The Buffalo Bills added some depth to their secondary today in Round 4 of the NFL Draft by selecting Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell.
There's a good bet he'll be the smartest player in the team's locker room.
Cockrell has been graduated since December 2012, finishing his degree in political science in 3 1/2 years, and is one of only 17 four-time Academic All-Atlantic Coast Conference picks in league history.
"He's off the charts smart," Bills Director of Player Personnel Jim Monos said.
Cockrell, 6-foot-0 and 190 pounds, started 49 career games with the Blue Devils, finishing with 233 tackles, two sacks, 12 interceptions and 42 pass break-ups.
"That's what jumps out right away, is his size. You love his size," Monos said. "He's played there, competed well every year there. ... Every guy we've taken so far has been part of a winning program. That's a big thing we're stressing."
Last season, the Blue Devils went 10-4, losing to Texas A&M, 52-48, in the Chik-fil-a Bowl. Despite the loss, Cockrell played well against Aggies receiver Mike Evans -- who was chosen seventh overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- limiting him to four catches for 72 yards.
"Personally, it was great. I wish it would have been better for the program, as well. It would have been a great win for us," Cockrell said. "But I think it opened up a lot of eyes that, you know, this guy from Duke can actually play a little ball and compete at the next level."
Cockrell was a two-time team captain, and first-team All-ACC choice the past two seasons. He ranks first in career passes defensed at Duke (54) and sixth in interceptions.
"I think the word that comes out with Ross is he's always consistent," Monos said. "He's a very instinctive, intelligent guy. Picks it up real quick. ... Guys gravitate to him. He is the leader of that group."
Cockrell has spent the past few months working out with Bills backup quarterback Thad Lewis at Duke. When Lewis was a senior, Cockrell was a freshman. Monos said that Lewis told him a story about Cockrell intercepting one of his passes.
"Thad was like, if you can pick me off, you've gotta be pretty good," Monos joked.
"I got him once or twice. Maybe he would only admit to one, but I think I got him a couple more times," Cockrell said.
Cockrell made a pre-draft visit to the Bills -- as have all of the team's four picks thus far.
"I made a great connection with the staff and with coach Donnie Henderson and the guys in Buffalo," Cockrell said. "Right now I'm just so happy."
Monos said he expects Cockrell to contribute on special teams right away.
"I played gunner. I did some hold-ups. I played basically every special team while I was there, so I have a lot of experience on that," Cockrell said. "They talked to me about it a lot. It's obviously something you have to do at the next level, especially if you want to make a team and be a part of a team, and that's something that I want to do."