Linemen take stage at Notre Dame Pro Day

NFL: Combine: Notre Dame offensive lineman Quenton Nelson speaks to the media during the 2018 NFL Combine. --Photo Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

— By Pete Sampson, —

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Between scouting franchise quarterbacks in Los Angeles and Laramie, Wyo., this week, the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock stopped at Notre Dame on Thursday to watch a player who could be better than Sam Darnold or Josh Allen.

That doesn’t mean All-American guard Quenton Nelson will get drafted before the quarterbacks he will be paid to protect next year. It just means he might be taken earlier if NFL teams considered only talent regardless of position.

“Take the quarterbacks out of the picture just for a second, there’s three top position players in this draft,” Mayock said. “It’s Quenton Nelson, it’s Saquon Barkley and it’s Bradley Chubb. Take your pick. Every team is a little different in what they need and how they go about it.”

Nelson and offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey were the headliners at Notre Dame’s Pro Day, which also showcased seven other former Irish players, including receiver Equanimeous St. Brown, running back Josh Adams and tight end Durham Smythe.

All 32 NFL teams sent personnel to the event, with Chris Ballard of the Indianapolis Colts the only general manager in attendance.

Nelson and McGlinchey both formally interviewed with the Colts after the event. McGlinchey also interviewed with the Panthers.

“I’ve been doing Pro Days for 15 years now and it’s as good an offensive line Pro Day as I’ve been at,” Mayock said. “When you’re standing there with a bunch of coaches and scouts that have been around and you hear them go, ‘Oh man,’ and ‘Oh my God,’ you don’t ever hardly hear that kind of stuff.”

Adams posted a time of 4.48 seconds in the 40-yard dash and competed in all the agility drills even though he might have foot surgery before the NFL Draft. That leaves Adams as a question mark. He scratched all drills at the NFL Combine last month.

“Overall, I felt like everything went well,” Adams said. “I wanted to run low 4.4s, but to me it was all about how I felt. It was strong. I know it was fast. It wasn’t slow.”

Pro Day meant something different to St. Brown, who has been building a case as a top-five reciever despite a down junior season of 33 catches for 515 yards and four touchdowns.

“I felt like my route running was good and crisp,” St. Brown said. “I felt like I put on a good show for the scouts.”

Smythe represented a scouting surprise, evolving from just another name at tight end to a potential mid-round pick. Fifteen catches last season doesn’t impress as a resume line on its own, which meant Smythe had to craft a new one this winter. That included playing in the Senior Bowl and catching passes there from Allen.

“We all know he’s a pretty good blocker, which is a big deal because there aren’t many of them coming out of college football,” Mayock said. “He’s not flashy, he’s not running 4.6. But short and intermediate, sure hands, I thought he did a really nice job.”