With scouts from 28 of 32 NFL teams in attendance, IU’s pro day Tuesday afternoon offered two Hoosiers a second chance at improving their standing in the eyes of professional talent evaluators.
For different reasons, wide receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. and cornerback Rashard Fant didn’t exactly have the NFL combine performances they wanted. Both went to the combine in March with promising NFL prospects but were met with unfortunate circumstances and disappointing showings.
Fant tore his pectoral muscle at the combine while doing the bench press and was unable to participate in the rest of the field drills. Cobbs, meanwhile, didn’t put up the numbers that he would have liked to. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.64, one of the slowest times among all receivers at the combine.
The chance for improvement came Tuesday for both Fant and Cobbs. By the time their workouts were done, both felt like they had satisfied the goals they’d set for pro day.
“I just had to change my mindset,” Cobbs said. “I couldn’t let some of the numbers I put up at the combine get me down. I knew I had to keep working and don’t defeat myself twice.”
Cobbs, unofficially ran the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds, which improved by six-hundredths of a second compared to his mark at the combine. He also spent about 30 minutes as one of several receivers running routes for former IU quarterback Richard Lagow, who threw more than 50 passes as part of his pro day workout.
Most NFL draft evaluations and projections have Cobbs as a surefire draftee as a mid-to-late-round pick. The two-time All-Big Ten selection (honorable mention in 2015 and first team in 2017) chose to forgo his final year of eligibility to enter the draft this season, so it’s understandable why he might have felt more pressure to perform at the combine.
But Tuesday’s pro day was all about feeling comfortable for Cobbs, who said he has upcoming workouts scheduled with the Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears.
“I just wanted to show some more of my depth in routes,” Cobbs said. “I didn’t get to show too much at the combine. Today I got to pick my routes that I want to run and hopefully showcase that I can do a lot more than what I put on film as well.”
Fant got his combine redemption Tuesday, too, but his chances of performing at all were in doubt just days before. Fant’s unofficial 40-yard dash time of 4.36 seconds (which would’ve ranked fifth among cornerbacks at the combine) came without the shoulder brace he’d worn since his injury. In fact, Fant said Tuesday was the first time he’d run without it.
Four days prior to pro day, the Georgia native ran a practice 40-yard dash with the brace on and decided if he ran it in 4.4 seconds or better, he would participate Tuesday. He beat his goal, and then felt comfortable enough to leave the brace off while running in front of scouts.
“Two weeks ago, I couldn’t even run and couldn’t lift my arm up,” Fant said. “Today I was able to do everything, so that’s all God.”
Fant isn’t as much of a sure selection as Cobbs, but he has just as many accolades to hang his hat on. He’s the all-time leader in passes defended at IU with 58, a two-time All-Big Ten honoree and flashed versatility as both a gunner and returner on special teams throughout his career.
A pre-draft meeting with the Atlanta Falcons awaits Fant soon, and he also said he’ll be flying to Houston to meet with the Texans at some point. When the draft rolls around at the end of the month, he could find himself as a late-round pick (one NFL.com draft analyst has him pegged as a 7th-rounder).
Regardless of where or how he gets his NFL shot, Fant said his performance Tuesday can exemplify the type of player a team would be getting if they took him.
“I hope they just know they’re getting a competitor; somebody who can fight through some pain, put on a show and still be effective on the field,” Fant said. “I don’t know too many people that can tear their pec and be out here four weeks later.”
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