Several former Florida State players appeared to help their causes at the school’s Pro Day on Tuesday in Tallahassee, Fla.
Consensus top safety Derwin James looked smooth in the shuttles, edge rusher Josh Sweat excelled in position drills, and cornerback Tarvarus McFadden shaved some time off his disappointing Combine 40-yard dash.
Among some of the top NFL decision-makers attending Florida State’s Pro Day were Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht, Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale, Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and Indianapolis Colts scouting director Morocco Brown.
Licht, whose Buccaneers own the No. 7 overall selection, appeared to pay especially close attention to James, positioning himself nearby where the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder tested in the three-cone and short shuttle drills, events the FSU defender skipped at the Combine last month.
James looked fluid changing directions and accelerating smoothly through the drills. He opted to stand on his otherwise impressive workout from Indianapolis, which included a 40-inch vertical jump, an 11-foot broad jump, a 4.47 electronically timed 40-yard dash and 21 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press.
James expressed plenty of confidence following Tuesday’s Pro Day.
“I just feel like I’m the best player in the draft, no question,” James told reporters. “I’ve shown everything I can show and proven everything I can prove. And like I said, if (teams) want to see a private workout, I can do that.”
There is no question that James will be the first Seminole selected in the 2018 draft.
Sweat, however, has plenty of buzz after the former five-star recruit posted another impressive workout.
The 6-foot-5, 251-pound Sweat was one of the stars at the Combine in Indianapolis, officially clocking at 4.53 seconds in the 40-yard dash, with an explosive 39.5-inch vertical jump and 10-foot-4-inch broad jump. His workout numbers are all the more impressive given that three and a half years ago it was feared that he might lose his left leg after a gruesome dislocation and ACL tear ruined his senior season in high school.
Despite that ghastly injury, Sweat was so productive in high school — including 22 sacks as a junior — that he signed with FSU as the most highly regarded defensive end in the country. The agility and speed that earned him such accolades were apparent Tuesday as Sweat sizzled through position drills conducted by Martindale, including bag drills as a pass rusher and dropping into space and catching passes as a “traditional” linebacker.
After wearing a bulky brace on his left knee throughout his career at Florida State, Sweat notably ran without it Tuesday, acknowledging after the workout that he feels “free.” He added: “Since I’ve got it off, I’m moving.”
A freer, faster Sweat is an exciting idea for scouts, especially given this year’s below-average crop of edge rushers.
Sweat recorded a career-high 56 tackles in 2017, leading the team with 12.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks while splitting time between defensive end and defensive tackle. NFLDraftScout.com currently ranks him as the 11th-best outside linebacker with a fourth-round grade.
Sweat said after the workout that the Los Angeles Rams, New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans and the Bucs have expressed the most interest so far. Sweat also confirmed reports from the Combine that he passed the medical evaluations done there on his surgically repaired left leg.
While James and Sweat were the headliners Tuesday, many were eager to see if McFadden would be able to improve upon the 4.67 electronically-timed 40-yard dash he posted in Indianapolis.
McFadden did not initially know how he ran, only promising the assembled media afterward that “it was definitely better than what I ran at the Combine.”
Turns out, McFadden was right — but only by a couple hundredths of a second — according to a veteran scout who attended the event. This scout had the 6-2, 204-pound McFadden at 4.65 seconds Tuesday. Other stopwatches had McFadden in the 4.5s.
McFadden did look good in positional drills and caught the ball well, which perhaps isn’t surprising given that he recorded eight interceptions in a splashy sophomore season in 2016. Last season, McFadden epitomized a Seminoles squad that barely qualified for a bowl game, intercepting zero passes as a junior and yet still opting to make the early jump to the NFL.
McFadden’s inconsistent technique and production (not to mention his disappointing straight-line speed) have the one-time projected first-round pick checking in as just a fourth- to fifth-round prospect. He is NFLDraftScout.com’s No. 18-ranked cornerback.
“I honestly don’t think that running the 40 or all this testing makes you a better or worse football player,” McFadden said. “Some people are just not good testers and some people are just blessed about testing. At the end of the day, you have to go out there and play.”