In some recent years, the annual University of Washington “pro day” was a misnomer.
There just weren’t always enough players coming out with NFL-level talent to make the effort worthwhile for franchise scouts and staff.
The Huskies’ Dempsey Indoor facility was crowded Wednesday, though, as running back Bishop Sankey and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins are considered among the most promising prospects at their positions.
Quarterback Keith Price and wide receiver Kevin Smith had strong performances in front of the scouts as Sankey was lightly worked and Seferian-Jenkins rested his surgically repaired foot (stress fracture).
The quality of the athletes the Huskies are pumping out now is a credit to the efforts of the staff of former coach Steve Sarkisian, who left for USC before UW’s bowl game last season.
“I think it reflects that Steve Sarkisian did a phenomenal job of recruiting, getting NFL-caliber athletes out here,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “I think they did a great job, and I think the new staff (under coach Chris Petersen) will even do a better job. We’ve got great coaches here, great facilities ... pretty tough to beat this place.”
Tacoma-based NFL draft analyst Rob Rang senses the upward trend of NFL-ready Huskies.
“The number of players that are legitimately NFL-caliber has grown significantly over the last several years,” Rang said.
Rang likes the looks of Sankey, who had an impressive performance at February’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Sankey only ran position drills Wednesday, hoping mostly to prove to the scouts that he’s adept at catching passes.
“He is one of the few backs who is a true three-down back,” Rang said. “He can run interior, exterior, he can pass block, he can catch, he can do it all. The question about him was straight-line speed, and he blew that out of the water at the combine with a terrific workout (4.47-second 40-yard dash).”
Rang said he’s not sure that Sankey, as some are saying, will be the first running back drafted, but “he’s a second- or third-round talent and can absolutely go into the NFL and be successful right away.”
Rang pointed out that the last draft was the first in 50 years that no running back was taken in the first round. He thinks it could happen again this year.
Seferian-Jenkins, who discovered the stress fracture at the combine, was frustrated that he hasn’t been able to perform during this important pre-draft period.
He said he expected to be back to health for an April 26 examination. If missing the combine and pro-day workout costs him much in the way of draft status, he said, “then I didn’t do enough (already).”
“He has incredible body control and very strong and reliable hands for a man his size, which is exceedingly rare,” Rang said of the 6-foot-5 Seferian-Jenkins.
Rang said he believes teams would like to see him get nastier as a blocker: “He needs to add a little glass to his diet and be a gritty, tougher competitor.”
Price was impressive with his accuracy and strong arm, being on target for all but a few passes, and once unloading a 65-yard bomb.
“Keith Price, obviously, has played a lot of football here,” Rang said. “For a shorter quarterback (6-1), he has plenty of arm strength, in my opinion, to be successful.”
If there’s a sleeper in the group of Huskies working out Wednesday, according to Rang, it might be Smith, who showed off his reliable hands and athleticism.
Smith uncorked a 37-inch vertical jump, causing Price to suggest that “somebody’s gonna get a steal” if they draft him.
Rang doesn’t see this level of talent at UW as an aberration, but a trend.
“What is most exciting about it, from a fan of the program, is you see so much talent still on the roster,” Rang said. “I expect next year’s draft class to be every bit as impressive or more so.”