In the weeks leading up to the 2008 NFL Draft (April 26-27), BR.com will offer a look into the top prospects by position. This week, defensive backs take the spotlight, with Troy's Leodis McKelvin leading the way.
By now, Ravens fans probably know Leodis McKelvin's mouthful of a name. His draft stock has skyrocketed since his playing days at relatively obscure Troy ended, riding strong performances at the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine to a top-10 ranking.
But, McKelvin isn't happy to just be considered among the Class of 2008's elite. He wants to be the absolute best at cornerback and return specialist - and the confident 22-year-old has no problem letting anyone know it.
Various mock drafts are predicting the Ravens to pick the 5-foot-10, 190-pounder in April's selection meeting at No. 8. McKelvin thinks that any team that takes him will get a dynamic playmaker along the line of record-setting returner Devin Hester on special teams and a shutdown corner in the secondary.
"I plan on being the first corner taken in the draft," he said in front of a gaggle of media at the Combine. "I am going to try to bring attention to the [return] game like he did. I did that in college."
It's hard to argue with him.
As a returner, McKelvin tied for the NCAA all-time record with eight-career touchdowns (seven punts and one kickoff). He also had 112 punt returns for 1,471 yards (13.1 average) and 99 kickoff returns for 2,346 yards (23.7 average) in his four years at Troy.
McKelvin stepped up to the first string as a cornerback in 2006 and consistently proved himself among some of the best competition in the nation.
His junior campaign, he held former Georgia Tech wideout Calvin Johnson - who went on to become a second-overall draft pick - to just two catches for 9 yards.
"I figured if he could go that high, I could definitely play in the league," McKelvin said of the current Detroit Lion.
When he had to face Oklahoma State last year, McKelvin responded with seven tackles, one forced fumble, three passes defensed and one tackle for a loss, adding five punt returns for 135 yards and one touchdown.
"I had good competition this year, with Georgia, Florida, Oklahoma State," he simply stated. "I took advantage of those chances."
Looking at his career statistics, it's clear that McKelvin is comfortable on the big stage.
During a time when it's common for the top prospects entering the draft to sit out certain workouts to perhaps conceal flaws that could affect their standing, McKelvin sought the spotlight yet again, running a 4.38-second 40 at the Combine and improving his vertical jump to 38 inches at the March 5 Pro Day at Troy.
"Coming to the NFL, you have to work on everything," he explained. "You have to face Randy Moss, Marvin Harrison, guys like that. You have to prove your total game every play."
McKelvin won't be the first player from the Bowl Subdivision university in Alabama to play against the Mosses and Harrisons of the professional ranks, as he'll join Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware and defensive end Osi Umenyiora.
Both NFL defenders were little-known commodities when they were drafted by the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, respectively, and McKelvin hopes to continue that tradition from the Sun Belt Conference.
"Coming from Troy, of course there have been questions," said the cornerback. "You just have to go out there and show them that you can compete."