MOBILE, Alabama -- When breaking prospective prospects into categories, it'd be fair to file Miami (Ohio) cornerback Quinten Rollins under "project." That's justifiable for any player who logged just a single season of college football.
Rollins, though, isn't that simple to diagnose. Nothing about his journey toward a potential first-round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft has been.
Just months removed from finishing his senior season 14th in the nation in steals and second in program history with the 214 he nabbed during his four-year college basketball career, Rollins made the switch to football and quickly mastered its version of the art of thievery. Playing cornerback for the first time since high school, Rollins proved his worth in spring football, won a starting job in fall camp and ended the 2014 season as his team's MVP and the Mid-American Conference's Defensive Player of the Year. His seven interceptions ranked third in the nation.
Was it a fluke? Beginner's luck?
NFL Draft analysts don't seem to think so.
Rollins can be found in the late part of the first round in a handful of mock drafts. If he doesn't find a home on Day 1, he'll be likely off the board by the end of Day 2.
During an interview before the 2015 Senior Bowl, Rollins admitted the past few months have been surreal.
"The draft's not promised. I could still go undrafted despite all of this," Rollins said. "I'm going to keep listening and working hard. I know it sounds cliche, but at the same time, you've got to keep getting better. It's a production-based business. If I'm not out there getting better and making plays, they're going to find somebody who is."
Rollins was essentially Mr. Everything during his high school days in Wilmington, Ohio, a small town sandwiched an hour away from Columbus and Cincinnati. A three-year captain of his high school's football team, Rollins made most of his noise on the offensive end as a running back and wide receiver. He made even more on the basketball court, where he led his team to three straight conference titles and averaged 19.5 points and 2.6 steals per game as a senior. He was promptly inducted into the Wilmington High School Hall of Fame.
Basketball was Rollins' path to a quality education, and he carries minimal regrets about it. The four-year starting point guard finished his career second in steals, fourth in assists (391), seventh in games started (106) and ninth in minutes played (3,448).
As Rollins' college basketball career came to a close, the football itch lingered as Rollins stared down the prospect of playing basketball overseas. He initiated the discussion to join the team, and coach Chuck Martin saw nothing to lose.
Rollins' spring wasn't as pretty as his fall, but the football boot camp he experienced was necessary toward this rapid ascent.
"Playing football was rough for me. I had a lot of learning to do, a lot of growing to do and getting back in the swing of things after taking four years off," Rollins said. "Once spring ball was up, I kind of knew it was the right choice. I just needed to sharpen up and get more reps.
"Experience is a big thing. I only got 12 games under my belt. Some of these guys have 40, so the more reps I get the better."
What happened in those 12 games is why Rollins is among the top-ranked defensive backs available in a draft that is deep with cornerbacks but not exactly flush with first-round talent. On top of his seven interceptions, Rollins had 16 passes defensed and 72 tackles. Only one Miami player had more solo tackles than Rollins' 53.
Rollins said he grew up a fan of specific basketball and football players, not teams. Ever since he made the switch back to football, he's watched endless film of All-Pro cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Darrelle Revis.
The Browns have drafted at least one defensive back over the past six years. During that span, four have been selected in the first three rounds. If starting cornerback Buster Skrine lands elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent, the need for more players with the kind of ball skills Rollins flashed in his one and only season of college football will elevate.
"It'd mean everything," Rollins said of possibly landing with the Browns. "It'd be a blessing to go anywhere, honestly."
This article is part of the Road to the Draft series, driven by Liberty Ford.