Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford took full advantage of his pro day Thursday to state his case to Detroit for the No. 1 overall pick April 25. In what might have been the most eagerly anticipated and heavily attended pro day of the year, Stafford dazzled an estimated 100 league representatives with his arm strength, accuracy and mobility.
Like Matt Ryan a year ago and many high profile quarterbacks over the years, Stafford elected not to throw at the combine last month, making Thursday's performance a critical one in determining his final draft status. All 32 teams were represented at the workout, with several sending a full contingent of scouts, coaches and front office executives. Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew and quarterback coach Jeff Horton were in attendance, as well as Seattle general manager Tim Ruskell and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, Carolina offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson and multiple representatives from the Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons.
Unlike the combine, where quarterbacks often only throw 2-3 passes per route before being replaced, Stafford threw 50 passes in a tightly scripted workout that featured all of the throws in a typical NFL passing tree. He threw to former Georgia receivers Mohammed Massaquoi, Kenneth Harris and Demiko Harris and tight end Tripp Chandler. Georgia offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo orchestrated the workout.
Stafford completed 45 of the 50 passes, with three of the incompletions due to off-target throws. Stafford showed the footwork and follow through to drive the ball on a line for the deep out, the touch over the top in deep passes down the seam and sideline and consistency hit his receivers in stride at all levels of the field. He completed his passes outside, at times fighting a stiff breeze. He impressed with his mobility and accuracy when throwing on the rollout to both the left and right.
"Honestly, I thought it was more impressive than Ryan's last year," said one front office executive, who declined to be named on the record. "Now, they're different guys with different skill sets, but in terms of natural throwing ability, there is no denying his (Stafford's) tools. You knew on film he could throw it, but I was impressed by his poise too. He seemed pretty calm out there. He handled the pressure well and was on for pretty much the entire workout.
"I think he helped himself today. He certainly did in my mind."
NFL.com's Gil Brandt, who served as the Dallas Cowboys' Vice President of Player Personnel from the club's inception in 1960 to 1988, agreed. "What did I learn from Stafford's workout? That I wouldn't be worried if I were the Lions about taking him with the No. 1 pick," Brandt wrote on NFL.com.
However, veteran scouts won't allow a single workout to overly sway their opinion.
"This is how well you can throw in your shorts to a guy in a T-shirt with nobody guarding him, so it's important I guess for people to see the physical attributes, but it's not real football," Stafford said.
Despite his impressive arm and mobility, some have questioned Stafford's accuracy and point to his 57 percent career accuracy as evidence. However, Stafford did play behind a leaky offensive line and a receiving corps that was big and fast but did not run crisp routes.
"He's a very knowledgeable player," Knapp told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "He enjoys the X's and O's, design of the game. Eventually, he says that when football is done he wants to be a coach, and it shows in his preparation."
Bulldogs running back Knowshon Moreno, battling Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells to be the first running back selected, failed to impress as he has been struggling with illness over the past week.
Weighing in at seven pounds under the 217 he measured in at the combine, Moreno was unable to significantly improve upon his disappointing times in the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis. Moreno was clocked at 4.60 and 4.63 in his two attempts Thursday after being electronically timed in 4.62 and 4.68 at the combine.
Moreno was otherwise impressive in drills, as he was in Indianapolis.
"I don't care what the watch says, if there's 40 yards between him and the goal line, Knowshon's going to get there first, I can promise you," teammate cornerback Asher Allen told the Associated Press. "I can tell you from personal experience. And NFL folks understand that. He's as fast as he needs to be but you ain't gonna bring him down."
Allen might have benefited the most from the pro day workout, registering eye-popping times in the 40-yard dash (4.35) and impressing scouts with his loose hips and explosive burst out of his breaks in positional drills.