Amid NFL Draft uncertainty, outlook shows confidence

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Very little is certain ahead of an NFL Draft. Not that the prospects in hand seem to care.

There’s a level of confidence that, for them, Thursday night’s first round is a sure thing.

“I know I’m the best cornerback in this draft,” Cincinnati’s Ahmad Gardner said Wednesday, a huge necklace spelling out his nickname “Sauce” wrapped around his neck. “I feel like I can dominate whoever is in front of me.”

Few players are expected to be selected ahead of him, although the 20 men in attendance for a Play 60 event with local youngsters and commissioner Roger Goodell believe they showed the goods to be a good first round. Even the very first pick, which belongs to Jacksonville for the second year in a row.

“Oh yeah, in college I thought I was No. 1 for sure,” admitted Michigan defenseman Aidan Hutchinson, considered along with Georgia defensive end Travon Walker as the likely first pick. “I just tried to put myself in that position.”

Hutchinson laughed when asked if going to the top of the draft would be even more satisfying than finally beating Ohio State, which the Wolverines did in November.

“Nothing compares to beating Ohio State,” he said, his eyes seeming to drift to Michigan’s big house. “To be drafted is a great achievement, to be drafted first, but I don’t think anything can beat Ohio State.”

The self-confidence shown by the very future pros matched their level of performance on the field in college. A large majority of them have participated in major football programs at major conferences and played for a variety of championships. Big games were common for, say, the multitude of Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide and Ohio State Buckeyes players attending the draft in Las Vegas.

Linebacker Nakobe Dean, a key contributor to Georgia’s national title, noted that up to 15 of his teammates could be drafted.

When asked how he would react if he heard his name called by Goodell on Thursday night – the second and third rounds are Friday night, the last four rounds Saturday – Dean saw no need to replace the word “if ” with “when”. But it was clear in his answer.

“I will share this moment with all my teammates,” he said. “We all talked about coming to college. Win a championship, then go to the NFL and get drafted in the first (round). You have to have that self-confidence, period. Even guys who are in a Division III school. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one will.

There are no Division III players in Las Vegas – at least none invited by the league – but plenty of guys used to the big stage and crucial games are there.

Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton, who could easily enter the top 10, believes such a run can only help him adapt to the professional ranks.

“Every week and wherever we went it was a big game,” he said, adding with a chuckle that “people love us or hate us, most hate us. So we played with that chip on our shoulder. At Notre Dame, we’re used to the spotlight. And every NFL game is a big game.

“I’ve always watched the draft for as long as I can remember. Getting caught on day one of the NFL Draft will be very satisfying. »

It is likely that not all of the 20 players present will participate in the first round. It’s rare for everyone invited by the NFL to end up in the first round.

Mississippi quarterback Matt Corral and fellow Liberty QB Malik Willis, Purdue defensive end George Karlaftis and Boston College offensive lineman Zion Johnson could last through Friday. Or they could go to the top twelve.

That’s how speculative this purse is, especially this year when there’s no prospect of a slam dunk, especially a passer.

Naturally, that’s not how players think. They refer to their pedigree, what they showed on the field in games and how well they performed in draft evaluation practices.

“There’s no tension or stress,” said Jermaine Johnson, Florida State’s dynamic rusher who played the 2019 and 20 seasons at Georgia before his transfer. “Just enjoy it, live the dream.

“Teams see that I am a complete player, that I can pass running, but it affects the game not only in the passing game, but I will close one side of the field in the running game. You have to take away another man’s will and show him that you will never give up. That’s what I live for.

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