In his final major event before the NFL Draft begins at the end of this month, Yale football running back Tyler Varga ’15 showed off his speed, power and skills in front of scouts from 28 NFL teams and two CFL teams during his Pro Day yesterday at the Star Hill Athletic Center in Tolland, Connecticut.
Though all times were unofficial, the consensus for Varga’s 40-yard dash was approximately 4.64 seconds, just outside of the 4.55 to 4.62 second range that Joe Linta ’83, his agent, said he was expecting a month ago. His most impressive figure, however, was the vertical jump, in which Varga leapt 38.5 inches — a height that would have placed him sixth out of the 32 running backs who performed that exercise in the NFL Combine this year.
“I think it went well,” Varga said. “I just went out there and did my best. I did well in the drills, and I did all right in the testing, as well.”
All NFL teams except for Washington and the Rams, Bengals and Texans sent scouts to the Pro Day, according to Linta.
One of those NFL scouts at Varga’s Pro Day, who requested anonymity due to the nature of his job, said Varga’s performance confirmed what many scouts had been thinking regarding the Kitchener, Ontario native — that he has the potential to contribute as a lead blocker and in short-yardage situations.
Varga’s exercises and drills yesterday were especially important because he sat out the Combine with a minor bone spur in his ankle, meaning that Tuesday’s performance was Varga’s first in front of scouts in a Pro Day setting. He participated in the Senior Bowl, an all-star game for college seniors, in January.
“He pretty much did everything that I as a scout saw on tape or was expecting him to do at the Pro Day,” the scout said. “He’s got a chance, if he finds himself in the right situation, to be a role player for an offense at the next level, maybe a special teams contributor.”
Linta, who has been projecting Varga as a fourth- to sixth-round draft pick all year, said Varga confirmed that evaluation in his performance in front of scouts. The scout agreed, saying that Varga is a likely “third day guy” — referring to rounds four through seven of the NFL Draft from April 30 to May 2.
In addition to the 40-yard dash and vertical jump, Varga broad-jumped 9’9”, performed the 20-yard shuttle in approximately 4.22 seconds and posted a time of roughly 7.10 seconds in the cone drill, according to Linta.
Yale running backs coach Larry Ciotti noted that while Varga likely was hoping for a faster 40 time, one scout clocked him at 1.59 seconds in the first 10 yards of his run, which Ciotti said was an outstanding time.
He added that in his opinion, a 10-yard split is a more accurate representation of the speed that a running back needs in the NFL.
“How many times in the NFL does a running back run for 40 yards?” Ciotti said. “The 40-yard dash time, to me, is not a valid way of measuring a running back. A running back does all his damage in the first 10 yards.”
Linta, Ciotti and the scout all agreed that Varga also performed well in the positional drills, in which he showcased his footwork and agility, and also caught passes from a Wesleyan quarterback.
Varga said he was especially pleased by his vertical leap performance and that the scouts he spoke with also gave him positive feedback about the workout.
He added that there was added pressure to perform because of his injury during the Combine, but he felt comfortable as the center of attention.
“This has been a pretty intense period of training,” Varga said. “Everything’s sort of built up to this point.”
With a month remaining until the draft, Varga said the final weeks are mostly a waiting game as teams consider their options throughout April.
Teams can call players in for private workouts and meetings with coaches and staff, but because Varga interviewed with so many teams during the NFL Combine, it is not likely that many teams will pursue this option, according to the scout.
“[Varga is] a great kid; he’s smart, all the intangibles you want from the off-the-field standpoint,” the scout said. “Those things translate over onto the field. But he needs to find himself in the right situation.”
Four players performed alongside Varga. Two were players from Wesleyan, while the other two, Gordon Hill of Sacred Heart and Mike Flacco — brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco — are players that Linta also represents. Ciotti noted that the majority of scouts were there specifically to see Varga.
The 2015 NFL Draft will take place in Chicago.