SEATTLE – In front of a crowd of NFL scouts and coaches that one long-time University of Washington employee characterized as the largest he had ever seen at a Huskies’ Pro Day, a bakers’ dozen of draftable ‘Dawgs worked out Monday.
I attended the event, as I have for the past several years and, honestly, I lost track after 60 different NFL personnel walked through the doors of the Dempsey Indoor practice facility, including multiple members of the Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, and Tennessee Titans and, of course, hometown Seahawks.
It wasn’t difficult to understand why. The consensus top three UW prospects – cornerback Byron Murphy, safety Taylor Rapp and offensive tackle Kaleb McGary still all had significant questions left to answer, despite each impressing at the NFL Scouting Combine a month ago.
Unfortunately for Rapp, a three-time all-Pac-12 pick, the answer he provided was more of a thud than an exclamation point, clocking a pair of mid 4.7 second 40-yard dash times that could leave his stock tumbling in a tightly packed safety class.
No word on whether the dinner he had Sunday night with the representatives of the Oakland Raiders (or the lunch earlier in the day with the New Orleans Saints, for that matter) contributed to Rapp’s disappointing time.
Savvy scouts won’t rely just on the 40-yard dash time with Rapp, who was the quickest of all the safeties tested in Indianapolis in the short shuttle (3.99 seconds) and third fastest in the 3-cone (6.82 seconds).
Straight-line speed was always the question with Rapp, a three-time All-Pac-12 pick who, in my opinion, is the most reliable open-field tackler in this draft class, regardless of position.
Teams won’t have to look far for a comparable player who struggled in the 40-yard dash only to prove a steady-eddy at safety. Current Seahawks’ starter Bradley McDougald was clocked at 4.74 seconds when he entered the NFL in 2013. Others successful safeties in the NFL with similar times included Kam Chancellor (4.69), Daniel Sorensen (4.67) and George Iloka (4.66).
I may not be the only one who feels that Rapp is on his way towards bucking the odds.
According to multiple sources close to him, Rapp has 11 visits and/or workouts planned in the coming weeks with trips to Detroit and Dallas this week.
While this video does not make it easy on those trying to time Rapp's 40-yard dash, it does illustrate the interest teams had in its result.
Murphy was timed at 4.55 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the Combine and, frankly, surprised me a bit when he opted not to try to better his time. He did run the shuttle drills Monday, providing answers to boxes left unchecked in Indianapolis.
After measuring in at 5-11, 189 (one pound less that at the Combine), Murphy was clocked at 4.15 seconds in the short shuttle, 6.83 seconds in the 3-cone drill and 11.25 seconds in the 60-yard shuttle – each middle-of-the-pack times that, like Rapp, won’t mean much to scouts who watch the tape.
It appeared that a member of the Carolina Panthers was waiting for Murphy after Monday’s workout. He conduced a quick interview with Omar Ruiz of The NFL Network but turned down a few others as he hurried out the door. Along with the Panthers, the Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, Saints, Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have all expressed significant interest in Murphy, I was told.
Like Rapp, fellow starting safety JoJo McIntosh failed to wow during the 40-yard dash drill but he did prove faster than his more nationally-recognized teammate. According to a league source, McIntosh was clocked at 4.66 in the 40-yard dash. He came in at 4.29 in the short shuttle and 7.35 seconds in the 3-cone.
While Washington’s star (but slow) defensive backs may steal the headlines, it was McGary who was arguably the most popular player Monday. He certainly will be over the coming weeks. I spoke to his proud father (and young brother) for a few minutes prior to the workout, enjoying the opportunity to catch up with them after lauding their son a few months ago as I helped present him with the Pac-12’s Morris Trophy as the best offensive lineman in the conference.
Probably in part because he possesses disproportionately short arms (33”) for his massive 6-7, 317 pound, McGary is somewhat polarizing in the draft media community. If that is the case with NFL clubs, it wasn’t obvious Monday with the dozens of scouts and position coaches who stuck around nearly three hours after the Pro Day begin to watch McGary (and fellow UW draft hopeful Jesse Sosebee).
McGary has no less than 13 different meetings and/or private visits set up in the coming weeks.
His father may have to find someone else to go turkey hunting with him soon as Kaleb has trips lined up to Carolina, Green Bay, Jacksonville, Los Angeles (Rams), New England and Washington D.C.
Perhaps coaches and scouts from the Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Chargers, Raiders, Saints or New York Giants are interested in a hunting trip as they have or will soon be traveling to the northwest to meet with McGary, who opted to stick with his impressive measured workout from the Combine and instead only do positional drills, which was technically conducted by a member of the UW staff but took directions from a gentleman wearing what appeared to be a Philadelphia Eagles cap.
It was clear today who the scouts thought were UW’s “big three,” but two of the most prolific skill-position stars in Husky history also performed well with Jake Browning showing noticeably improved arm strength than from even the Combine and certainly from when I had watched him on the field at the Rose Bowl and Apple Cup. Clubs have taken notice. Browning has multiple clubs asking for a closer look, as well, according to multiple sources.
That’s a credit to work done by former BYU and NFL quarterback-turned QB guru John Beck, who I remember watching from the stands as one of the first members of the media allowed into the QB workouts at the Combine back in 2007.
Making Browning look that much better was a couple of sweet catches by running back Myles Gaskin and tight end Drew Sample.
Gaskin, in particular, had a grab down the right sideline on a deep wheel route that initially looked as if Browning had overthrown – but his star back found a second gear and pulled it in, just as he did earlier in the day when shaving a few precious hundredths of a second off of the 4.58 40-yard dash time recorded in Indianapolis.
After turning heads with their times for the stopwatch in Indianapolis, linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven and cornerback Jordan Miller opted not to re-run Monday. Burr-Kirven was buttery smooth in his positional workout, under the watchful gaze of no less than three members of the Titans’ staff.
With McGary drawing so much attention during his positional drill, fellow Morris Trophy winner Greg Gaines and his battery-mates Shane Bowman and Jaylen Johnson had a limited audience during their positional workout.
Gaines showed the desire that I believe is going to help him make an NFL roster by re-running the 40-yard dash (4.97-5.03, according to two separate sources) after helping his cause at the Senior Bowl. Johnson has flashes on tape but Bowman shouldn’t be forgotten, as well. Frankly, he’s the most impressive on the hoof of Washington’s defensive linemen and could join UW’s record-setting nine Combine invites in hearing his name called on draft day.
Several former Huskies were on hand for the workout with former Saints’ 2015 second round draft pick Hau’oli Kikaha working out along with Burr-Kirven and Tevis Barlett in an attempt to re-generate interest from the league. Cornerback Kevin King (Packers) and Dante Pettis (San Francisco 49ers) were other recent second round picks and former Huskies in attendance.