Skip to main content

2023 NFL Draft: What We Learned from Alabama, Utah pro days 

Every NFL team had at least one representative in attendance for Alabama's pro day on Thursday, which was highlighted by the throwing session of quarterback Bryce Young, analyst Daniel Jeremiah's top-rated prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft. It wasn't the only event that had scouts' attention on Thursday, though, as 31 of the league's 32 teams were represented at Utah’s pro day.

Here are five takeaways from the day's activities.

NOTE: Check out NFL+ for live coverage of Kentucky pro day beginning at 1 p.m. ET on Friday, March 24 and Florida pro day beginning at 11:30 a.m. ET on Thursday, March 30.

1) Young checks the box. Alabama's pro day is always a major offseason event on the NFL calendar, given how many prospects the Crimson Tide produce every year. This year is no different, with a typically loaded draft class of pro talent.

Naturally, the marquee event of the day was Young's throwing session after he declined to throw when quarterback took the field a few weeks ago at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Overall, it was a strong throwing session from Young as he tries to show he's worthy of being this year's top pick. Of the handful or so of throws he did not complete on Thursday, three were dropped passes, two were off-target and one hit the netting attached to the ceiling of Alabama's indoor facility.

"I was happy just to be out there throwing to my guys again," Young told NFL Network after the workout. "This is a special process. Just me being able to have this opportunity is something I definitely don't take for granted. I'm grateful for everyone who came and everyone who watched. I'm happy to have performed."

Young had a nice rhythm and pace as he went through the script of throws. During live coverage of the pro day on NFL+, analyst Steve Smith Sr. -- a five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver during his playing career -- likened watching Young's throwing session to listening to legendary jazz saxophonist John Coltrane.

It might not have been the most daring, eye-popping pro-day showing ever for a quarterback, but Young's performance certainly was smooth and lived up to expectations based on his outstanding play for Alabama in his two seasons as the team's starter.

"There's never been a more instinctive guy," Tide head coach Nick Saban told NFL Network. "(Young) plays the quarterback position like a point guard -- he's got great instincts, great feel, can change arm angles, very accurate with the ball, really quick processor and decision maker. 

"I think those two things, accuracy and quick decision-maker and processor, are probably the most important qualities in playing quarterback."

So, if his best traits come out in game situations, how much did Thursday change Young's outlook? It's possible that the answer is not that much.

"Ultimately, we love workouts. We love seeing those things, but he has a host of great tape to evaluate," said analyst Bucky Brooks during live pro day coverage on NFL+. "Even though we want to see some of those things, the game is still the game and workouts are workouts. He tried to hit it right down the fairway, let everyone see him move. 

"But ultimately, you like Bryce Young because of the way he plays the game, the way that it looks on tape. Nothing that he did today was going to change that opinion."

2) Potential suitors meet with QB. A day after the Panthers, who hold the draft’s No. 1 overall pick, sent a large contingent to watch C.J. Stroud work out at Ohio State’s pro day, Carolina was once again well represented for Young's time in the spotlight. Panthers head coach Frank Reich, GM Scott Fitterer, QB coach Josh McCown, senior assistant Jim Caldwell and owner David Tepper were in attendance.

NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported Young had dinner with the Panthers on Wednesday night, and he and Reich were seen chatting prior to his throwing session. Young was expected to meet with the Seahawks (holding Picks 5 and 20) later on Thursday, and he also met with the Raiders (holding Pick 7), who had head coach Josh McDaniels on hand for the pro day, per Garafolo.

Other big names in attendance included Saints head coach Dennis Allen and assistant GM Jeff Ireland, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and GM Omar Khan, Bears head coach Matt Eberflus, Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel, Bills GM Brandon Beane, Lions GM Brad Holmes and Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

3) Size conversation rekindled. Before the workout began, Young opted not to weigh in, choosing to stand on his combine measurements (5-foot-10 1/8, 204 pounds). Young is seeking to become the first quarterback since at least 2003 to weigh less than 207 pounds at the combine and be drafted in the first round.

Saban downplayed the concerns about his size, noting that it wasn't an issue for him during his time with the Tide.

"His 5-10 frame has never really had an impact on his productivity in a league where most of the players you're playing against are the same guys you're going be playing against at the next level," Saban told NFL Network. "So it's not like he's playing against lesser-talented players; there's going to be so many players in the SEC who get drafted. So I don't have an issue with (Young's size)."

Young is being discussed as the potential No. 1 overall pick despite his below-average measurables for good reason. Some of those reasons were on display during his throwing session. His QB coaches appeared to address the height question directly with a portion of the script that included a coach rushing Young with his hands in the quarterback's face as he delivered the ball. Young's accuracy on those throws didn't appear to waver. 

Another thing that Jeremiah and Smith noted about Young's game -- and something he showed off on Thursday -- was his ability to change arm angles and throw from different arm slots when delivering the ball. 

This obviously can be helpful for a shorter quarterback in real-life football situations, attempting to navigate smaller throwing windows amid a sea of defensive linemen (and his own offensive linemen), many of whom stand 6-foot-4 or taller. 

4) Top defender declines to work out. Will Anderson Jr., Jeremiah's No. 2 overall prospect in the draft, opted not to work out on Thursday. There was some intrigue about whether Anderson would perform some of the athletic testing drills after he skipped the majority of those -- he only ran the 40-yard dash -- at the combine. Anderson ran a 4.6-second 40-yard dash in Indianapolis, with a 1.61-second 10-yard split, and did participate in some on-field drills with the linebackers there.

The 6-foot-3 1/2, 253-pound Anderson could be the first non-quarterback drafted in April. Interestingly, Anderson told reporters he has visited the Houston Texans and had no other trips scheduled at the moment. There he met with head coach DeMeco Ryans and caught up with two Texans players who were his teammates in college, linebacker Christian Harris and wide receiver John Metchie III.

Like with Young, Saban gave Anderson a glowing recommendation to any NFL team considering drafting him.

"I can't say enough good things about the guy -- as a person, as a character, as a leader, (his) work ethic, (the) example that he sets for his teammates," Saban told NFL Network. "He cares about his teammates. The fact that he and Bryce played in the bowl game when guys are opting out and they're both probably top-five picks, I mean, that speaks volumes of how they care about their team. Nobody could represent this university any better than (Anderson) has.

"He's a throwback. He's like 20 years ago, the way guys went about playing football. The competitive character that they have. How important it is to them. I just can't say enough good things about him. And the guy can rush the passer. He is big, he can beat you around the edge but he can also turn speed to power. I think he's going to have a great career."

5) Injury update on top TE. Any team considering drafting Utah's Dalton Kincaid, Jeremiah's highest-rated tight end (No. 11 overall) in this year's draft class, might have to do so without witnessing him work out prior to the draft.

Kincaid did not work out at Utah's pro day on Thursday, as he's still recovering from a back injury he suffered (and played through in the Pac-12 Championship Game) late last season against Colorado. According to NFL Network's Omar Ruiz, Kincaid said he was cleared to begin working out this past Monday and will be cleared for contact six weeks from then, which is May 1.

That's after the draft, which is scheduled for April 27-29 in Kansas City, Missouri.

Kincaid said at the NFL Scouting Combine that he hoped to work out at the pro day. Under the advice of Dr. Robert Watkins -- the man who once repaired Peyton Manning's neck injury -- Kincaid did not have surgery to fix the plate compression fractures to Kincaid's T7 and T8 vertebrae.

Kincaid, who said his back is "good" right now, told Ruiz he plans to show teams he's healthy with a workout prior to the draft to make up for missing his pro day.

"I'm going to run some routes, kind of do some drill work," he said. "(I'll) either invite some people out to watch that or just record it and send it out to some teams."

Follow Eric Edholm on Twitter.

Related Content