Lovie Smith walked away from Walker Pavilion on the University of Arkansas campus earlier today impressed with what he saw.
``There are quite a few athletes here that can step up to the next level and contribute right away,’’ Smith told ArkansasSports360.com. ``You’ve got a chance to have multiple first-round picks. That is special.’’
Those first-round picks could be Razorbacks running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, who Smith lunched with on Monday before Tuesday’s pro day. About 50 NFL scouts, coaches and front-office types showed up for the workout. McFadden and Jones did limited work as both showed well at the combine last month. They caught passes and did the bench press, each putting up 225 pounds 13 times. Also present was Bears Southwest scout Chris Ballard.
``I only go to a couple of places,’’ Smith told the Morning News of Northwest Arkansas. ``There are quite a few athletes here that can step up to the next level and contribute right away. We, of course going 7-9, could use a little bit of help, so we’re here.’’
McFadden is expected to be a top pick who might not escape the first five selections. Jones is more of a wild card and could be in play for the Bears if they trade down from their position in the first round at No. 14, or if he falls a bit to where they are in the second round at No. 44. Jones has great speed and burst, something everyone has been waiting to see from Cedric Benson, and averaged 7.7 yards per carry during his career. He’s not great out of the backfield as a receiver, but wouldn’t the Bears be happy if they could just find a durable workhorse back who gets the job done on the ground?
``I know they want offensive linemen,’’ said one source who was at the pro day. ``Jones can carry the load or he can be a specialty type of guy. Plus, he has some return ability so he could spell Devin [Hester] every now and then if they are playing him more at receiver. Logically, it could make sense. But they have to address the line. I think they can figure that out.’’
The source added that Ballard thinks Jones is ``special.’’ This didn’t come from Ballard himself, but I can tell you he’s not the kind of scout to throw that term around liberally. Certainly, Jones is someone to watch moving forward. The interesting thing is he’s represented by Eugene Parker, the same agent Benson uses. The Carolina Panthers are one team interested in Jones too. They met with him following the workout. The Dallas Morning News reports Jones has a visit to Valley Ranch scheduled.
The pro day circuit shifts to LSU Wednesday where the Tigers will have a talented group of players on display. Rutgers guard Jeremy Zuttah, who reportedly has had a private workout for the Bears, and running back Ray Rice will be on display at the Scarlet Knights pro day.