Offensive guard David DeCastro looks on during Stanford's Pro Day. (AP)
PALO ALTO, Calif. -- While Andrew Luck was undoubtedly the star of Stanford's Thursday Pro Timing Day, the quarterback wasn't the only one who excelled. Just a few years removed from a bowl-less streak that stretched from 2002 through 2008, the Cardinal can now boast of four potential first-round draft prospects this year -- Luck, offensive tackle Jonathan Martin, offensive guard David DeCastro and tight end Coby Fleener.
Predictably, representatives from all 32 NFL teams were in attendance. The Indianapolis Colts, who are expected to take Luck with the first overall pick, had a small group in attendance -- quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen and one scout. The Washington Redskins, who traded up to the second overall pick, were more well-represented -- owner Dan Snyder, general manager Bruce Allen, head coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan watched the proceedings intently.
"I don't really think about it that way," DeCastro said, when asked if he ever envisioned that Stanford would raise such plentiful draft stock. "We just take it one day at a time, focus on the little things every day -- get in the weight room and out to practices. All this other stuff, it really builds up, and you can't look forward to the future -- it's got to be right now. I don't look that far out. You go with what you can control -- the day-to-day things, you know? Obviously, that's a goal in your head, but you can't think about it. You have to focus on the process, and what it takes to get there."
DeCastro is an elite talent, as anyone who has seen the rather amazing nature of his game tape will tell you. But for Fleener, the pre-draft process had seen him between the first and second rounds on the lists held by most experts. Though still recovering from an ankle sprain suffered in Stanford's Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State, Fleener burned up the track, running two wind-aided 40-yard dashes in times expected of elite big receivers. At 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, Fleener displays sure hands, an excellent understanding of route concepts, and downfield explosiveness that should now have NFL teams looking to call his name among the first 32 picks in next month's NFL draft.
"I don't know -- I heard a 4.45 and a 4.5 or something," Fleener said, when asked if he knew the times he ran. "No numerical goal -- just run hard and do the best that I can." In fact, he laid out unofficial times of 4.45 and 4.5, put up a 37-inch vertical leap, and scored 9 feet, 8 inches on the broad jump. He's a player who can block inline to a point, but his real value is as a player who can line up as an H-back or flex tight end. Fleener said on Thursday that he would love to excel in the same ways that New England's Rob Gronkowski and New Orleans' Jimmy Graham has. The Seattle Seahawks showed specific interest in Fleener on the day -- one Seahawks scout walked across the campus from the practice field to the auditorium with him.
Luck said at his post-Pro Day press conference that he wanted to be sure to throw a high pass in the end zone to Fleener, so that he could display his ability to high-point the ball when it counted the most. Was that predetermined? "Yes and no," Fleener said. "For example, the fade in the end zone is obviously a high ball, so I think Andrew just tries to make me look good. That's what he's done for the past few years, so it's been beneficial to me."
Martin, who will be visiting the Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns before the draft, wanted to see his stock rise as Fleener's did, but questions remain.
"I put on some weight since the season [ended] -- about 10 pounds," Martin said, when asked what he wanted to show. "I wanted to prove that I could still move, still jump high. I feel that I did pretty good in that respect."
The numbers tell another tale. Martin ran an unofficial 5.33 40 in his first attempt, and dropped to 5.43 on his second. While offensive linemen rarely run 40 yards in a straight line on the football field (a point Martin brought up in his press conference), it was more disconcerting that he maxed out at just 20 reps on the bench press.
Because of his relative lack of lateral agility, some see Martin as a right tackle or even as a guard at the next level. " I want to play left tackle," he said. "I'm more comfortable playing there, but I'm open to any position. The thing is, I want to play. I want to start for a team next year, and it doesn't matter when they put me."
DeCastro showed some versatility, snapping the ball for all of Luck's throws. Some have seen him as a center in the NFL, though he's one of the best pure collegiate guards of the last decade. He spent a good amount of time talking with Cincinnati Bengals line coach Paul Alexander, and given the strength and agility he showed during positional drills, it's a safe bet that DeCastro will go in the top half of the first round.
Receiver Chris Owusu added to his outstanding combine performance with a nice receiving session, making some athletic catches during Luck's throwing session. Timed at 4.36 at the scouting combine, Owusu can help any NFL team as a vertical threat and kick returner.
In the end, this Pro Day was a real tribute to the people responsible for Stanford's turnaround in recent years -- the players, current head coach David Shaw, former head coach Jim Harbaugh, and an athletic department now benefiting from a well-deserved reputation upgrade.
Three defensive backs -- Delano Howell, Michael Thomas and Johnson Bademosi -- could impress as late-round picks or undrafted free agents. And defensive tackle Matt Masifilo helped himself a lot. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Masifilo ran a 5.2 40 and amassed 38 reps in the bench press.
"It's not just about the top guys that made today's workout so impressive," Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said after the workout was done. "Obviously, [Stanford] has some guys who are going to be drafted very high. What was impressive was the number of guys on the field today that will get into a camp. That's the mark of a big-time program. And [Stanford] proved that they have a lot of those guys today."
- Andrew Luck