Even before Tiki Barber shocked the world by announcing his intention to return to professional football, today was a controversial day in NFL circles. And it had nothing to do with the ongoing labour negotiations, either.

No, it was the fact that two very important colleges held their pro days at the very same time.

I am not going to start speculating about who attended which college and what that might mean, because these teams will have at least one more chance to look at any player they’re interested in, and teams also have the ability to send scouts to pro days that coaches can’t make. I’ll just state that, according to those in attendance, the turnout was significantly larger at Auburn than it was at Arkansas.

All that matters is that Auburn’s Cam Newton and Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett worked out at the same time. Who edged who? Well, it depends on who you ask.

What we learned about Mallett: He’s not very athletic. His 5.37 40-yard dash was unbelievably slow, but elusiveness has never been his strength. He’s a typical pocket passer, and he threw the ball well Tuesday.

“The junior was absolutely sensational during the workout,” wrote NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks, “and his natural talent is unrivaled in this year’s draft. As a strong-armed passer, Mallett easily makes all of the requisite throws in the pro game.”

Who cares that he’s slow as molasses (thanks, grandma). Is Peyton Manning fast? Tom Brady ran a pathetic 5.23 40, and he’s a pretty good quarterback in the NFL. Mallett played in a pro-style offence in college, but mysterious character concerns continue to follow him. If that stigma fades, he might be the top quarterback in this year’s draft.

What we learned about Newton: He did complete 50 of his 60 passes (and a few were dropped) but also had a few notable overthrows. He didn’t run the 40, but there are really no questions surrounding his athleticism. He’s sort of the bizarro Ryan Mallett in that he hasn’t been part of a pro-style offence and there are still questions about his accuracy.

After Newton’s second workout in just over a week, he’s still being labelled as “raw” and still drawing comparisons to Vince Young. Neither is good.

So Newton certainly wasn’t the winner on Tuesday, but maybe Mallett wasn’t either. Maybe it was Nick Fairley:

Not long ago, JaMarcus Russell and Kyle Boller were studs on their pro days, too. Does that mean we shouldn’t give much credence to what Mallett did? Does it mean Newton is especially bad? Keep in mind that pro days are only one piece of a large puzzle that 32 front offices will be attempting to solve between now and Apr. 28. Newton and Mallett and Fairley will have to prove themselves at several other individual workouts before teams get an indication of how good they are.

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