A four-year starter at point guard for the University of Miami (OH) basketball team, Quinten Rollins finished his career ranked second in the school's history with 214 steals. He had not stepped on the gridiron since his senior year of high school prior to last season, but chose to do so with one year of eligibility remaining in the spring of 2014.
Rollins went right back to work following the basketball season and earned a football scholarship, as well as a starting role at cornerback. He tallied 72 tackles, 16 passes defended, and 7 interceptions, earning MAC Defensive Player of the Year and an invite to the Senior Bowl, where the buzz around him continued to build.
What can we take from Rollins’ story?
His ability to make a seamless transition without having played football since 2009 speaks to his character and intelligence. He is still a raw prospect and needs to improve at various aspects of the position, including technique and route recognition.
"At the beginning of the season, I was definitely relying on athleticism", said Rollins at the Scouting Combine. "Also knowing where my help was and trying to be physical. Receivers don’t like that. That’s the approach I took to the game. And then a bunch of film to get an advantage to make up for the technique I didn’t have."
He’s a highly coachable prospect whose best football is yet to come. Rollins himself knows that his upside is limitless. "I’m definitely curious to see what my upside is, just because I know I’ve got so much more learning to do. Even though I’m a fast learner, I’ve got a lot of learning to do. The NFL coaching at the Senior Bowl was great, and I’m just ready to go to an organization and learn their schemes and get some of their coaching and keep continuing to build from there on out."
Okay, he has an intriguing story, but what can he do on the field?
Rollins is a ball hawk. He has great hands and a natural ability to play the ball at its highest point.
"I just have a knack for the ball – a natural knack for the ball", said Rollins. "I’ve always had that since I was a kid. Love getting steals, love getting interceptions. I was fortunate enough to be an offensive player in high school so that’s where I get my ball skills from. It all translates."
His ball skills, combined with a 4.57 40-yard dash time and his lateral quickness (7.10 cone time, 4.28 short shuttle) have led some analysts to project him as a nickel corner or a safety in the NFL. He is a willing and able tackler who will be better off the closer he is to the line of scrimmage. "I’ve never had a problem sticking my nose in there", said Rollins. "It’s a business decision, as I’ve heard. I’ve always gone in there and made a fast decision. I’m not going to let things get to me before I get to them."
In the short video below, Rollins makes a few spectacular catches and delivers the types of hits that will make him a player to watch for years to come.
The Packers already have a surplus at Safety. Why would they draft another guy whose skills project to that position?
I think Rollins could fit in as a nickel corner right away. The only problem is that the Packers have a similar player in Micah Hyde, who is capable of filling the position if Casey Hayward moves to the outside. Hyde will certainly see as many if not more snaps than he did in 2014, when he rotated throughout a bevy of defensive packages. It’s never a bad thing to have depth in the secondary and the Packers lost some of that with the departure of Tramon Williams and Davon House.
I expect Ted Thompson to address the secondary in the draft, but Rollins has the potential to be selected as high as the late first-round. If Thompson is going to spend a first-round pick on a cornerback, he might do it on a player who has spent some more time at the position. Also, Rollins is quicker than he is fast. If the Packers want to keep Casey Hayward in the slot, Rollins might not be ready step in immediately at the outside corner. There isn’t a spot at safety opening up on this roster anytime soon, and that could end up being the position in which Rollins’ skills are fully utilized.
That being said, the lack of a defined position for Rollins will not be a deterrent to the Packers chances of drafting him. He is a bit of a project, but one that secondary coach Joe Whitt Jr. would be thrilled to take on. He has done it before with players like Sam Shields, who didn't play cornerback until his final season at Miami.
(Editor's note: Please welcome Ryan to the Acme Packing Company writing staff. He joins us from Vantage Sports, where he wrote primarily about the NBA, but he brings a passion for the Packers to his writing here.)