Michael Brockers' meteoric rise up many an NFL draft board has seen one hitch this spring.
That came at the NFL combine when the early departing LSU sophomore defensive tackle, nervous and a tad overweight, did not perform as well as he would have liked.
Perhaps that was just a blip.
Things seem much better for Brockers after Thursday's LSU pro day. The Houston native was a bit trimmer (316 pounds, down from 322 at the combine) and, comforted by the familiar surroundings of LSU's practice facility, performed much better than he did at Indianapolis, most notably in the 40-yard dash where he shaved more than two-tenths of a second off his 5.36 combine time, dropping it to 5.15.
As perhaps a bit of the icing on the cake the slimmer Brockers has apparently avoided lately, he was invited to New York's Radio City Music Hall for April's draft, along with teammate Morris Claiborne.
Consider his stock fast-rising once again.
"It was rising a little bit before the combine, then I feel like it was at a standstill," said Brockers after he was put through the pro day motions as coaches like the Vikings' Leslie Frazier and the Jets' Rex Ryan watched closely. "I felt like I didn't do too well in the combine and now I opened some eyes. Some coaches got to see me hands-on and what I can do with my ability."
Brockers' story has played out in a way that is a bit reminiscent of the rise of Tyson Jackson to the top of the draft board in 2009. Like Jackson, who wound up the No. 3 overall pick to the Kansas City Chiefs, Brockers did not put up dominant statistics at LSU. But like Jackson, the 6-foot-6 Brockers has shown the frame to be much more.
But where Jackson was favored for being a prototype 3-4 "5-technique" defensive end, Brockers has been prized for his versatility. With long arms (they measured at 35.9 inches, by far the longest of any LSU player at Pro Day), he has the length to play a 3-4 end, but also has the size and ruggedness to play the "3-technique" defensive tackle in a 4-3 alignment.
The prerequisite to being that versatile is having the athleticism to pull off either position, something his combine performance put in a little bit of doubt.
At 322 pounds, Brockers didn't move as well as scouts would have liked and he didn't blow folks away with strength either, with his pedestrian 19 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press.
Even at a lighter weight Thursday, Brockers was stronger at pro day, putting the bar up 21 times. That's impressive when one considers the enormous length of his arms. Big bench press numbers are usually dominated by stockier players, like 5-9 LSU fullback James Stampley whose short arms (measured at just over 30 inches long at Pro Day) and powerful build allowed him to record an eye-popping 30 reps on the bench press.
But Brocker's 21? Plenty respectable.
It didn't stop there. Brockers also jumped three inches higher than he did at the combine, turning in a 30-inch vertical leap (How high is that? At 6-6 and with 35-inch arms, that means this 316-pounder can get his hands an easy foot over the rim to dunk a basketball).
If you were wondering what was the emphasis for Brockers coming out of Indy, you need only look at the slimmer weight and better performance tests for your answer. When asked what teams wanted to see most, Brockers' answer came as no surprise.
"Probably my 10-(yard) split," he said. "A lot of teams wanted to see that better."
The 10-yard split measures a player's explosiveness off the ball. It's not the full sprint, but the initial burst. Brockers said he had not heard his 10-yard split time from pro day, but, "I felt like I got off better," than the combine. His total 40 time suggests he's right.
The message coming out of the combine: Show a bit more athletic explosiveness. In test after test, Brockers did just that.
"It was an all-around good day for me," he said.
And things might still get better as he continues to work toward the draft.
At six pounds lighter than his combine weight, Brockers is halfway to his weight-loss goal.
"If I can lose six more pounds, I'll be great at 310," he said.
At 316 pounds, he was just fine at pro day.