The Gophers had the distinction last winter of producing the player with the fastest 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in Big Ten history.
But Jalen Myrick’s blistering time of 4.28 seconds hasn’t been enough to convince analysts that he’ll get selected before the middle rounds of this week’s NFL draft.
“That time certainly didn’t hurt him,” said Dane Brugler, from NFLDraftScout.com. “He’s not the biggest guy. He’s under 5-10 and is a stout 200 pounds. His size is average, but I love his confidence, and I love his speed.”
Myrick is the Gophers’ highest projected pick in this year’s draft. Brugler predicts he’ll get taken in the fourth or fifth round and expects safety Damarius Travis to go in the sixth round. Brugler said offensive tackle Jonah Pirsig has an “outside shot” at being drafted but said it’s more likely Pirsig, quarterback Mitch Leidner and receiver Drew Wolitarsky will sign as undrafted free agents.
After having no players drafted from 2011 through 2013, the Gophers have had eight players picked in the past three drafts, including defensive backs Brock Vereen, Cedric Thompson and Eric Murray.
Another former Gophers defensive back, Briean Boddy-Calhoun, signed with Cleveland as an undrafted free agent last year and played 14 games, intercepting three passes.
“I think Boddy-Calhoun showed he was worth a draft pick, even if it was in the later rounds,” Brugler said. “I think what Minnesota has done in recent years, especially in the secondary, is something that NFL teams can point to with Myrick and Travis.”
Myrick had 41 tackles and one interception for the Gophers last season. He finished his four-year college career with 1,052 kickoff return yards, including a 100-yarder for a touchdown to beat Northwestern in 2014.
Speed long has been his forte. As a junior at Savannah (Ga.) Christian Prep, he was the state runner-up in the 100-meter dash.
After helping lead the Gophers to a 17-12 upset over Washington State in the Holiday Bowl, Myrick went to Boca Raton, Fla., where he worked out at XPE Sports. He said he started there running the 40 in about 4.49 seconds and trimmed two-tenths from that in Indianapolis.
Myrick’s time was the combine’s second fastest this year behind Washington receiver John Ross’ 4.22, which was an event record. Myrick later said he “ran angry,” determined to prove draft analysts wrong.
“I showed them what a real speedster looks like,” Myrick said.
Myrick thinks he should be picked “no later than the second” round, based on his speed, cover skills and versatility.
Pro Football Focus ranks Myrick as the 151st player in the draft, and 23rd-best cornerback, with this reasoning:
“In another cornerback class, Myrick’s raw speed would perhaps see him drafted highly for that reason alone. However, with this being arguably the best cornerback class of the past decade, he isn’t receiving quite the same hype.
“His size will mean that some teams see him as purely a slot cornerback, but with the speed he showed off in Indianapolis at the combine, along with some impressive coverage performances on film, someone is going to draft him. And if he can continue to improve as he did in college, whoever does might just have a steal on their hands.”