Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Team Irvin (NFL): In the summer before my freshman year of high school, I went to a football camp run by Eric Metcalf, a Seattle native and NFL running back who just happened to be my favorite football player ever. On the final day of camp, each age group played a scrimmage game that was either flag or two-hand touch — I can’t remember. I do vividly remember that I got two interceptions in that game and was awarded a trophy at the end for basically being the defensive MVP. Doesn’t sound like much now, but it was that camp and that scrimmage that erased any doubt I had going into high school about my ability to play defensive back at a level higher than Little League. So I’m not going to downplay Rodgers-Cromartie’s efforts as the most impactful defensive player in Sunday’s Pro Bowl, which was essentially a two-hand touch affair in the fourth quarter. DRC, who plays for the New York Giants in his day job, had two interceptions for Team Irvin in their 49-27 victory over Team Rice.
Darian Thompson, FS, Boise State (NCAA): Thompson was named the North MVP of Saturday’s Senior Bowl, recording five tackles and two pass breakups in a 27-16 loss to the South. A handful of prominent organizations and media outlets had Thompson as a second- or third-team All-American this season after he recorded 65 tackles and five interceptions for the Broncos.
K.J. Dillon, SS, West Virginia (NCAA): Dillon could’ve easily been named co-MVP for the North, as he also had five tackles but included an eye-opening stick in the backfield that wowed the Mobile, Ala., crowd, and he blocked a field goal at the end of the third quarter. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 203 pounds, Dillon played the “Spur” position in West Virginia’s 3-3 stack defense, meaning that on any given play he could be anything from a pass-rushing linebacker to a deep-cover safety. He projects as a strong safety in the NFL.
Harlan Miller, CB, Southeastern Louisiana (NCAA): Senior Bowl practice is just as important as the game, with NFL scouts all over the place watching, taking notes and conducting interviews with potential draft picks. A panel of scouts polled by NFL.com voted for the top practice performers during this year’s Senior Bowl week, and Miller was voted the most impressive defensive back on the field. In the Senior Bowl game, Miller recorded seven tackles for the winning South squad and broke up a potential TD pass.
Harrison Smith, FS, Team Irvin (NFL): Presumably Smith was fully thawed out in Hawaii from that negative-degree Ice Bowl of a playoff game against the Seahawks a few weeks ago. Smith had three tackles and one interception for Team Irvin in the Pro Bowl, one of three picks thrown by Buffalo Bills QB Tyrod Taylor.
Odell Beckham Jr., Team Rice, and Devonta Freeman, Team Irvin (NFL): Playing out of position was a sidebar theme at the Pro Bowl. Defensive lineman Michael Bennett played QB in the Wildcat formation, while cornerback Richard Sherman played receiver, to name a couple willing to experiment. Two offensive players also took their turns in the defensive backfield, with Giants receiver Beckhman playing a few snaps at free safety and Atlanta Falcons running back Freeman playing some snaps at cornerback. Beckham and Freeman each recorded a tackle.