Early Saturday afternoon, cornerback Ross Cockrell became Duke’s highest draft pick in 15 years.
With the 109th overall pick, and the ninth pick in the fourth round, the Buffalo Bills selected Cockrell, making him the 12th cornerback taken. Buffalo was one of two teams Cockrell visited after the combine—Pittsburgh was the other.
NFL scouts liked Cockrell for his discipline and feel for the game, route recognition, leaping ability, traits he demonstrated at the end of his college career against Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin and Texas A&M’s Mike Evans, both of whom went in the first round this year. Cockrell also received high marks for his intangibles—he was a two-time team captain and four-time academic all-ACC selection and graduated with a degree in political science after his redshirt junior season. Draft analysts expect Cockrell to best fit into a zone-heavy cover scheme.
“What a terrific day for Ross – we could not be happier for him and his entire family,” Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said in a statement released by the school. “The Bills are getting a young man of great integrity who will undoubtedly be an asset within their organization. On the field, he’s competed at the highest level with a great deal of success. And without question, Ross is one of the finest – if not the finest – peer leaders I’ve ever been around.”
In a 49-game career at Duke, Cockrell recorded 233 tackles, seven tackles for loss, two sacks, 12 interceptions, two caused fumbles and 42 pass breakups. On Duke’s all-time charts, he finished his career ranking first in total passes defended (54), and pass breakups, as well as sixth in interceptions. He only missed one game in four years due to an injury.
"I think the word that comes out with Ross is he is always consistent," Bills director of player personnel Jim Monos said. "No matter if it’s Mike Evans, which everybody brings that up because that was the best player he went against, him and Sammy (Watkins). He’s played against all these guys and he is always consistent."
Cockrell is Duke’s highest draft selection since center Lennie Friedman went in the second round (61st overall) to the Denver Broncos in 1999. With Cockrell going this year and quarterback Sean Renfree going in the seventh round last year to that Atlanta Falcons, this marks the first time Blue Devils have been drafted in consecutive years since 1999 and 2000.
After the draft, defensive end Kenny Anunike and running back Juwan Thompson both signed free agent deals with the Denver Broncos.