UNC Football: Tar Heels host 2018 Pro Day


M.J. Stewart, Andre Smith were among Tar Heels participating in the Pro Day on Tuesday

The 2018 NFL Draft is just under a few weeks away as the latest class of college football players will enter the league.

Last season the North Carolina Tar Heels sent a few players to the NFL, highlighted by the selection of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky No. 2 overall to the Chicago Bears. Ryan Switzer, Nasair Jones, T.J. Logan and Mack Hollins were all also drafted. Bug Howard and Elijah Hood signed on with teams for training camp and spent the season on practice squads.

This year the Tar Heels have more prospects headed to the NFL and on Tuesday they held their annual Pro Day at Kenan Memorial Stadium in front of dozens of NFL scouts.

UNC currently has two players projected to be drafted in the 2018 NFL Draft but other prospects worked out in front of scouts. For all of the players, it was another opportunity to impress NFL scouts ahead of the draft which begins on April 27th.

M.J. Stewart

Cornerback M.J. Stewart is considered UNC’s top prospect for the NFL Draft this year and is projected to be selected in the second or third round. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein wrote this on Stewart’s draft profile:

"Stewart is well-built and very physical in both his coverage and his run support. He’s athletic enough to handle man coverage duties from a variety of techniques whether playing outside or inside and he has the instincts, ball skills and toughness to transition to safety if need be. Stewart can be deployed in a variety of positions in the secondary which should lend itself to early playing time for him with a starter’s role in his future."

As for Tuesday, Stewart participated in a variety of drills but did not run the 40-yard-dash at the Pro Day. Stewart did run it at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis and recorded a time of 4.54 seconds.

The biggest thing for Stewart going into the draft is the position he will play. He played cornerback in his four seasons at UNC but revealed to the media that he can play on the outside, nickel or even safety. Stewart revealed in this video by Inside Carolina that he has worked out for teams already and has more scheduled but he did not want to reveal the teams.

Andre Smith

The biggest storyline regarding Andre Smith is his health.

He suffered a knee injury early in the Tar Heels 2017 season and missed the rest of the year before declaring for the NFL Draft. Smith is an intriguing prospect as an inside linebacker and had a great sophomore season in 2016.

Zierlen wrote on Smith, calling him a two-down linebacker at the next level with criticism over his coverage and speed:

"Two-down inside linebacker with a severe case of thumps who looks to impose his will against ball carriers as often as possible. Smith’s lack of speed, athleticism and cover skills could hurt his draft stock, but his history as a consistent tackler and willing banger gives him a good chance to make a team no matter where he is drafted."

Smith ran the 40-yard-dash once again at his Pro Day after recording a time of 4.63 at the NFL Scouting Combine. According to Inside Carolina, Smith clocked in anywhere from 4.55-4.7 after running it just once.

That’s a disappointing time for Smith as he hoped to impress scouts.  There’s also the concern about his size. Smith again measured under 6-foot at the Pro Day according to IC.

Smith’s length is something that has been labeled as a strength and if he can learn to play MIKE in the NFL, he might have a long future in the league.

The linebacker is set to take some pre-draft visits with the New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens.

Austin Proehl

The wide receiver might be UNC’s most interesting draft prospect. He’s the son of former Super Bowl receiver Ricky Proehl and is now hoping to create his own path to the NFL.

Proehl hasn’t received the hype that Stewart and Smith have but as of late he’s starting to impress scouts. Last week he participated in a regional scouting combine in Tampa, Florida where he reportedly stole the show.

He’s projected to be a slot receiver and has a meeting scheduled with the Panthers.

Other UNC players that participated in the Pro Day: Jordan Cunningham (WR), Cayson Collins (LB), Hunter Crafford (LB), Bentley Spain (OT), Khaliel Rodgers (OL), Cam Dillard (C), R.J. Prince (OL), Brandon Harris (QB), Donnie Miles (S), Dejuan Drennon (DL), Tom Sheldon (P) and Nick Weiler (K).

The Tar Heels will continue Spring practice this week and then shut it down until training camp begins in August.

For more on the Tar Heels’ football program, please check back wtih Keeping It Heel.