Jalen Ramsey, Florida State (6-1, 202): Underclassman. Ramsey was the first true freshman to start at cornerback for FSU since Deion Sanders in 1985. He was a Freshman All-American in 2013 and an All-American in 2014 and 2015. In 41 career starts, he intercepted three passes and broke up 23 others. In 2014, he showed a facet of the game that the tackling-impaired Sanders never did with his 9.5 tackles for losses. "People don't realize the complication and multiplicity of playing that position and the uniqueness you have to have," coach Jimbo Fisher said of Ramsey’s role on the defense. "He is very rare because sometimes taller guys have a harder time. believe that or not. He is so athletic and he bends. When you watch him rush that passer and he can dip that shoulder and get around that tackle like he is a defensive end, but then he can stop, jump and bat (down) the ball.” A two-sport star, Ramsey won the ACC long jump title at the outdoor and indoor championships and was part of the winning 400-meter relay at the outdoor championships, as well. He qualified for the NCAA indoor and outdoor championships in the long jump, placing fourth and 14th, respectively. ''I love track, without a doubt,'' Ramsey said. ''Just like I have football dreams, I have track dreams. Rio's up next year. The Olympics, that's something that's always on my mind. It's definitely a real possibility.'' He was so good at the long jump in high school that he almost jumped over the sand pit, so the school moved the launching point back three feet.
Will Redmond, Mississippi State (5-11, 186): Redmond’s senior season was ruined by a torn ACL that limited him to seven games. Before the injury, which happened at practice on Oct. 22, Redmond had intercepted two passes and had one breakup. He was positioned to be one of the top cornerbacks in the draft. As the nickel defender in 2014, he had a team-high three interceptions and broke up five passes. His recruitment was part of an NCAA investigation.
Rashard Robinson, LSU (6-2, 182): Underclassman. Robinson played in 12 games as a true freshman in 2013. However, he was suspended for the 2014 opener vs. Wisconsin and was suspended indefinitely in November 2014 and missed the rest of the season. He attempted to return to the program in 2015 but coach Les Miles wouldn’t reinstate him, so he sat out this season. In June, he was arrested for breaking into an apartment belonging to LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings. This story has all the links.
KeiVarae Russell, Notre Dame (5-11, 196): Despite missing the final two games with a broken leg, Russell had two interceptions and broke up four others. He added 60 tackles and two forced fumbles. He was suspended by the school for two semesters because of academic dishonesty, costing him the 2014 season. He didn’t set foot on campus during his suspension, though he took some courses through the University of Washington. “I’ve been playing this game since I was knee-high,” Russell said in August. “I was 9 years old. Coming back to this, it’s like a kid in a candy store. I was hyped. It’s a surreal feeling to be back, and it’s been a full year. This ain’t a dream.” Russell was a Freshman All-American in 2012, helping the Irish reach the national title game. In his first two seasons, he picked off three passes. He leaves an interesting legacy.
Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma (5-11, 180): Underclassman. Sanchez was a three-year starter who intercepted 15 passes and broke up 28 others during his career. His career interception count is tied for fourth in school history and three off the a record that has stood since 1949. He was an All-American in 2015 with seven interceptions, seven additional breakups and 3.5 tackles for losses. He was a Freshman All-American in 2013 and a first-team all-Big 12 choice in 2014 with his six interceptions. In 2012, his best friend was shot and killed. A few months later, a cousin was sent to prison. "For two weeks, I woke up, went to class, went to workouts, came back and locked myself in the room. I didn't know what to do.” Those who loved him feared he would fall into the wrong crowd. "I was around a lot of drug dealing, stupid stuff like that. "When you're a kid, sometimes you do your own thing and it's dumb. Ultimately, football is what saved me."
Kevon Seymour, Southern California (6-0, 185): Seymour had one interception (is only breakup) as a senior. That was a steep dropoff from his junior (one interception, 13 breakups) and sophomore (one interception, six breakups) seasons. His rise to NFL prospect is a good story for a guy who emerged from Pasadena, Calif.’s notorious “Snake Pits” neighborhood. “It’s called the Snake Pits because of the fighting and gang violence that goes on in there. I grew up there, my mother lived there and my mother’s mother grew up there. So we have history. It’s been hard because of the influence around me. I could have easily been sucked into that kind of life, but I wasn’t because I’m a leader not a follower.”
LeShaun Sims, Southern Utah (6-0, 201): Sims was first-team all-conference following a senior season of two interceptions and 10 additional pass breakups. He added 54 tackles (30 solos), 2.5 TFLs and one forced fumble. He started all four seasons, with six interceptions and 15 more breakups. Sims played eight-man football at Agassi Prep in Las Vegas. (Yes, that’s Andre Agassi.)
Ryan Smith, North Carolina Central (5-11, 185): Smith intercepted seven passes, broke up 24 others and pounced on eight fumbles during his four-year career. As a senior, he picked off two passes and added nine breakups to be named second-team all-conference. He added a 95-yard kickoff-return touchdown and ranked 10th in FCS with a 28.1-yard average in his only season handling those chores. While Smith recorded 263 tackles in his career, his 52 as a senior were the fewest of his career — a sign of respect from opponents.
Cleveland Wallace, San Jose State (5-11, 177). Underclassman. Wallace was second-team all-Mountain West in 2014 and an honorable mention in 2015. In 2014, his first season after transferring from Washington, Wallace led the Mountain West with a total of 14 passes defensed (one interception, 13 breakups). In 2015, he intercepted three passes, broke up four others and tallied 44 tackles (31 solos). Wallace intercepted one pass for Washington in 2013. Wallace, an anthropology major, won an appeal with the NCAA to become immediately eligible, citing the need to return to his hometown of San Jose to help with a family situation.
D.J. White, Georgia Tech (5-11, 189): White started for most of his final three seasons, with seven interceptions during that span. He had six interceptions during his final two seasons, with four as a junior, when he as honorable mention all-ACC, and two as a senior, when he was a team captain. He broke up eight passes in each of his final two seasons. The biggest play of his career was White’s overtime interception that clinched Georgia Tech’s victory over rival Georgia.
Brandon Williams, Texas A&M: Williams is taking one of the more unorthodox paths to the draft. In 2011, Williams, a five-star recruit, rushed for 219 yards for Oklahoma. He transferred to Texas A&M — he’s a native of Brookshire, Texas — where he sat out the 2012 season in accordance with NCAA rules. Williams rushed for 269 yards as a sophomore and 379 yards as a junior. For his senior season, Williams moved to cornerback. “He has got average size at 6 foot and 195 or 200 pounds for a running back, maybe a little below average,” Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said in June. “But you’ve got a cornerback (at that size) he goes to the top of the charts, because he’s one of the fastest guys on the team, if he can make the transition.” Williams played all 13 games, finishing with no interceptions, seven pass breakups, 37 tackles (26 solos) and one tackle for loss. Not bad for a guy who hadn’t played defense since he was 9. “I’m not a running back, cornerback or defensive end. I’m a football player. Whatever I can do to help the team win, I’ll do.”
Daryl Worley, West Virginia (6-1, 198): Underclassman. Worley entered the draft following a huge junior season that came with a disappointing ending. Worley finished the regular season ranked sixth in the nation with six interceptions and 13th with 18 passes defended, ranking first in the conference in both categories, to earn first-team all-Big 12 honors. However, he was ineligible for the bowl game because of academic issues. “It’s something we’ve all thought about since we started playing,” Worley said in December. “When you feel like it’s in arm’s reach, you definitely feel like you should go grab it. But at the end of the day, there are a lot of things you have to weigh. I’ll talk to my coaches and my family about all the things that factor into it.” In 2014, he was suspended following an incident at a nightclub. In the bowl game at the end of that season, he was hit by a Texas A&M student-assistant. He finished that season with three interceptions while adding four pass breakups. He wore No. 7 because that was the number worn by a slain cousin, Fabian Johnson. He was murdered when Worley was a high school sophomore. “I told him I would wear the number as long as I could,” Worley said.
Tavon Young, Temple (5-9, 180): After starting eight games during his first two seasons, Young became a full-time starter for his final two years. As a junior, he had four interceptions and nine additional passes broken up. His 153 interception-return yards led the AAC as he earned second-team all-conference honors. As a senior, he had no interceptions but seven passes broken up and five tackles for losses. Late in the season, he held Notre Dame’s prolific Will Fuller to just 46 receiving yards. After some early battles with the coaching staff, Young grew into a respected leader. He was given No. 1, given to the toughest player on the team, for most of his junior season and all of his senior campaign. He was high school teammates with Bills cornerback Ronald Darby at Potomac High School in Maryland, and they were part of a state-record 400-meter relay team.
ALSO IN THIS SERIES
Cornerbacks, Part 1 (FREE)
Cornerbacks, Part 2
Cornerbacks, Part 3
Outside linebackers, Part 1
Outside linebackers, Part 2
Outside linebackers, Part 3 (FREE)
Inside linebackers, Part 1
Inside linebackers, Part 2 (FREE)
Defensive ends, Part 1
Defensive ends, Part 2
Defensive tackles, Part 1 (FREE)
Defensive tackles, Part 2 (FREE)
Defensive tackles, Part 3 (FREE)
Offensive tackles, Part 1
Offensive tackles, Part 2
Offensive guards, Part 1 (FREE)
Offensive guards, Part 2 (FREE)
Tight ends, Part 1 (FREE)
Tight ends, Part 2 (FREE)
Wide receivers, Part 1 (FREE)
Wide receivers, Part 2
Wide receivers, Part 3
Wide receivers, Part 4 (FREE)
Running backs, Part 1 (FREE)
Running backs, Part 2
Running backs, Part 3
Quarterbacks, Part 1 (FREE)
Quarterbacks, Part 2 (FREE)
Quarterbacks, Part 3 (FREE)
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.