Scouting Combine Research: Corners, Part 2

Michigan State's Trae Waynes is the top-rated prospect at a position in which some of the top performers have character concerns. There are plenty of interesting stories, too, including a former basketball star who has emerged as a top cornerback. (Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY)

Byron Jones, Connecticut (6-0, 197): Jones’ senior season ended in October with a shoulder injury. He started 37 games in his four seasons. After playing safety as a freshman and sophomore, Jones picked off five passes at corner as a junior and senior. During the summer before his junior year, Jones worked as an intern in the Connecticut Legislature for Joe Aresimowicz and in the U.S. Capitol for Elizabeth Etsy. Aresimowicz was Jones’ AAU basketball coach.

Craig Mager, Texas State (5-11, 189): A four-year letterman who started each of his 48 games, Mager was second-team all-Sun Belt Conference as a senior with three interceptions and 13 total passes defensed. He also averaged 12.3 yards on punt returns. His 10 pass breakups in 2014 and 39 breakups in his career are school records. His mom died when he was 15. With his father out of the family’s life, Mager and his sisters moved in with their grandma and Mager became the man of the house. Among his enduring memories of his mom: “We were at a little high school game and I got tackled pretty hard. She jumped over the fence, freaking out just because a boy tackled me hard. I was like, ‘Mom, I’m good. You don’t have to worry about it.’ That always laid on my mind.”

Bobby McCain, Memphis (5-10, 190): The senior tallied five interceptions and nine total passes defensed to be first-team all-conference. McCain intercepted six passes as a junior. He finished his career was 12 picks and a 25.3-yard average on kickoff returns. “The football finds him,” coach Justin Fuente said.

Steven Nelson, Oregon State (5-11, 199): After two seasons in junior college, Nelson had eight interceptions in two all-conference seasons. His game-winning pick-six vs. San Diego State was a defining moment in 2013, and he’s learned his ballhawking skills from Packers cornerback Casey Hayward. Nelson got by on talent in 2013 but learned well under position coach Rod Perry, a two-time Pro Bowler.

Garry Peters, Clemson (6-0, 185): Peters emerged during his first season as a full-time starter. The second-team all-ACC performer had only one interception but led the team with 15 passes defensed. He’s come a long way since not being prepared to play mentally when thrust into the lineup as a sophomore.

Marcus Peters, Washington (6-0, 198): On talent, Peters might be the best cornerback in the draft. There are major questions, though. He was kicked off the team in November. A scout said he saw Peters choke a Washington assistant at practice; the Huskies’ staff denies that happened. Either way, he continually butted heads with coach Chris Petersen. Peters said he would have kicked himself off the team -- long before Petersen did. Since then, he’s patched things up with the coaching staff to some extent and sought advice from family friend Marshawn Lynch. “I talk to that guy every day,” Peters said. “He was excellent help. He gave me some words of wisdom and we talked about some great things between us when everything went down (at UW).” In three seasons, he had 11 interceptions and broke up 35 passes.

Quinten Rollins, Miami (Ohio) (6-0, 203): Rollins is an incredible story. He was named the MAC’s Defensive Player of the Year with his MAC-leading seven interceptions. And that’s it for his college football resume. Before that? He was a standout basketball player for the RedHawks. He’s 12th on the MAC’s all-time list with 214 steals and is fourth in school history with 391 assists. Even with his limited football background, Rollins could wind up selected in the first round. “I had just come from Notre Dame and he was more physically gifted than 90 percent of the players there," coach Chuck Martin, a former Notre Dame assistant, said. "He had all the tools. It was just a matter of whether he could do it with the pads on." It took Rollins about “half a practice” to show Martin he had the goods.

Eric Rowe, Utah (6-1, 201): Rowe started 45 games during his four years at Utah. A lot of those starts came at safety. As a senior, he moved to corner and was an honorable mention on the all-Pac-12 team with one interception and a total of 14 passes defensed. He intercepted three passes in his career. He made a quick and smooth adjustment to the position, which might help him play both spots in the NFL.

Josh Shaw, USC (6-2, 205): Shaw is the Brian Williams of this year’s draft. Shaw sprained both ankles when jumping off a balcony in late August. Shaw made it sound like the act of a hero as he allegedly saved a drowning nephew. Instead, he jumped off the balcony to evade the cops, who were called to the scene after a verbal altercation with his longtime girlfriend. “Every question they ask me, they already know the answer to,” Shaw said. “It’s important for me to just be honest with them.” Between the injuries and suspension, Shaw’s senior season was a flop. After intercepting four passes while starting at safety and cornerback and earning some all-conference honors in 2013, he played in only three games in 2014. He started his career at Florida.

JaCorey Shepherd, Kansas (5-11, 190): On and off the field, Shepherd had an outstanding senior season. He was first-team all-Big 12 after intercepting three passes and ranking third nationally with 19 passes defensed. Off the field, he won the Lee Roy Selmon Community Spirit Award and was a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award. One of his best friends is a boy named “Tank” he met through Big Brothers/Big Sisters. During his final two seasons, Shepherd intercepted five passes and had 34 passes defensed. He played receiver as a freshman and made the move to corner as a sophomore.

D'Joun Smith, Florida Atlantic (5-10, 190): Smith had a monster junior season with seven interceptions and 20 passes defensed, ranking third and second, respectively, nationally. He went from all-Conference USA first team in 2013 to a second-team choice with his one interceptions and total of nine passes defensed as a senior. Smith is confident – or arrogant -- and his brash personality rubbed off on his teammates as he grew into a team leader.

Tye Smith, Towson (6-0, 170): As a senior, Smith was first-team all-Colonial, a third-team All-American and was the lone cornerback to be a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award, which honors the best defender in FCS. He intercepted one pass and broke up eight others while finishing second on the team in tackles. In his three seasons as a starter, he picked off four passes. Smith hopes to parlay his strong East-West Shrine Game into a big week at the Combine.

Damian Swann, Georgia (6-0, 180): Swann was around the ball a lot during a senior season in which he was named second-team all-SEC. He picked off four passes and broke up eight others, recovered four fumbles (including one for a 99-yard touchdown) and finished fourth in tackles. The three-year starter finished his career with eight interceptions. Swann’s athletic career blossomed at an early age as he competed with one brother who was five years older and another who was 10 years older.

Trae Waynes, Michigan State (6-1, 183): Waynes is the presumptive No. 1 corner in the draft. If he’s the first corner off the board and Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon is the No. 1 back selected, it would give Kenosha (Wis.) Bradford High School two top picks. Waynes was first-team all-Big Ten as a junior in 2014 and earned some second-team All-American honors. He intercepted three passes and broke up five others. He also intercepted three passes in 2013, his first year in the starting lineup. Waynes’ mother, father and brother competed in college track and field. Football, however, was Waynes’ passion. The Spartans offered him a scholarship after he ran a 40-yard dash in about 4.2 seconds.

Kevin White, TCU (5-9, 171): White was a three-and-a-half-year starter for the Horned Frogs. After being an honorable mention on the all-Big 12 team as a junior, he was a second-team choice as a senior. He intercepted two passes and broke up a total of 13 as a senior and finished his career with six picks. He’s not the most famous player named Kevin White in this draft but he was the better player in their head-to-head matchup. The West Virginia receiver managed just two catches for 28 yards in that Nov. 1 game. Personal problems hindered his plan of replacing his mentor, 2014 first-round pick Jason Verrett.

P.J. Williams, Florida State (6-0, 196): Williams was first-team all-ACC as a junior in 2014 with one interception, 11 passes defensed and 6.5 tackles for losses. He had three interceptions in 2013, including a huge one to help rally Florida State in the national championship game. In October, he was behind the wheel of a car accident that included teammate Ronald Darby. Williams, who was driving with a suspended license, fled the scene but was not charged with hit-and-run. Williams, who’s been able to do a backflip since he was 6, leaves FSU with mixed emotions.

Julian Wilson, Oklahoma (6-2, 201): In 11 games as a senior (missed two with a broken thumb), Wilson had one interception – a 100-yard pick-six vs. Tennessee – and a career-high seven passes broken up. He was second-team all-conference for academics. In 22 career starts, he intercepted four passes. During a late-season game in 2014, he got into an argument with coach Bob Stoops and defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. His dad played for Oklahoma State.

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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