Davis struts stuff for NFL scouts
CLEMSON — Statistically, James Davis has nothing left to prove as the Tigers' second all-time leading rusher.
But NFL scouts came to campus to further poke, prod and measure Davis and other Clemson players during the school's pro day Tuesday.
By all accounts, it was a good showing for Davis.
A New Orleans Saints scout said Davis ran his 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds, which bettered his NFL Combine run of 4.6 seconds. Possibly more important was his work catching the ball out of the backfield. Davis plucked the ball away from his body with ease, grabbing Cullen Harper passes over his shoulder, over his head and outside of his frame.
Scouts know the 5-11, 218-pound back can run, rushing for 3,881 yards and totaling 47 touchdowns in his career. His ability as a pass-catcher and protector was of more concern entering Tuesday.
"He caught the ball well,'' said Tom Modrak, the Buffalo Bills vice president of college scouting. "That's always a good thing.''
Especially in an NFL trending toward more and more passing and one-back alignments.
"I didn't catch a lot of balls (at Clemson),'' said Davis, who caught 41 passes in four seasons as a Tiger. "They wanted to see what I could do catching the ball. I thought that was the biggest thing to come out here and prove today.''
Davis said he was praised for his efforts by scouts from New Orleans and New England, two offenses that often feature backs in the passing game.
How much Tuesday helps his stock remains to be seen.
He was projected as a second-round pick had he entered the NFL after his junior year. However, after a season behind a shaky quarterback and offensive line, Davis' stock plunged to mid-round status as a senior, and questions remained about his ability to catch passes and pass block. Questions he might have begun to answer Tuesday.
Choose your own pro-day adventures
Pleased with their 40-yard-dash times at the NFL Combine, wide receiver Aaron Kelly (232 career catches for 2,733 yards) and safeties Mike Hamlin and Chris Clemons elected not to run Tuesday.
Kelly, the school's all-time receiving leader, clocked a 4.53-second 40 at the combine. He has also added 16 pounds since the season ended. NFL teams have wanted to see him add bulk. The 6-5 target now weighs 202 pounds.
Kelly caught the ball well Tuesday in drills and did participate in the short shuttle and 3-cone drill, where he struggled at the combine. He said he improved those numbers Tuesday.
Still, he is battling questions about his strength and explosiveness (10.8 yards per catch as a Tiger). NFLdraftscout.com and CBSsportsline.com project him as second-day pick.
Hamlin is a projected third-round pick by NFLdraftscout.com; defensive tackle Dorell Scott said he has been told he could also be a third-round selection. Hamlin, Scott and Davis will likely be in battle to be the first Tiger selected. … Scott has had workouts with the Eagles and has visited with the Jets, Steelers and Cowboys. Kelly said he has visited with the Falcons. … In a thin quarterback draft pool, Harper said he has heard he could go anywhere from the third to sixth round. However, most draft projections have him as a late-round pick or an undrafted free agent. ESPN ranks him as the 11th quarterback.