The odds are -- finally -- in Marcus Peters' favor.
The deposed University of Washington cornerback, considered perhaps the finest pass-coverage talent in next week’s NFL draft, just finished weeks of visits to the headquarters of 17 different teams.
He only needs to one to fall in love with his skills an overlook his past.
“They want to know the character – ‘Am I a hothead?’ Which is false,” Peters said of going the extra miles(s) to help the league’s teams that are trying to decide whether to invest a chunk of their futures on him.
Recruited to Washington by predecessor Steve Sarkisian and his staff, Peters got kicked out of the Huskies’ program by coach Chris Petersen midway through last season for repeated confrontations with UW’s new staff. That was after a failed marijuana test in 2011 and a suspension for the first quarter of the Huskies’ 2013 Fight Hunger Bowl.
“I made some immature decisions, and I live from them and I learn from them and I grow as a man,” he said before Thursday’s draft in Chicago. “I live and I learn from it, you know? There are going to be things that isn’t going to go right. But I went through one of the worst things that could happen to me in life: I got kicked off my team. I wasn’t able to finish out my college career with my teammates.
“I own up to that and I man up to that. And I just move forward.”
Anyone who claims he knows what unpredictable coach Chip Kelly is going to do with the 20th-overall pick for the free-wheeling, turned-over Eagles is lying. But Philadelphia needs a second, new cornerback opposite Byron Maxwell, the free agent they signed last month from the Seahawks. Its pass defense was a glaring weakness for the early- and mid-season leader of the NFC East that flopped out of the playoffs last December.
Jaelen Strong of Arizona State has been one of the hottest wide-receiver prospects in this draft. Asked at the combine to name the toughest corner he’s faced, Strong said: “Marcus Peters.”
No wonder. Peters mugged Strong all over Husky Stadium turf in a wind and rain storm last fall, in a game UW lost late 24-10. Peters was soon out of the Huskies’ program and back home in Oakland, California.
Don’t be shocked if Kelly and the Eagles look past that recent, volatile history and take Peters at No. 20. That’s if corner-needy San Francisco doesn’t take Peters at 15.
Peters’ agent Doug Hendrickson also represents fellow Oakland native Marshawn Lynch, and the Seahawks’ star running back mentors Peters. Their agent congratulated Peters on Twitter this week for his well-done tour.
If Peters manages to bat .059 hitting on any of those 17 pre-draft visits UW would have two first-round picks in the same draft for the first time since 1995. That year tailback Napoleon Kaufman went 18th overall to Oakland and tight end Mark Bruener went nine spots later to Pittsburgh. That’s because Danny Shelton is a lock to go in round one next week.
Not bad for a Huskies team that finished just 8-6 last season. It’s an indication of the talent Sarkisian recruited to UW.
“This group of (Huskies) is a really good group,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said this month at Washington’s Pro Day workouts that further validated the NFL credentials of Shelton, Peters, Shaq Thompson and Hau’oli Kikaha.
“These guys on defense, they are productive – really productive,” Carroll said at the sixth Huskies’ Pro Day he’s attended as Seattle’s coach. “All of those guys could play on an NFL team. That stands out a little bit of all the years I’ve been coming out here.”
Shelton is expected to go within the top 10 on Thursday – perhaps to another Washington, the defensive-soft Redskins at No. 5. The quick, truck-strong-and-wide defensive tackle is considered the most dynamic at his position in this draft. Shelton’s career at Washington of devouring double-teams, ball carriers and quarterbacks plus his athletic performance at February’s league scouting combine in Indianapolis only enhanced his bullish stock.
“Honestly it's all exciting. I never pictured myself in this position,” said the kid from Auburn High School in south King County.
He overcame the death of his brother he witnessed and subsequent issues with anger to thrive on the field and as an A student in anthropology at UW.
“I've always just seen college, then the NFL. I never pictured myself being at the combine,” Shelton said. “Basically just hoping to get an invite to the combine and the Senior Bowl. Now that I lived it, I've just been living it up and taking everything in.”
Thompson being a linebacker who played half his Huskies career at safety and much of last season at running back may leave him as an athletic freak without an expertise in the minds of many NFL decision makers. That could have Thompson waiting until Friday’s second or third rounds to hear his name called.
Kikaha was led major college football with 19 sacks last season, and he left Washington its all-time sack leader. He had 40.5 tackles for loss and 32 sacks in his last two Huskies seasons. But nitpickers in the pros aren’t sure if he’s a defensive end or an outside linebacker – or if he’s a linebacker better suited for a 3-4 or a 4-3 scheme; Kikaha played in both at Washington. That “tweener” tag and the fact he had two reconstructions of the same knee in as many years midway through his UW career may keep him from being drafted as highly as his three fellow Huskies.
Yet the always defensive-minded Pittsburgh Steelers have shown keen interest this winter and early spring in Kikaha. And Seahawks general manager John Schneider is notorious for not drafting guys with whom he spends pre-draft time – then taking surprised players who had barely heard from Seattle if at all before the Seahawks have called them on recent draft days.
For what it’s worth, Kikaha hasn’t heard a ton from the local NFL team, which always loves pass rushers and has a league-high 11 picks starting at No. 63 overall in Friday’s second round.
Shelton thinks whatever team drafts Kikaha will be getting a steal.
“He's one of the most beastly pass rushers I've ever played with,” Shelton said. “Kikaha is someone I look up to. He's like an older brother for me. He definitely pushed me to step up my pass rush game.
“He's basically a technician. He's going to kill you with speed, kill you with power, but he's very detailed. Just working with him in practice, sometimes he gets on you for making little mistakes. That's something you need on a team.”