Nothing is off-limits for professional teams to decide who they want to draft. Last year’s only GLIAC draftee, Hillsdale Charger Jared Veldheer, was criticized by ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. for having his arms too short for an offensive lineman. Since then, Veldheer solidified himself as the starting center for the Raiders, despite the criticism from Kiper Jr., but the speculation by experts in the press and scouting agencies can create huge swings in the value of a player, similar to the way economic speculators have an effect on market prices on Wall Street. This is where the phrase draft stock comes from and why it can be so important for prospective professional players.
Five Wildcats improved their draft stock on Monday, March 13, at the 2011 GLIAC pro-day at Grand Valley State University. Wide receiver Dustin Brancheau, tight end Blake Crider and defensive backs DJ Oke, defensive tackle Daniel Catalano and linebacker Eric Wells all participated in drills in front of scouts and agents as they look onwards toward the upcoming NFL, Canadian Football League and United Football League Drafts.
Brancheau said that five teams contacted his agent, as they thought he was the best receiver participating in the drills and he ran smooth routes and showcased good hands while catching the ball. His 40-yard time wasn’t the best that he could have, which was a concern for him before the day, and is looking to participate in another pro day to help improve on that time. Brancheau was listed at six-foot, 200 pounds on the 2010 roster and has 1,196 receiving yards and 105 receptions in his career at NMU.
Crider stood out at the pro day based on his size and strength. The six-foot-five, 265-pound tight end hauled in 289 yards and four touchdowns in his career at Northern while showing solid footwork along the sideline his senior season. He reportedly spoke to scouts from the Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions after running invitation-only drills at the end of the combine and recorded 20 reps on the bench press. Crider has an agent.
Wells also participated in some invite-only drills at the defensive end position. Wells, a six-foot-three, 230-pound linebacker/defensive end, had a breakout season his senior year, recording 48 tackles, 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. Originally from College of the Canyons, the junior college transfer played five different positions in high school and played in the two-point and three-point stance, depending on formation, this season. Wells does not have an agent.
Oke’s speed and jumping skills highlighted the pro day, as he posted the best standing long jump of the combine. The NMU defensive back also posted a fast dash time, running smoothly for the 40 yards. The five-foot-ten, 190-pound senior recorded 175 career tackles and four interceptions at NMU and was named to the first team all-GLIAC for the 2010 season. Oke does not have an agent.
Catalano described his performance as mediocre at the GLIAC pro-day, however the six-foot-four, 265-pound defensive tackle is looking forward to more opportunities to match his 57-tackle senior season. On March 6, at a pro day ran by the company Elite Combine in Towson, Md., Catalano qualified for the National Elite Combine at in Indianapolis on April 15-16. The Calgary Stampeders will look at Catalano this Sunday at a tryout in Philadelphia and reports of a few Arena Football League teams have reported interest. Catalano does not have an agent.
The athletes prep work for a pro day is important. Players have been working out to help improve their skills from specific speed drills to bulking up by lifting weights, and for one pro hopeful, that work was the sign to throw in the towel. Free safety Rick Neaves was preparing for the GLIAC pro day and a run at the pros before reinjuring his knee.
“I really want to, but over the years I had some big injuries that didn’t heal right,” Neaves said. “I can’t guarantee anything, but until something gets better with my knee, it’s over. I felt like I did well this year, and just not being able to play anymore, it’s tough.”
Another issue for the prospects is acquiring an agent. For non-Bowl Championship Series (BCS) players, finding agents can be a long and laborious process, adding to the stress of chasing a dream.
“It’s a lot more work than people think,” Brancheau said. “I went right into the film room after the season to put together a highlight film with (Crider). Then I sent that video around to everyone and then got signed up with (agent) David Canter in Florida. After that, I just started working out as he takes care of the business side of it. It’s three months of hard work for just one day.”
Editor’s Note: Check out the article online to see highlight videos of Oke, Crider, Brancheau and Catalano.