Jalen Mills hopes to get a shot at cornerback in the NFL; Vernon Butler uses his basketball background to get an edge _lowres

Associated Press file photo by BRYNN ANDERSON -- LSU's Jalen Mills runs through drills during practice for the Senior Bowl, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016, at Fairhope Municipal Stadium, in Fairhope, Ala.

INDIANAPOLIS — Jalen Mills spent his final two seasons at LSU as a safety, but he has always seen himself as a cornerback.

Now that he’s in the NFL draft, Mills is hoping to make an impression at his old position — even if some NFL teams might see him as a hybrid player, capable of playing safety, nickel and shifting out to corner.

“Wherever a team would want me to play, I feel comfortable at both positions,” Mills said. “But if I have to choose, I want to pick cornerback.”

Mills played cornerback his first two seasons at LSU, but a glut of talent at the position in 2014 forced the coaching staff to ask Mills to move to free safety to shore up a position that didn’t have as much experience.

Playing cornerback would be more lucrative. Because of the effect a true, No. 1 cornerback can have against the NFL’s best wide receivers, cornerbacks generally make more money than safeties.

“Not even for that,” Mills said. “I’m not even really in it for the money. That’s just the position I love to play. That’s my first, natural position, and that’s what I’m good at.”

Mills feels at home on the outside, matched up 1-on-1 against receivers.

He believes he proved his worth as a cornerback at the Senior Bowl, where the 6-foot, 191-pound Mills looked like he’d never left the outside in drills against some of the draft’s top receivers.

“I kind of showed guys that I am that dominant cornerback that they’re looking for,” Mills said. “And I think I’m going to prove that some more on Monday.”

Basketball jones

Louisiana Tech defensive tackle Vernon Butler, at 6-foot-4, 323 pounds, is one of the heaviest interior linemen in the draft — but he’s still among the most athletic.

And it might be because football is his second sport.

Butler, projected as a possible first- or second-round pick in a deep draft for defensive tackles, didn’t start playing football until his junior year at North Pike High in Summit, Miss.

“I played basketball since I was young,” Butler said. “That’s what I did growing up.”

Butler said he was a swing forward for North Pike, playing power forward and small forward.

Butler was good enough to score 38 points in one game and grab 17 rebounds in another.

“When I realized I wasn’t going to be 6-8, 6-9, I had to do something else,” Butler said.

Butler, who trains with two projected first-round defensive tackles in Alabama’s A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed, thinks his athletic ability puts him with the best at his position.

“Not being cocky,” Butler said, “I think I’m the best tackle in the draft.”

Head games

On first impression, Southeastern Louisiana cornerback Harlan Miller seems like a soft-spoken man.

He’s anything but quiet on the field. Miller, who tries to model his game after Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman — right down to Sherman’s penchant for getting into verbal wars with receivers.

“He talks a lot of trash, and he backs it up,” Miller said.

Miller, like a lot of cornerbacks, isn’t afraid to verbally mix it up. When things got chippy in Senior Bowl one-on-ones against receivers, Miller was right at home.

“I’ll use whatever I feel like I need to use,” Miller said, laughing. “I can’t tell you (what I like to say).”

When receivers fire back, Miller uses their words as fuel. Despite his small-school background, Miller battled hard at the Senior Bowl, earning Defensive Back of the Week honors.

“You always have that chip on your shoulder,” Miller said. “People are saying you can’t play. Telling me I can’t play is an insult, so I’ve got to prove to you I can.”


The New Orleans Saints are considering bringing in former St. Louis Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis for a free-agent visit next week, according to the NFL Network. ... New Orleans is also preparing to be selected for the HBO show “Hard Knocks,” according to Pro Football Talk. Despite the Saints’ stated dislike for the behind-the-scenes training camp show, the Saints are among seven teams the NFL could force to be on the show. ... Louisiana Tech quarterback Jeff Driskel blazed to a 4.56-second 40-yard dash on the field Saturday, finishing first among the 18 quarterbacks at the combine. Driskel also finished first in the broad jump with a leap of 10 feet, 2 inches.