Most NFL prospects use the months between the end of their college seasons and the NFL draft to hone their skills and train for combine events like the 40-yard dash and three-cone drills.
Jack Driscoll used that time to learn a new position.
The Eagles’ fourth-round pick out of Auburn already had some versatility, starting at right tackle for the Tigers and previously playing some left guard at UMass. But then he added more. At the advice of his college coaches, Driscoll added center to his resume.
“I just told him when you’re at home and you ain’t got nothing to do, you gotta get the ball and snap it, start working on snapping,” Auburn offensive analyst and former NFL offensive lineman Kendall Simmons said to NBC Sports Philadelphia last week.
Auburn was one of just a few schools to sneak in their pro day before they were all shut down because of the COVID-19 and it’s a good thing. Because while Driscoll stood on his very impressive numbers from the combine — he ran a 5.02 in the 40! — he used the March 6 pro day to do position drills.
And, yes, he showed off his new skill.
“When I saw him at the pro day snapping the ball, it looked so natural to him,” Simmons said. “I’m not telling you this just to pump him up: it was amazing to me to watch him do it because it didn’t look awkward. It didn’t look like he hadn’t done it before. His snaps were right on point. He was snapping and pulling, he was moving. I was like, ‘Dang, Jack! You’ve been working, huh?’”
Yeah, he had been working on it. Driscoll was proud of what he accomplished in just a couple months. Even if he never plays center in the NFL, he understood that adding an ounce more of value wouldn’t hurt his quest to be drafted.
The Eagles are a team that has historically valued versatility in their offensive linemen. In fact, it’s almost mandatory for their reserve linemen.
“I wanted to create the most value I could and show a team that I'm worthy of one of their draft picks,” Driscoll said shortly after the Eagles drafted him. “That's why I said I worked really hard on the center position and snapping and just making sure I got it down.”
Now on the coaching staff at Auburn, Simmons had an eight-year NFL career and has some friends who are NFL scouts. He approached them about Driscoll and while the scouts thought Driscoll could play tackle in the NFL, they projected him as an interior lineman long-term. Armed with that information, Simmons brought it to Driscoll knowing the draft hopeful would take it the right way.
Driscoll’s ability to adapt and his penchant for soaking up information and advice from his coaches is something that Simmons said is special about the Eagles’ rookie. Simmons said he had never been around a young player like Driscoll before joining the Auburn staff.
“He soaked it up like a sponge,” Simmons said. “I knew I could tell Jack that and he wasn’t going to turn his nose up or be arrogant about it, ‘oh this is who I am.’ Jack wants to be successful in life, period. So whatever it takes for him at that point at time, he’s going to do whatever he needs to do to be successful. That’s why he’s one of those guys, if he can stay healthy, he will play a long time because of his ability to adapt.”
When the Eagles drafted Driscoll (6-5, 306) they listed him as a tackle, so that’s probably where he’ll start his NFL career, at the position where he has the most experience. But like many evaluators in the league, Simmons thinks that, ultimately, Driscoll will end up as an interior lineman long-term.
Simmons was the 30th overall pick in the 2002 draft and after playing tackle at Auburn became a starter in the NFL at right guard. He started 90 total games at right guard from 2002-2009, including Super Bowl XL, when the Steelers took down the Seahawks 21-10. So Simmons shares his story of versatility with his players, including Driscoll.
Some players don’t want to hear it. They stubbornly think they’re good enough at the position they already play and choose to ignore the wise advice.
Others learn a new position in a couple months.
“He’s that guy,” Simmons said. “That’s what y’all have right now. I honestly think if [Driscoll] stays healthy, he will be a very valuable lineman for a long time.”
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