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Hughes, Pitta increase their draft stock

3/4/2010

The NFL combine turned out to be the best opportunity for several non-AQ players to get noticed and increase their draft stock this past week.

Todd McShay, director of recruiting for Scouts Inc., noted a couple non-AQ players who significantly helped themselves during the NFL scouting combine. Included in that list was Ohio receiver Taylor Price and SMU receiver Emmanuel Sanders who tied for the second-best 40 times in the wide receiver group. I noted in an earlier post that McShay and other scouts were impressed with both players and both helped themselves immensely during workouts.

Here’s what McShay had to say about a couple of other non-AQ prospects.

McShay on TCU outside linebacker Jerry Hughes:

No player improved his stock more than TCU's Jerry Hughes At 6-2 and 255 pounds, the undersized edge rusher put to rest any concerns regarding his top-end speed when he ran an official 40-yard dash time of 4.69 seconds, fourth-best among the defensive linemen.

His fluidity in space was better than we thought it would be based on his film. Hughes stayed low and changed directions smoothly, which gives teams extra confidence in his potential to convert to outside linebacker in an odd-man front.

Finally, Hughes exceeded expectations with 26 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press. This strong workout in addition to the explosive pass-rushing ability he displays on tape should land Hughes a spot in the second round of the upcoming draft.

Prior to the 2009 season, Hughes was told by the NFL's undergraduate advisory committee that he was a possible late first-round or early second-round pick. His statistics weren't as strong last year as they were in 2008, so Hughes needed a good combine to show that he wasn't slipping. It appears as though he did enough to at least bump himself into the second round.

McShay on BYU tight end Dennis Pitta:

BYU TE Dennis Pitta had an outstanding [Sunday]. Pitta was more athletic than we anticipated, clocking a 4.62 in the 40 and showing more burst and better change-of-direction skills than we thought he had. He showed good strength with 27 reps on the bench and we are also impressed by his hands, which might be the best in the tight end class.

Many considered Pitta the No. 1 tight end in the country coming into the 2009 season, especially after Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham went down with an injury. However, Pitta slipped a little bit during the year and his draft stock took a hit. The questions weren't about his receiving abilities, but whether he could play with his hand on the ground and block. He answered those and likely will continue to as he auditions at pro day and private workouts until April. Pitta's slowly starting to gain draft momentum. Not bad for a former walk-on.