The two are Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey and Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves III. Ramsey, who played cornerback and safety at FSU and even a little linebacker, is considered one of the better prospects at any position, but Hargreaves says he has his sights set on being the first DB taken in the 2016 draft.
“We don’t really talk about it when we see each other, but we see the stuff,” Hargreaves said. “It’s kind of like a silent rivalry with us. He wants to be first, I want to be first. I’m going to say I’m the best, he’s going to say he’s the best. That’s what football is about.”
Ramsey is thinking beyond just defensive backs. He said over the weekend he was looking to become the first overall pick.
“Most definitely, that’s what I’m going for,” he said. “I’m a competitor, I want to be in that (No. 1) spot.”
As it turns out, the top prospect for the University of Miami this year also is a defensive back, cornerback Artie Burns. He’s projected as a potential late-first-round pick.
The other top cornerback in the draft is Mackensie Alexander, who didn’t record an interception in two seasons at Clemson but definitely comes out on top when it comes to confidence.
“I’m a competitor, and they’re all competitors, but at the end of the day I’m going to say it — and a lot of you guys will say it — I’m the best corner in this draft class,” Alexander said. “You know what I mean? If you look at stats, my numbers, who I am as a person, who I’m competing against — I went against the best receivers in the country. I went against more of the top receivers than anybody in this draft class, and I’m going step for step. I’m not just moving outside, I’m going inside. I’m playing zone, I’m able to blitz, I’m able to show my versatility, everything.”
When it was pointed out to him that he showed an awful lot of confidence, Alexander didn’t miss a beat and replied: “I mean, this is me. This is me. Imagine me on game day.”
The combine and pre-draft process is a busy time for all prospects, who spend a lot of time away from home training and preparing for the big weekend at the end of April.
For Maryland defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson, it’s an even bigger sacrifice because he’s married and has three children.
“I’ve been away from them for a while,” Jefferson said. “I see my wife about a few weeks ago, but I haven’t seen my girls in almost like two months. I FaceTime them. It’s hard, but it’s a small sacrifice for a bigger picture.”
Jefferson has three girls — 4-year-old Zoey, and 1-year-old twins Charleigh and Quinn.
They provide all the motivation Jefferson, projected as a late-round pick, could ever want.
“I know where I want to be,” he said. “This is only temporary. I know where I can possibly project them. I want my girls to not want for anything. I want to put them in the best situation possible. That just definitely makes it easier.”
Hand size for quarterbacks became a hot topic at the combine, in particular for Brandon Allen from Arkansas and top prospect Jared Goff from the University of California.
In fact, Goff’s press conference opened with a joke in the form of a question as to whether he was bullied as a child because of his perceived small hands.
“I just heard about that yesterday,” Goff said. “I’ve been told I have pretty big hands my whole life. I heard I have small hands (last week) apparently. Naw, I've never had a problem with that or expect it to be a problem at all.”
Goff’s hands were measured at the combine at exactly 9 inches, which tied for second-shortest among quarterbacks ahead only of Allen, who came in at 8 7/8. The longest were 10 7/8 inches and they belonged to Dak Prescott of Mississippi State and Cody Kessler of USC.
Allen revealed his hands measured 8 ½ inches before he started, get this, getting massages and doing stretching exercises to make them longer.
“I’ve been throwing,” Allen said before the on-field combine workouts. “I’ve done all that. Does it helps or hurt me (having a longer hand)? I think it’s the same. I’ve never had a problem with hand size, never had a problem throwing footballs or holding footballs.
“For me especially, having the smallest hands of all the QBs, it’s say it’s annoying (to hear about), but it’s just one of those tests where I’m probably not going to measure up as well as all the scouts want. But I hope to show that when I’m throwing routes and they see the ball come off my hand, I’ m just hoping that just going to trump the hand size altogether.”
The combine is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for draft prospects, but it just might turn out to be twice in a lifetime for Iowa defensive end Drew Ott.
See, Ott was in Indianapolis last weekend despite still hoping to play college football next fall.
After being limited to six games last season because of a dislocated elbow and a torn ACL, Ott petitioned the NCAA for a medical redshirt, which is nothing unusual. What was out of the ordinary is that the NCAA hadn’t ruled before the combine.
So while Ott awaiting word on his fate, he got permission from the NCAA to attend the combine. Ott said Friday he likely would return for another year at Iowa if the NCAA granted his request, meaning he’d likely be back in Indianapolis for the 2017 combine.
“It’s a little bit (strange),” Ott said. “It’s taken a lot longer to rule on than I thought initially, but I got cleared to come here, so I think I’m doing OK.”
If he does return to Iowa, the trip to Indy will not have been for naught because it will have provided valuable experience.
“It’d be very beneficial for me to know what the interviewing process is like and just kind of what the demands of what the four days while we’re here,” said Ott, whose NFL.com profile indicated he likes to eat raw eggs, shell included. “I don’t think it’ll be too hard to come back. (I’ve) still been doing the same things, training at Iowa and stuff like that, so it’s not like I’ve ever really left.”
THE ONE AND ONLY
Only one long-snapper has been drafted in the past 10 years, so the odds are against any prospect who plays that position.
At least Jimmy Landes from Baylor can find comfort in the fact that if there is a long-snapper taken in this year’s draft, it’s likely to be him.
The simple reason is that Landes was the only long-snapper at the combine.
“It’s just an honor to be here and knowing that I’m the only guy, saying I have a really good chance of making it,” Landes said. “It’s not guaranteeing it. I know I’ve got to work every day for it. Even though I got this spot here at the combine, it just means work even harder, you may make it.”
Long-snapper was the only position with fewer than five prospects at the combine. There were five fullbacks, six punters and six placekickers.
TRYING TO LOOK THE PART
For reasons that should be obvious, West Virginia punter Nick O’Toole had the nicknames “Boomstache” and “Boombeard” in college.
But O’Toole showed up at the combine sans facial hair and with a crew cut.
“I had to shave it up a little,” O’Toole said. “Gotta be clean-shaven. You’ve got to represent an organization now, so you’ve got to look professional.”
O’Toole, who averaged 45.4 yards in 2015 while earning All-Big 12 honors, said he shaved his beard after West Virginia’s bowl game. He shaved down the middle, leaving himself with mutton chops.
He said he might grow a full beard again at some point, but first he wants to try to establish himself as an NFL punter.
“It’s something like, OK, everybody wants to look kind of out there and wild and do their own thing,” O’Toole said, “but now you’ve got to represent somebody else that’s bigger than yourself. It was a good transition.”