to compete in the bench press because he felt there wouldn’t be much difference in the quick turnaround from the NFL Combine.

Forrest will be able to participate in individual workouts to help improve his draft stock, where he could take time and strengthen his numbers from the NFL Combine and Pro Day performances.

Safety A.J. Stamps produced impressive numbers on the day, improving his combine 40-yard dash time of 4.79 seconds at the combine to 4.53 seconds at UK on Friday. Stamps also performed well in the positional drills, and he improved his stock tremendously. Scouts have kept a close eye on him, and he is expected to be drafted in one of the later rounds.

Linebacker Ryan Flannigan put up some surprising numbers on the day, logging a 4.56 second 40-yard dash and competing well in all of the position drills. Many knew his talent coming into the event, but few expected such impressive numbers.

Though Flannigan likely will not get drafted, an NFL team may take a shot on him in the undrafted free agency circus — where he will attempt to make a team this offseason.

Defensive tackle Cory Johnson had an impressive outing Friday, garnering the attention of several scouts. He ran a 5.07 second 40-yard dash before tweaking his left hamstring, a time on par with most of the defensive tackle prospects that competed in the NFL Combine.

Johnson thrived on the bench press, managing to lift 26 reps at 225 lbs., a team high for the day. He was also a strong competitor in the position drills.

Johnson could be a hot commodity when the undrafted free agency comes around, and he may even slip into one of the last rounds of the NFL draft if he impresses in the individual workouts.

Defensive tackle Melvin Lewis made a surprise appearance in his first public workout since tearing his ACL in October against Auburn. Lewis competed in the bench press drill, managing to lift 22 reps, and he also competed in the position drills.

The road to recovery has been long and stressful for the lineman out of Compton, California, but his work could eventually reward him with a roster spot in the NFL if he continues to progress the way he has. NFL scouts were impressed with him before his injury and were excited to see the progress he has made in his recovery.

Lewis may go undrafted because of the health risks associated with such a tough injury, but teams may very well light up his phone to sign him after the draft. If things go as planned, he could have a long and successful career in the NFL.

Farrington Huguenin showed promise in front of NFL scouts, dominating on the bench press with 25 reps, producing decent speed in the 40-yard dash, and exhibiting versatility in the position drills. No one thought an NFL team would take a chance on him before the season began, but he has worked hard to show he is capable.

Huguenin likely will not get drafted, but he could get a few calls to try out for teams and find a place to develop into a valuable role player in the NFL.

Cody Quinn was a nice surprise in the speed drills, posting a team-best 4.50 40-yard dash. As he passed the finished line, his former teammates, celebrating on the sideline, went wild knowing he had just showed off to NFL scouts what they had seen in his entire career at UK.

Quinn also performed well in the 3-cone drill and the position drills, along with a decent showing on the bench press with 11 reps. He may not hear his name get called in the upcoming draft, but a few teams could look toward him for practice squad help.

Javess Blue, Mike Douglas, Nate Willis, Demarco Robinson, TraVaughn Paschal and Steven Borden also returned to UK to compete in the event, hoping to take another shot at impressing NFL scouts and get a shot as free agents. Of the returning Cats at Pro Day, Blue stole the show, running a 4.63 40-yard dash and looking great in the positional drills.

Blue was on the Green Bay Packers last season and had a lot of success early on, but injuries limited his development and he eventually was cut by the team. Blue likely earned another shot in the NFL with his performance, but where that may be is still to be determined.

With the Packers in attendance and his successful start last year, there is a chance he could return to catch passes from NFL superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

It was a successful day for UK’s seniors and past players, who gave it their all in front of more than 50 NFL scouts. With the draft coming up April 28-30, it will be interesting to see if and where the former Cats continue their football careers.