Here's the first thing you should know about pro days: they're the most boring thing ever.
Like four-hours-on-a-subway-with-nothing-to-read boring.
However, they're extremely important for Stanford's 12 NFL prospects today. Pro days give guys a chance to showcase their strengths and they do help players - particularly lesser-known players - find their way onto teams' radars. With every NFL team in the house to check out Andrew Luck last year, it gave lesser-known guys like Johnson Bademosi, Griff Whalen and Jeremy Stewart the chance to perform in front of scouts' eyes - and ultimately those three all found themselves on NFL rosters. That's no coincidence.
Therefore, today's pro day (at 11:15 on ESPN3.com) will be exceptionally important for every Stanford player, but for many different reasons. It could help push Zach Ertz into the first round, make Stepfan Taylor, Chase Thomas and Levine Toilolo hundreds of thousands of dollars by improving their draft stock, and help others find their way into training camps, practice squads and NFL rosters.
For Zach Ertz, an important goal will be improving on his NFL combine numbers - all of which were slightly worse than Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert's numbers. While Ertz had a much more impressive year statistically, Eifert outdid his counterpart in every measurable category except bench press reps (Eifert put up 22, Ertz put up 24). A pro day where Ertz emulates Eifert's combine numbers - or betters them - could ease teams' minds and help him move up into the first round of the draft instead of sliding into the second round.
Stepfan Taylor needs to run a better 40 than he did at the combine. It's absolutely necessary to holding on to his draft stock. What he's put on tape in four years is great, but another 4.76-second 40 will cause teams to take him off their draft boards. No need to be worried, though: he said on Twitter that he had a sprained ankle at the combine, so I fully expect him to run better.
Chase Thomas needs to improve on his strength, bulk and burst off the snap to help move his draft stock up. He had a flat week at the Senior Bowl a few months ago, and has been knocked for being a "one-speed" player. If he shows that he's put on some pounds and some strength (he put up 18 bench press reps at the combine) and keeps his speed and agility times the same or improves them, he'll be a certain mid-round pick.
For the route runners - Jamal Rashad-Patterson and Drew Terrell - I'm hoping that Andrew Luck is going to once again participate in pro day and throw to these guys. We do know that the Big Guy is on campus thanks to Chase Thomas' Twitter:
the crew is back in town twitter.com/CTcard44/statu…— Chase Thomas (@CTcard44) March 20, 2013
Last year, Luck was able to throw the ball high and low to give his receivers the chance to show off their physical skills, and hopefully he (or whomever is throwing passes) can do the same thing today. Patterson is a great athlete but an underused player who caught only 16 passes this season - so if he showcases good hands and his good athleticism, a team could find a spot for him in training camp.
Drew Terrell, on the other hand, isn't going to blow anyone away physically, but he's versatile and runs good routes, so a crisp route-running day could earn him a spot in someone's training camp as a slot receiver. Hopefully he can also
Additionally, Terrell should return punts from Daniel Zychlinski, who will participate in pro day as well. Scouts will time Z's hang time and punt distance and make him hit punts toward the end zone, but Terrell should be sure to be the guy returning all of those punts. That's how Wes Welker broke into the NFL - not because he's white and gritty, but because he can play in the slot and return punts and kicks. That's a valuable asset for any wide receiver.
Levine Toilolo should also use the quarterback to make sure to show how he can go up and get passes - his height is such an asset that he has to show that he can get up and always come down with the ball in the red zone. If Toilolo runs well - and shows that his running technique is solid - he could make a good team in need of an offensive wrinkle very desirous of his size and skills.
Sam Schwartzstein should use the pro day to show off his strength - I've heard he's insanely strong, especially in his upper body - and his brain. He's a little too short to be considered an elite o-line talent, but good strength and good interviews with scouts could earn him a spot as a backup center somewhere.
For Terrence Brown, Harold Bernard and Alex Debniak, the pro day is their chance to shine. Those guys haven't gotten the chance to put their stuff on display for scouts before, and they need to be strong, agile and fast to earn the looks they deserve. Johnson Bademosi instantly piqued teams' curiosity last year after his good pro day and then chose a team that he thought he could make - the Cleveland Browns - when several teams wanted to sign him as an undrafted free agent. That's the best-case scenario for these guys on Thursday.
Today seems so unimportant and silly and boring - and in many ways, it is - but for these 12 guys, pro day may mean a chance. And that may mean a spot on an NFL roster, millions of dollars, and maybe a bust in Canton someday.
It may sound silly now, but this is where it all starts, after all.