Column: Pro day performances overvalued

Pro day provides a poor way to evaluate prospects.

David Nelson

Scouts, coaches, teammates, friends, families and media all packed into Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex for Minnesota’s pro day on Monday.

Every person in the building focused his or her eyes on the prospects as they showcased what they can offer NFL teams.

It’s a day that can make a player’s draft stock rise just as quickly as it can make it fall, which is exactly why it’s a terrible way to evaluate prospects.

The Minnesota Vikings, which had plenty of representatives at pro day, know far too well the impact a bad pro day can have.

Fans who flocked to TCF Bank Stadium last NFL season watched Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater blossom before their very eyes.

But in the months prior to the draft, NFL pundits slighted Bridgewater for his poor pro day performance.

For some reason, one poor showing on a practice field became a larger factor than Bridgewater’s game film ever did. That’s where the problems begin.

After three years of solid production, the University of Louisville product went from being a potential No. 1 overall pick to being a second-round prospect.

Maxx Williams’ agent, Joe Panos, said one poor performance shouldn’t define an athlete’s abilities.

“Turn the film on Saturdays, and that will show you what this person can and cannot do,” Panos said. “[A pro day is] not a make or break thing … we all have bad days.”

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman echoed Panos’ sentiment when talking about Bridgewater at this year’s NFL Combine.

“It’s not going to be a situation where a guy has a bad pro day where all of a sudden we’re going to forget the 47 games that he was productive on the tape,” Spielman told reporters.

Those words should bring comfort to former Gophers running back David Cobb, who sat out of Monday’s pro day with an injured hamstring.

When asked if he felt like not participating would affect his draft stock, Cobb had a simple response.

“Hopefully the film’s solid enough right now,” he said.

Any shred of doubt that scouts or evaluators carry concerning the running back shouldn’t come as a result of a missed pro day.

Still, rumors will begin circulating about Cobb’s ability to stay healthy over the course of an NFL season.

That’s just the way it is with a sports media producing stories that often hinge on sensationalism — especially when draft season comes around.

None of the Gophers who participated Monday showed any signs of regression, but their abilities shouldn’t be evaluated by their performance.

Instead, judge them based on their performances on Saturdays — not on a glorified practice.