How did Utes Britain Covey and T.J. Pledger look at Utah Pro Day?

Star linebacker Devin Lloyd, a projected first-round pick, watches as other Utes help their NFL draft stock

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) University of Utah’s Devin Lloyd, left, who ranks amongst the Nation’s top linebackers attends Utah Pro Day on Thursday, March 24, 2022.

Of the 15 players slated to take part in Utah’s pro day on Thursday, the highest-profile among them was content to stand on the sidelines at Eccles Field House, watching his former teammates go through drills

Devin Lloyd, last season’s Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American, opted to not participate Thursday in front of 29 NFL teams, citing “lower extremity tightness” as the reason.

Wishing to not further an injury is always a valid reason to skip an on-campus pro day, but so too is the fact that Lloyd went through the NFL Scouting Combine last month, so he already has his numbers out there. Furthermore, he remains projected to be selected inside the top 20 at the NFL draft on April 28.

“I didn’t want to go out and risk anything, so I made the smart decision and decided not to do anything,” Lloyd said after 29 NFL teams watched the other 14 former Utes. “From what I did in season and at the combine, I think that was enough to do what I want to do in the draft.”

At this point in the process, Lloyd does not have any team workouts set up, but he does have a handful of team visits still to go. Lloyd confirmed Thursday that he will be in Las Vegas for the NFL draft, which is another indication that the belief is he will be selected in the first round, potentially as high as the upper teens. Lloyd has conducted 26 formal team interviews, and has met with all 32.

Utah has not had a first-round pick since Garrett Bolles was selected 20th overall by the Denver Broncos in 2017. Lloyd is primed to become just the program’s ninth first-round pick dating back to 1959.

Lloyd was joined at the combine earlier this month by another All-Pac-12 linebacker, Nephi Sewell. While Lloyd opted to sit Thursday out, Sewell participated, although he did not run the 40-yard dash.

For what it’s worth, NFL Combine testing is laser timed, but Utah Pro Day was not. At the combine, Sewell, who noted Thursday that he played most of last season with a high-ankle sprain, ran a laser-timed 4.67.

“In talking with my agent (Justin Schulman), the numbers at the combine are kind of official,” Sewell said. “Everything is lasered, all the scouts are there watching things closely. We discussed it and decided to just take the numbers I have.

“Even if I run the 40 out here, it’s discounted because it’s not lasered, it’s hand-timed.”

Sewell says he has met with all 32 teams, either formally or informally.

T.J. Pledger’s odyssey

Testing results were not immediately available on Thursday, to the point that the players themselves didn’t even know how fast they ran or how high they jumped.

When T.J. Pledger, an Oklahoma transfer who rushed for 694 yards and six touchdowns for the Utes in 2021, was asked if he was aware of what his 40 time was, he could only confirm that it was fast, which drew laughter from the assembled media.

Without knowing the numbers, Pledger believed he helped his own cause on Thursday, nearly two months removed from helping himself with an out-of-nowhere Senior Bowl invitation.

On Feb. 3, Pledger was in Orange County, Calif., training. At roughly 6 p.m. that evening, he took a call from Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy, who extended the late invite. Pledger got himself to LAX, hopped a red-eye flight to Alabama, and was on the practice field at noon the next day. He rushed five times for 33 yards in the Feb. 5 game, which is probably trumped by the fact he was able to meet with 20-plus NFL teams while there.

“I was able to show my speed, I feel like I answered the questions there,” Pledger said of his Thursday performance, in which he participated in all drills. “My agility, route-running, pass-catching out of the backfield and my explosiveness. I really put things together today.”

Britain Covey helps himself

After Pro Day was over, Britain Covey lamented the fact that he did not receive a combine invite, noting, without naming names, he had better numbers than some guys who were in Indianapolis.

Lamenting is one thing, but Covey also knows there’s nothing he can do about it now. Instead, he has plowed forward this month. Given his small stature, but huge collegiate resume, he is one of the more-interesting draft situations as far as Utah goes.

After participating in the 40, Covey says one scout told him he clocked a 4.43, which, if accurate, made Thursday a good day as he tries to get a foot in the door, likely as a return specialist.

“I hope they saw what they were looking for, I’m excited,” Covey said. “I try to think of myself as pretty self-aware in terms of what my role is. Return man, that will be the main thing I turn to, but I’m looking forward to surprising people in the slot. I felt like my routes today surprised some people with how crisp they are, and just how natural I feel at receiver.”

“I would love to go in as a return man and be one of the top four receivers on the team.”