TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Doak Campbell Stadium, and its 82,300 seats, might have been a more suitable setting for Florida State's pro day.
The turnout was unlike anything Florida State's communications staff has seen before. There were no more than 70 scouts and 40 media applications for Florida State pro day just a year ago. Tuesday, all 32 NFL teams were represented and 122 NFL coaches, personnel directors, general managers and scouts were clocking times and interviewing draft hopefuls. Media credentials were in such demand that after 100 requests were approved, the remaining were turned away in order to uphold building fire-safety codes. And to preserve a semblance of order and sanity.
Jameis Winston, the former Seminoles quarterback and potential No. 1 overall pick, was the draw. He was throwing for NFL teams a second time after a strong showing at the combine a month prior, and Winston, who weighed in at 231 pounds, impressed those in attendance once again.
However, only one team -- and projections are it’s Tampa Bay at No. 1 -- can take Winston. For the remaining 31 teams, the lengthy car rides and chartered flights were for the remaining top-end draft prospects -- seven of whom are ranked in the top 100 of ESPN's NFL draft rankings.
Sixth-year coach Jimbo Fisher said that for all the craziness of Florida State’s pro day, it’s what you hope for as a coach -- to be the program whose pro day is circled on every NFL coaching staff’s calendar.
“You got 12 guys with the possibility to be drafted,” Fisher said. “It’s a pretty good situation.”
If Florida State has just 11 players selected, it would set the record for most draft picks in a three-year span in the modern era with 29. Miami (2002-04) and USC (2008-10) hold the record with 28.
Rashad Greene is among the Seminoles certain to be selected. When Greene arrived in 2011, Florida State had just endured its seventh consecutive season with at least four losses. Two years prior in 2009, Florida State had just one player drafted, and the Seminoles combined to have only 10 players selected from 2008-11. They had 11 drafted in 2013 alone.
“This is the vision we all had,” Greene said, pointing to all of the NFL coaches attending. “It took this group and the 2010 group to create this type of environment.”
Grades on the 5-foot-11, 177-pound receiver differ -- he could go as early as the third round -- so Greene wanted to put to rest any questions about his on-field ability at pro day. Greene said he was happiest with his route running, and he’s been able to focus solely on physical workouts as NFL teams are more than satisfied with his capabilities of mentally digesting an offense.
“Guys are very pleased and kind of shocked I have this much knowledge and feel for the game,” he said. “One reaction at the combine was they had to stop me from talking, and I don’t do a lot of talking. I was doing pretty good on the whiteboard.”
Winston is a sure bet to go in the first round, and tackle/center Cam Erving’s talent coupled with his versatility could land him among the top 32 picks, too. Defensive tackle Eddie Goldman did nothing Tuesday to jeopardize his first-round grade, and it was a handful of Goldman’s defensive teammates that improved their draft stock most, impressing scouts at the weigh in, during testing and position drills.
Cornerback Ronald Darby positioned himself to be a first-round pick with his performance in position drills. After weighing in at 191 pounds, the fleet-footed cornerback waited until the afternoon to work out for coaches. Each time Darby ran through the cycle of defensive back drills, there was chatter among scouts about how effortless he looked. Darby’s inability to catch the football has been a criticism, but after an early drop he hauled in the remaining balls thrown his way.
Fellow cornerback P.J. Williams needed to improve upon his 4.57 time at the combine, and at the pro day he likely registered a time somewhere in the 4.4 range. Some had him clocked as low as 4.37, which is the type of speed many personnel people felt only Darby possessed among the draft-eligible defensive backs. Williams, who like Darby declared for the draft after his junior season, also posted a 41-inch vertical and broad jumped 11 feet, 3.5 inches.
“I felt like I did really good, improved on some things from the combine and came out here to compete,” Williams said. “I wasn’t going to do [the vertical and broad] when I came out, but I thought about it and said I might as well come out and compete. Then I came out and did good in the position drills.”
Like Williams, Mario Edwards Jr. is hoping to solidify himself as a late second- or early third-round pick. The former No. 1 overall high school recruit received a lot of attention early in his college career for his fluctuating weight, but the defensive end weighed 272 pounds at pro day and is in his best shape since arriving in Tallahassee.
Tra Thomas, a former first-round pick and three-time Pro Bowler at left tackle from Florida State, spent last week working with Edwards on his pass-rush ability. Edwards’ pass-rush skills were graded as “average” on his ESPN scouting report, but Thomas said Edwards is improving quickly.
“He’s going to be a huge success,” Thomas said. “He’s going to give a lot of offensive linemen fits.”