Brock Vereen drawing increased attention after strong Combine showing
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Brock Vereen is doing his best to tune out the speculation.
When it comes to the NFL Draft, the former Minnesota Gophers defensive back doesn't want to hear any projections of which round he may be drafted in, who may take him or if he will even get drafted at all.
"I haven't watched ESPN in two months. I haven't watched NFL Network. If someone starts a conversation about that I tell them to stop. I'll worry about that in May," Vereen said Monday after finishing his workout at the Gophers' annual Pro Day.
Keeping the buzz filtered to a minimum has become an increasingly hard thing do the further he gets into his packed schedule of predraft workout and training sessions, especially after drawing elevated attention with a strong performance at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Vereen was a reliable presence in the Gophers secondary for four seasons, and his flexibility as both a corner and safety helped stabilize the "U" defense last year in a senior season in which he earned first-team All-Big Ten honors.
But prior to his All-Big Ten nod, Vereen had never garnered much buzz in regards to his NFL prospects.
That is gradually starting to change.
At the Combine, Vereen clocked a 40-yard dash time (4.47 seconds) that registered as the fastest among the safeties in attendance. On top of that, he logged 25 reps of 225 pounds, which was a Combine-high for defensive backs. With a 117-inch broad jump and a 34-inch vertical added to that, Vereen's results were enough to turn a few heads.
Vereen, who measured in at 6-feet, 199 pounds, is now being projected as a potential mid-to-late round pick.
Along with a high football IQ and notable off-field charisma, Vereen also has the bloodline to gain notice. Throughout the draft process, Vereen has relied heavily on his brother, New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen, for guidance. Plus, their father, Henry Vereen, was a former 1979 Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft pick.
Monday's workout marked the first day Vereen had been back in Minnesota since the Gophers left for the Texas Bowl in late December. Scouts and representatives from more than 15 NFL teams were on Minnesota's campus to watch the session, which featured a number of former players from the Gophers and other local universities.
Vereen chose to participate only in the positional drills, opting not to run through any of the physical testing.
Still, Vereen felt he achieved what he hoped to by returning to his alma mater.
"I don't want to use the word surprise, but I feel like I opened some eyes at the Combine, and I wanted to show that it wasn't a fluke or anything like that, just remove all doubt," Vereen said.
In his first two seasons with the Gophers, he played primarily at cornerback. Heading into the 2012 season, he was shifted over to safety to address an issue of depth. Injuries last year forced the Gophers to make a midseason change, slotting him back out at corner.
In turn, his ability to move between positions has helped his draft stock. He has talked with teams about playing at safety, nickel or corner, though he said he feels his best games have been at safety and in the nickel.
Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman has taken notice of Vereen.
"When you watch him on tape," said Spielman, who was part of a sizeable Vikings contingent in attendance. "His versatility to play safety, you've seen him play some nickel and at the end of the season play some corner, and just how smart he is and aware he is when you watch some tape on him."
"Then he goes to the Combine and blows out the 40 ... that really opened a lot of people's eyes."
For Vereen, with plans to return to California and move in with his brother, it's now a matter of continuing to train and wait the agonizing three months that still remain before the draft gets underway on May 8.
"It's going to be horrible," Vereen said with a chuckle. "Maybe I'll have to start a Netflix series or something."