Out Injured For Pro Day, Notre Dame Football Wide Receiver Ben Skowronek Says To Trust His Production Ahead Of NFL Draft
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Out Injured For Pro Day, WR Ben Skowronek Says To Trust His Production

Forget chip on the shoulder. Ben Skowronek was approaching his 40-yard dash and other combine testing drills with an entire family size Lay’s bag of chips resting on it.

For years, he said, the former Notre Dame receiver by way of Northwestern has eagerly awaited the NFL Combine and his pro day to show he can run. To show he’s faster than labels as a security blanket might suggest or a highlight tape mostly filled with jump-ball catches and punishing run blocks would lead a casual observer to believe.

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish football wide receiver Ben Skowronek
Skowronek hoped to surprise people with his 40-yard dash at Notre Dame’s pro day. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

“My speed has been doubted,” Skowronek said. “I was so excited to get on the field and run that 40-yard dash and shut everybody up. You can talk to every strength coach I’ve had. My GPS speeds have been the fastest on the team.

“I was going to run fast. I’m not going to put a time out there, but I’ve seen times and been faster than those guys when I was training with them.”

An undisclosed foot injury suffered in January, though, stripped him of his chance. It forced him to pull out of the Senior Bowl after one full practice. Skowronek said Monday at Notre Dame’s pro day media availability he hurt it prior to the Senior bowl and tried to play through it, but the pain reached an untenable level.

Skowronek is ahead of schedule in his rehab and “a couple weeks away from being 100 percent.” He won’t do any drills or hold a personal pro day later in April before the draft, deciding instead to not push himself forward too quickly at risk of aggravating the injury and putting in jeopardy his availability for NFL rookie minicamp and offseason team activities in May.

NFL teams will have to rely on his film for the football portion of their evaluation. There’s no shortage of it. A productive career in the Big Ten and at Notre Dame ended with 139 catches, 1,856 yards (13.4 per reception) and 13 touchdowns. In 2020, his lone season with the Irish, he had 29 catches for 439 yards and a team-high five touchdowns. He also had a 13-yard rushing touchdown.

“Teams are just watching my film,” Skowronek said. “They’re good at their jobs for a reason. They’re scouts and coaches for one of 32 NFL teams, so they know what they’re looking for. I believe my film speaks for itself. You can see me catching balls, pancaking guys, being physical. Honestly, I wasn’t too worried about missing testing, because I don’t think it’s going to make or break me. I think I have really good film.”

Even without the 40-yard dash and other athletic testing drills, there’s still enough intrigue on tape to keep you watching. He’s a jump-ball weapon and was a deep threat for both his teams. No Football Bowl Subdivision receiver with at least 80 run-blocking snaps in 2020 had a higher Pro Football Focus grade in that area than his 89.0 mark. He played the boundary and field receiver spots for Notre Dame in 2020. At 6-3 and 211 pounds, he has outside receiver size.

“I believe I’m one of the most unique prospects in this draft with my height, weight and speed as well as my physicality, ball skills, just my overall football skills,” Skowronek said. “You can pop on the tape and I’m going to set myself apart from the majority of those prospects. It’s a deep receiver class, but I’m confident in my ability.”

All told, he is viewed as a potential Day 3 pick. A recent CBS Sports seven-round mock draft has him going in the fifth round, at No. 184 overall. He’s the No. 29 receiver in NFL Draft Bible’s position rankings. Receiver is often the most frequently drafted position, and about 30 to 35 of them are selected per year. The 2021 receiver class is considered one of the deepest in recent years, and participating at pro day and posting the numbers he envisioned would’ve helped his case.

Skowronek thinks he can make it work either way.

“I know teams are going pass on me,” Skowronek said. “But I’m going to make them wish they didn’t.”

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