Auditions are always nerve-wracking, especially when you have to perform in front of a dozen or so NFL scouts while sporting nothing but skintight shorts on a rainy afternoon in Berkeley.
Nevertheless, most of the 16 former Bears who participated in Pro Day activities impressed despite the adverse weather conditions.
Defensive end James Looney and outside linebacker Raymond Davison III were the top performers of the day, while wide receiver Jordan Veasy and inside linebacker Devante Downs also sparked interest from the contingent of professional scouts in attendance at California Memorial Stadium.
Looney, who looks to be the Bears’ top draft prospect, participated only in the on-field position work after a solid showing at the NFL scouting combine.
At the combine, he was the lone defensive lineman in his position group to register in the top 10 in all of the measurable tests he participated in — 20-yard shuttle (4.37, 2nd), vertical jump (35.5, 3rd), 3 cone drill (7.32, 7th), broad jump (9’5”, T-8th) and bench press (28, T-10th).
“I felt like at the combine I did well with my numbers,” Looney said.
Looney was the clear star of Pro Day, attracting a large audience of scouts during his on-field work. He attacked blocking dummies with a ridiculous level of ferocity that surely made the scouts swoon and that suggests that if pro football doesn’t work out, he may have a future as a pitchman for Cocoa Puffs cereal.
“Growing up with my dad, he always said, ‘Looney, you know, cuckoo, crazy,’ ” Looney said. “When I come out on the football field, I feel like I get to relive that and go through it. My dad always said ‘Go cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.’ I’ve been living by that motto whenever I come out here and just having fun, enjoy the stage.”
NFL.com projects him as a seventh-round pick, but there is buzz growing that he could jump to the sixth because of his impressive showings at the combine and now Pro Day as well. There are concerns that the the 6’3” 280-pound defensive lineman is a bit of tweener at the next level, not fast enough for defensive end and not strong enough for defensive tackle, but Looney doesn’t seem fazed by the concerns.
“I feel like I showed myself this year, I played a three-four, felt like I put up pretty good production for my first year here with new coaching staff, so I feel very confident in my abilities,” Looney said. I mean, going to the combine I felt like it showed I was an athletic guy.”
In three years at Cal, Looney accounted for 130 total tackles, 8.0 sacks, two forced fumbles and 20.5 tackles for loss.
Looney is likely the only Bear who will be drafted, but Davison may have landed himself on the radar of a few teams as a potential free agent signing after the draft.
He knocked out 24 bench press reps, which would have ranked as fifth-best among linebackers at the combine and a consensus 40-yard dash of 4.56 that would have qualified as sixth-best.
Devante Downs knocked out an excellent 23 bench press reps and met with a few teams but was unable to perform in any of the other events because of the knee injury that he suffered this past season. Downs was in all-conference talent before the injury, and right now his best selling point is his past.
“People are pretty high on my film and that’s what I have to go on right now,” Downs said.
Jordan Veasy ran a 4.54 40 and showed off a 34.5-inch vertical while running various route concepts during on-field workouts, catching most of the balls thrown his way despite the problematic precipitation. The 6’3” 225-pound wideout certainly has the physical tools to compete at the next level, but only time will tell where the Alabama native belongs.
Rory O’Toole writes for Bear Bytes, the Daily Californian’s sports blog. Contact him at [email protected]