Blazing-fast Grant still with much to prove after stellar Pro Day

Auburn Tigers running back Corey Grant ran an unofficial 4.26-second 40-yard dash at his Pro Day on Tuesday.

John Reed/John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

AUBURN, Ala. — No one knows exactly how fast Corey Grant’s time in the 40-yard dash was on Tuesday. Some scouts revealed a 4.19; others got incrementally higher toward 4.24, 4.27 and an even seemingly slow 4.36.

One thing is fairly certain now.

Prior to Grant’s blazing 40, he wasn’t considered to be a player that would be selected in the 2015 NFL draft. After what was generally agreed was a 4.26 40-yard finish at Auburn’s Pro Day, some NFL team is going to pull the trigger on him during the draft.

Talk about changing one’s draft status with just one workout; Grant did just that.

"I think I had to prove a lot," Grant said. "I think I really had to prove that I should have been at the [NFL] combine. I didn’t get an invite, but it’s OK."

To go along with his 4.26 in the 40, Grant put up 225 pounds in the bench press 22 times, landed a broad jump of 127 inches (10 feet, seven inches) and posted a 37-inch vertical jump. Compared to the players at the combine — Grant wasn’t invited — he would have finished first in the 40-yard dash (Jeremy Langford was the fastest running back at 4.42 seconds), 10th in the bench press and seventh in the vertical jump.

Now that Grant has turned heads in his workout, what does he do next?

Grant prepared for his Pro Day at D1 Sports Training in Franklin, Tenn. With his workout behind him, he’ll stay in Auburn until the NFL draft and work with Tigers strength and conditioning coach Ryan Russell.

One of the areas Grant said he would spend a lot of time preparing over the next two months is to improve his tight hips. While good times in the ‘L’ drill and short shuttle go toward showing he’s been taking negative feedback about his hips seriously, now that some NFL teams will want to talk with Grant, he’ll be put through more tests to make sure growth is attainable.

Catching passes out of the backfield is something Grant prepared for, to show at his Pro Day. He was happy with Tuesday’s efforts, but still has work to do.

"That’s one of the things I worked on, especially coming out of the slot and catching the slant," said Grant. "I usually don’t do that, hardly ever, so that was a big focus for me catching wide receiver routes, especially quick balls."

Another thing Grant will have to convince NFL teams of, is that his workout numbers are more important than his body of work at Auburn.

Grant ran for 364 yards last season and caught just 10 passes. During his junior year in 2014 he posted an impressive 9.8 yards per carry, but only touched the ball 66 times. During his three seasons with the Tigers, he only carried the football 135 times for 1,040 yards and three touchdowns. He also caught just 14 passes.

In 2011, Grant transferred from Alabama to Auburn. His official stance was that he liked the offense better at Auburn. But more than likely what he saw was a much more favorable depth chart.

But Grant never climbed the ranks with the Tigers. He was buried behind Cameron Artis-Payne last season, and Tre Mason the two year’s prior. Grant was also listed at times as Auburn’s backup slot receiver.

The point being, Grant never found a way to elevate higher than backup level at any position. NFL teams are going to want to know what held him back.

Grant was frequently praised for great vision, and he showed his top-notch speed. Those two attributes scream third-down back in the NFL. But NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said he’s going to have to show his value elsewhere, prior to being handed the football on offense.

"He’s a space player, a kickoff return guy, perimeter guy, catch it and gash and go," said Mayock. "There’s always room in the NFL for home-run hitters, but he’s going to have to prove his value as a special teams guy. Can he be a kickoff return guy and a punt return guy? Can he be a gunner and a jammer? Those are the things that will be important for him to make at team."

Grant said he compared himself to Darren Sproles and Percy Harvin in the NFL, and said he could do anything in the league Pittsburgh’s Dri Archer can do. Archer ran a 4.26-second 40-yard dash at the 2014 combine, and was taken in the third round of the draft.

Archer weighed in at 173 pounds, while Grant is almost 30 pounds heavier at 201. That added size will go a long way in the NFL, but don’t expect Grant to come off the draft board in the third round.

He improved his draft stock on Tuesday, but Grant should still be a Day 3 selection. He’ll have to keep burning on special teams during training camp to ensure a roster spot, though.