MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Based on what you read and hear, Rasul Douglas’ name could be the first called among West Virginia’s players available for the 2017 NFL Draft when it takes place April 27-29 in Philadelphia.
The draft website Scouts Inc. has Douglas graded a 72, meaning he’s considered a solid NFL prospect. ESPN.com NFL Draft expert Todd McShay rates Douglas the No. 102 overall player grouped in his “Tier 6” listing of prospects, indicating McShay believes Douglas is slotted to be taken somewhere in the third round.
One draft onlooker I talked to at West Virginia’s Pro Day last Friday indicated Douglas compares very favorably to former West Virginia corner Daryl Worley, taken 77th overall in the third round of last year’s draft by the Carolina Panthers.
Another former Mountaineer I believe Douglas resembles is corner Aaron Beasley, an All-America college player picked 63rd overall in the third round by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 1996 draft.
Beasley went on to have a productive nine-year pro career with the Jaguars, New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons as a starting corner. Beasley wasn’t considered a real burner but he had above average size for his position with tremendous ball skills.
That’s a perfect description of Douglas, who picked off eight passes and made 70 tackles during his senior season with the Mountaineers in 2016. His ability to cover taller Big 12 receivers and make plays with the football in the air are two of his biggest strengths.
“Everyone is starting to like taller corners because there are a lot of tall receivers on the outside in the NFL,” explained Douglas last week. “So, they want guys that can match up and be physical with them and play the ball so it’s not a 6-5 guy jumping over a 5-8, 5-9 guy. That’s a good thing and a bad thing because the little guys can do stuff quicker than the big guys can getting out of breaks, dropping their hips faster and getting lower to the ground. It’s a win-lose situation.”
His size (6-feet-1 ½, 209 pounds) makes him one of the bigger corners in this year’s draft but the downside to Douglas’ game is his lack of straight-line speed (timed 4.59 at the Combine and at WVU’s Pro Day).
That’s likely why ESPN.com draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. doesn’t have Rasul listed among his top 10 corner prospects in what is shaping up to be a very corner-heavy draft this year. All 10 corners on Kiper’s board could be gone before the start of the third round, so that shouldn’t be too alarming to Douglas’ camp.
A difference of a tenth of a second or two on Douglas’ 40 time has to be the reason why guys like Kiper Jr. don’t have Rasul rated higher, because his performance on the field during his senior season at WVU certainly warrants it.
“If you take a stopwatch and you click it fast you won’t even get it that fast,” Douglas said. “It’s like if you blink, it’s an extra .01 second or something like that.”
The draft site Steelers Depot wrote this about Douglas earlier this month, “In this age of new-wave cornerbacks, guys who would’ve been receivers 10 years ago, Douglas fits that bill. At nearly 6’2, 209, he certainly has the look. And the playmaking ability. One of the most important things about Douglas is how seamlessly he was able to step into the Mountaineers’ lineup and become - in their coaches’ words - their best defensive player.”
The fact that Douglas has the size to match up against some of the bigger wide receivers in the NFL on the outside bodes well for him. But Douglas will be the first to admit that what he’s done in the past only carries so much weight today.
“Nothing else matters but what you do that day. That’s how I look at it,” he said. “They want to see me work today. If I had a good day at the Combine and didn’t have a good (Pro Day) they will be like, ‘Ugh, this guy’s not consistent. He doesn’t always show up. He felt like he did a good job at the Combine and he doesn’t have to do anything here.’ It’s always about getting better and showing up.
“I remember when I went from high school to juco I was telling everybody, ‘Well, I was one of the top high school players in my area.’ They don’t care,” Douglas continued. “Then I got here and my juco All-America stats didn’t matter. You’ve just got to do it again so that’s what I’ve got to do. When you get to another level the stuff you did doesn’t matter. It’s can you do it again? Can you be that same person again on another team on another level?
“I know I can.”
Douglas spent the time following the conclusion of the season out in San Diego working out with a personal trainer to get ready for the NFL Combine.
Since then, he’s spent time in Morgantown with Mike Joseph’s strength staff keeping in shape until the draft. Douglas said he will spend some time with his family in New Jersey before learning his professional football fate.
“I want to be with them,” he said. “Right now, the NFL is still a big dream and I just want to live in the moment.”
When and where Douglas will go be is yet to be determined, but the odds are excellent that he will become the 10th Dana Holgorsen defensive player and the third cornerback taken in the draft since 2012.
And that’s pretty impressive for a football coach who is more well-known for his offensive prowess than sending defensive players to the league.