Rasul Douglas of the Eagles was the 17th cornerback taken in the recent NFL draft. Even among a class that was considered deep and talented at that position, that's a pretty long way down the list and Douglas is aware of that.
He lasted until the third round, the 99th pick, and most draft analysts agreed there were a few reasons for that. Douglas wasn't very fast at the combine, hasn't played a great deal of press coverage in his career, and is just two seasons removed from junior college.
But the Eagles, who you might have heard are thin at that position, took a shot on Douglas and now he figures the 40-yard dash and the technique critiques and the rest don't matter as much as it did before.
"Who cares about that?" Douglas said after his first rookie camp practice on Friday. "That doesn't matter anymore. College was college. Wherever you were drafted is where you were drafted. You sign a contract and we're all football players now. You play football and nothing else matters that happened before today."
Since fall is the season for football and spring is the season for making rash observations about it, here's one regarding Rasul Douglas: He has landed with the only team in the NFL where he would have a legitimate chance to start as a rookie. That says something about Douglas's determination to succeed, but it says more about the Eagles' desperate situation at cornerback.
Both of last year's starters, Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin, are gone. It is assumed that Jalen Mills will start at one of the outside corner positions, but the main competition for Douglas at the other are Ron Brooks, who spent most of last season on injured reserve, and 29-year-old free-agent signee Patrick Robinson. Brooks and Robinson are both under 6-feet tall and might be better suited to slot duty, while Douglas, at 6-2 and 209 pounds, is a prototype of what Jim Schwartz likes in a tough, physical cornerback.
The only question, of course, is whether he can play in the NFL.
"Definitely, I feel I can handle it," Douglas said. "You're playing against the best receivers in the world and not a conference like the Big 12. You're against the best guys at the highest level. But you know what you can do, you're confident in what you can do, and it's not always about the other guys. It's more about yourself than anything."
If Douglas has a positive outlook on what he can survive, he also has some experience to back that up. From tough circumstances in north Jersey, Douglas didn't even play football until his junior year of high school. He got into Nassau Community College in Garden City, N.Y. on the strength of his SATs, but had barely enough money on which to live. He recounted a day of walking through the snow to order several items off the McDonald's dollar menu, some of which became lunch and some of which were reserved for dinner.
He got through that and played football well enough for two seasons to earn some scholarship offers from Division I schools. Douglas chose West Virginia, where the meal plan was much better, and, as a senior in 2016, tied for the NCAA lead in interceptions with eight. A converted wide receiver, Douglas has very good hands and that, along with the interceptions, put him on the NFL's draft boards.
"I always do the JUGs (machine) after practice, always do jump balls, always make sure I do a lot of stuff catching the ball, because I want to catch it as much as I can," Douglas said. "I can't let a receiver jump over me to get it."
Douglas claims to look forward to playing one-on-one press coverage, which is something Schwartz prefers in his cornerbacks. According to Pro Football Focus, however, Douglas only played press in 15 percent of his coverages at West Virginia, so there will be a definite learning curve. There will also be a learning curve for the coaching staff as it judges whether Douglas will be able to keep up with NFL receivers. His 40-yard time at the combine was 4.59. Only four of the 33 cornerbacks who ran the distance at the combine were slower.
"I definitely thought I was going to run faster. So, a little disappointed in that," Douglas said.
Still, there is stopwatch-fast and there is game-fast and some of the best cornerbacks are experts at slowing down the other guy, which is the same as speeding up yourself.
"You are just in the moment and nothing else matters. It's the game and you are in the moment," Douglas said.
Maybe Rasul Douglas will be one of those guys. He has walked through a snowstorm of doubt before, and my guess is he did that pretty quickly. He will get the chance to make a path through the doubts that drift before him now as well. Douglas might not have gotten that chance anywhere else, but these are interesting times with the Philadelphia Eagles and his timing could be perfect.