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UCF’s NFL Draft Hopefuls Strut Their Stuff at Pro Day

Eight players from 2020 and two from 2019 aimed to impress NFL Scouts

Jacob Harris Pro Day
Jacob Harris runs the 40 at UCF’s 2021 Pro Day
Photo Courtesy: UCF Athletics

NFL Draft scouts from all thirty-two NFL franchises got together to watch some former UCF Knights show off their talent in hopes of landing a professional job.

UCF had ten players showing off their measurables and skills for scouts. Two of them, defensive back Nevelle Clarke and kicker Dylan Barnas, played for UCF in 2019 and came back to do on-field work for the scouts. The next seven players were on the 2020 roster along with cornerback Tay Gowan, who opted out of the season. The seven were running backs Otis Anderson and Greg McCrae, wide receivers Jacob Harris, Tre Nixon, and Marlon Williams, cornerback Aaron Robinson, and safety Richie Grant.

The first step is calculating the measurables. This starts off with height and weight before testing their strength in the 225lb bench press. They then test their leaping ability with the vertical and broad jumps. They test a player’s raw speed with the 40-yard dash before wrapping up with the shuttle and 3-cone agility runs. These results can be used to grade prospects against each other on paper. Keep in mind that the stopwatch is done by hand, so there is a human element involved. Only the NFL combine gets the laser treatment and we didn’t have one this year.

Afterward, the various players get on the field and run routes and other drills to show their on-field talent. As we know, game talent and drill talent are two very different things.

Enough with the setup, let’s talk about the players. Now, for comparative purposes, I used Relative Athletic Scores. The RAS converts the measurements of the different drills into a 0-10 scale to make them more comparable to others.

Going into the pro day, the players who have been the most talked about as higher draft picks are defensive backs Richie Grant and Aaron Robinson.

Aaron Robinson

Aaron Robinson delivered. While his size as a defensive back is a little small at little under 6ft, he makes up for it with a good 37 in vertical. Where Robinson excelled is his raw speed, running a 4.38 40. His on-the-field DB drills show a very fluid runner with quick hips to keep up with directional changes. Robinson has on-field flexibility to move around more than most defensive backs and could end up as a corner on the outside or inside on the slot.

Richie Grant

Richie Grant has been viewed as one of, if not the best safety in the draft. His work at the Senior Bowl paid major dividends as he was one of the standout players people talked about. While a bit undersized, Grant did a pretty good job with everything else, showing excellent agility on the 3-cone drill. Where Grant has always excelled has been when he's on the field and today was no exception. Grant impressed teams with his ball-handling skills. He and Robinson are going to end up duking it out for who gets drafted first.

Tay Gowan

There were question marks regarding Tay Gowan as a result of opting out of the 2020 season. Coming from the JUCO level to UCF, his FBS exposure has been limited, but he excelled during the time he had. He put those concerns to rest with a good showing all around. Gowan’s measurables are pretty good down the line with nothing exceptional and nothing critical. His on-field drills showed that while not perfect, the time away did not materially affect his game. He’s got the good length you want in a cornerback and you can’t teach that.

Tre Nixon

Outside of Tay Gowan, who opted out, Tre Nixon had the least amount of playing time out of the group due to a broken collarbone he suffered in the season opener. While he missed half the season, Nixon fully healed and was able to prove it with an impressive 18 reps on the bench press. Nixon ran a 4.43 40 and a 6.81 3-cone, both are impressive numbers. These numbers coincide with the on-field play Nixon has demonstrated. He has sure hands and has been able to hit an extra gear to separate from coverage just enough to make a play. Nixon is a little lean at 6ft and 187lbs but could end up being a steal in the draft. His 8.89 composite score was second-best on the team.

Jacob Harris

The standout of the day was wide receiver, Jacob Harris. Harris, a sixth-year player, is a physical specimen. Going into the draft, there was no doubt about Harris’ size, but his hands have been an issue. His football playing experience being shorter than his peers, he has some ground to make up. Harris made up for it in his measurables. At 6ft 5in and 219lbs, he’s one of the taller wide receivers in the draft.

Add to that a 40.5” verticle and 11ft 1in broad jump, you have a guy who can take advantage of the jump ball. He continued to impress with a 4.39 40 and a very impressive 6.51 second 3-cone drill. He went from UDFA to a player who a team might take a flier on during Day Three of the draft. His overall score is currently 12th in the 2021 draft class at this time.

Greg McCrae

The former walk-on blossomed and took on a major role in the backfield. He showed good strength despite the small frame. McCrae’s best strength is in his legs and it showed with a strong 37.5in vertical jump and 10ft broad jump. He showed good speed with a 4.51 40 and great agility with a 6.88 3-cone. He’s more of a traditional back than fellow running back Otis Anderson, but he’s going to need to take notes from Warrick Dunn on how to make it as a small back.

Marlon Williams

The one who hurt himself the most was wide receiver Marlon Williams. On the field, he does all the right things. He has sure hands, blocks, and can avoid tackles. He looked good during his receiving drills, which is to be expected. Unfortunately, his measurables didn’t help his cause. He measured at 5ft 11 and 12 inches. Adding a 33.5in vertical to an already short frame is going to potentially cause problems on the field. He ran a 4.59 40, which is serviceable, but not great for a wideout. His overall 3.29 composite ended up second lowest on the team. Williams could still get drafted on Day Three, but he could slip out and end up as a UDFA.

Otis Anderson

Another one who struggled was running back Otis Anderson. Being rather undersized, Anderson was going to have to make up for it elsewhere. Like Marlon Williams, Anderson does the right things on the field, but like Adrian Killins before him, his lack of size at under 5ft 8in and 179lbs is something that is very difficult to compensate for in the NFL. Anderson’s experience as a returner might play a pivotal role in his chances to catch on in the league. Otis ended up with the lowest composite score on the team but should get an invite somewhere.

The NFL Draft takes place from Thursday, April 29th through Saturday, May 1st in Cleveland, Ohio and will be broadcast on ESPN and the NFL Network.