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Devin McCourty's stock

I was struck by this part of a recent Tara Sullivan column, because it's on a topic that I've been thinking about, on and off, throughout the season.

"We thought we were getting a good, solid player," Schiano said. "We ended up getting a great player. He is a great football player. He is an all-around player. That’s why he’s so good on special teams. He’s fast, he’s explosive, he’s got good ball skills, good ball sense."

The ability to make big plays on special teams has elevated McCourty’s profile. He is one of two players in the nation to block a punt and return a kickoff for a touchdown this year, was named the conference special teams player of the week twice this season and has blocked seven career kicks.

Those abilities are why one longtime NFL executive recently described McCourty as possibly sneaking into the first round of the draft, but if not, being a solid first-day selection.

Now, the consensus is that McCourty has played himself into the second or third round range this year through his play at corner, and that's fair. I think he does have an interesting outside shot at the first though. It's not along the lines of what I thought about Kenny Britt, that he was so talented that there was no possible way he wouldn't go in the first, but I could see it happening for DMC.

There's a couple reasons. As covered in the article, he's been a great special teams player this year. Returns, blocking kicks, as a gunner, you name it. That's one notch on his belt, and the second is that he's likely to be a workout warrior at the Combine. Rutgers fans have known this ever since Coach Schiano brought in the McCourty twins as two very raw prospects out of St. Joe's; they were seen as needing work, but they were so athletic that their best football was ahead of him. That's why Jason is in the NFL and Devin is soon to follow, and some more highly-touted prospects in recent memory peaked early, and don't have much of a future in football.

RU's official numbers clocked Devin's twin brother Jason at 4.32 seconds in the forty yard dash last April. Generally, pro day numbers are considered slightly biased, but even running a 4.40 or so is considered very impressive. Cornerback, along with receiver (and kick returner), is one of the few positions where players actually do have to regularly run 40 yards. That time is directly pertinent, as opposed to 40's general use as an indicator as athleticism, even if it's for position where initial burst or agility is more important.

Thirdly, both McCourty twins gain a lot from what they offer off the field. Last year, both were named to the Big East All-Academic football team for the third consecutive year, and both have reputations as nice guys. It's Devin's smarts though that may help him the most with digesting NFL playbooks on the next level.

Now, everyone thinks of Greg Schiano now as King Blitz. He's probably spent the weekend exhausting all possibilities to get Verne Troyer and Usain Bolt eligible to play on the defensive line next year. Actually though, Schiano first cut his teeth as a defensive backs coach, and he spent several years with the Chicago Bears. One of the reasons that the Titans liked Britt so much was that he had experience beating press coverage. You don't see that much on the college level, but I remember Kenny mentioning that the Knights go over it in practice, even if it doesn't come out much in the games. That experience will better equip DMC to contribute early in his career. It's telling that when injuries wiped out much of their secondary, the Titans ended up throwing Jason as a seventh round pick into the starting lineup.