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2021 NFL Draft: Five schools to watch as the Pro Day circuit starts up

This year’s Pro Days will be the most important in recent memory

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 28 Cotton Bowl Classic - Memphis v Penn State Photo by John Bunch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the 2021 NFL Scouting Combine canceled out of an abundance of caution with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Pro Day circuit — which starts today, March 5, has taken on new importance.

In a normal year, Pro Days have an interesting place in the process. For the most part, teams draft boards are set before Pro Days end, and they’re mostly a last chance to double-check any flags the team might have or for a prospect to get a second chance at any event they skipped (or weren’t happy with) at the Combine. Workouts are scripted with prospects put into the most optimal position to succeed, and measurable events are taken with a grain of salt.

But this year the Pro Day circuit is all the NFL has to fill out the measurable portions of their scouting reports. And while tape should always form the backbone of a scouting report, teams often have firm size or athletic thresholds for various positions. This year’s Pro Days also offer teams like the New York Giants the opportunity to get a look at top prospects who opted out of the 2020 season, which could be invaluable come draft night.

Alabama - March 23

We just have to start with Alabama’s Pro Day. The Crimson Tide’s Pro Day is always a feature attraction, as they’re putting top prospects into the NFL on an annual basis. This year the Giants could be interested in wide receivers DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, cornerback Patrick Surtain II, or defensive tackle Christian Barmore. They will also likely be paying attention to offensive linemen like Alex Leatherwood, Deonte Brown, or Landon Dickerson.

The quarterback-needy teams will likely have their eyes focused on Alabama passer Mac Jones who’s steady play has him steadily rising up draft boards.

Penn State - March 25

The obvious name here is linebacker Micah Parsons. The NFL will want to check in on Parsons after he opted out of the 2020 season, but there are plenty of other prospects who could interest the Giants. EDGE defenders Jayson Oweh and Shaka Toney could both be on the Giants’ radar, as could TE Pat Frieirmuth. Players like center Michael Menet or S Lamont Wade could use the opportunity to put themselves higher on teams’ radar.

Miami - March 29

What scout wouldn’t want to take a trip to south Florida at the end of March? But The U has a bunch of players worth checking out, too.

The Giants should obviously be interested Gregory Rousseau (who, like Parsons, opted out of the 2020 season), as well as Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche. All three players are intriguing EDGE prospects, and the Giants certainly could use some help at the position. Teams will also be interested in hybrid tight end Brevin Jordan, who could be a dangerous offensive weapon in the right hands.

Ohio State - March 30

Like Alabama, OSU is one of the highlights of the Pro Day circuit.

This year teams will be anxious to get an up close look at quarterback Justin Fields, who will be vying with Zack Wilson to be the second quarterback off the board. But OSU is as stacked as ever, with players like linebackers Barron Browning, Pete Werner, and Tuff Borland, EDGE Jonathan Cooper, defensive tackle Tommy Togiai, offensive linemen Wyatt Davis and Josh Myers, and running back Trey Sermon.

Cornerback Shaun Wade will also be one to watch as well, as he tries to show that he is better than his first year as an outside corner.

LSU - March 31

LSU is another team with a top prospect who opted out of the 2020 season, and Ja’Marr Chase will want to remind teams that he is the top pass catcher in this draft class.

His teammate, Terrace Marshall Jr., has risen up draft boards in the absence of Chase and Justin Jefferson, and he could cap off his draft process with a strong showing to go from an unknown in August to a potential first rounder in April. Fellow wide receiver Racey McMath would also like to use the opportunity to show that while he didn’t get many opportunities in LSU’s offense, he has NFL ability.

On the defensive side of things, keep an eye out for LB Jabrill Cox, who transferred from North Dakota State to show that he can play in the Power 5 and had a good showing at the Senior Bowl. Likewise, Giants fans should also keep an eye on 6-foot-3, 362-pound nose tackle Tyler Shelvin. The Giants love drafting big defensive tackles, and Shelvin stands out in a draft class populated with sub-300 pound defensive linemen.

Full Pro Day schedule

NFL Pro Days

Date School
Date School
March 5 Kansas
March 9 Kansas State
March 9 Northwestern
March 9 Wisconsin-Whitewater
March 10 Arkansas
March 10 Marshall
March 10 Maryland
March 10 Wisconsin
March 11 Clemson
March 11 Nevada
March 11 Texas
March 12 Arkansas State
March 12 North Dakota State
March 12 Oklahoma
March 15 Army
March 15 Kent State
March 15 Middle Tennessee State
March 15 Vanderbilt
March 16 Georgia Tech
March 16 Temple
March 17 Arizona
March 17 Georgia
March 17 Illinois
March 17 Pittsburgh
March 17 San Jose State
March 18 Auburn
March 18 Buffalo
March 18 Central Arkansas
March 18 Louisiana Tech
March 18 Louisiana-Monroe
March 18 Stanford
March 18 Troy
March 18 West Virginia
March 19 Memphis
March 19 Ohio
March 19 TCU
March 22 Air Force
March 22 Bowling Green
March 22 Colorado
March 22 Colorado State
March 22 Florida State
March 22 Iowa
March 22 Missouri
March 22 Toledo
March 23 Alabama
March 23 Central Michigan
March 23 Iowa State
March 23 Nebraska
March 23 Purdue
March 24 Michigan State
March 24 Mississippi State
March 24 South Carolina
March 24 Southern California
March 24 Virginia
March 25 Georgia Southern
March 25 Massachusetts
March 25 Mississippi
March 25 North Texas
March 25 Penn State
March 25 San Diego State
March 25 Southern Methodist
March 25 Tennessee
March 25 Western Michigan
March 26 Boston College
March 26 Brigham Young
March 26 Michigan
March 26 South Dakota State
March 26 Virginia Tech
March 29 Arizona State
March 29 Duke
March 29 Louisiana-Lafayette
March 29 Miami (Fla.)
March 29 Miami (Ohio)
March 29 North Carolina
March 30 Alabama
March 30 East Carolina
March 30 Florida Atlantic
March 30 Louisville
March 30 North Carolina State
March 30 Ohio State
March 30 Texas A&M
March 30 Tulane
March 30 Washington
March 31 Boise State
March 31 Florida
March 31 Kentucky
March 31 Louisiana State
March 31 Notre Dame
March 31 Wake Forest
April 1 Central Florida
April 1 Minnesota
April 1 North Carolina (Charlotte)
April 1 Oklahoma State
April 1 Oregon State
April 1 South Florida
April 1 Western Kentucky
April 2 Oregon
April 2 Tulsa
April 7 Texas Tech
April 9 Alabama-Birmingham
April 9 Ball State
April 9 Houston
NFL Pro Days