UNLV RB Cornett looks for hole to break into field

Tim Cornett hoped to devote his time in January to preparing for the NFL scouting combine the following month, but instead found himself fighting the flu.

The illness not only zapped his energy, but also caused the former UNLV running back to lose 15 pounds and spend time in a hospital.

“I felt like if I had more time to train for (the combine), I could’ve done a lot better,” Cornett said.

Even so, Cornett quickly gained back the weight, and went to Indianapolis in late February and ran a time of 4.48 seconds in the 40-yard dash to garner some attention.

But whether that time, as well as his productivity in becoming the Rebels’ all-time leading rusher with 3,733 yards, was enough to dramatically affect his NFL Draft stock is another matter.

Cornett (6 feet, 209 pounds) said he has spoken to the vast majority of teams, and he has heard he could be selected anywhere from the third to seventh rounds of the draft, a three-day event that begins with tonight’s first round.

The waiting “just started getting hard,” said Cornett, who is in his hometown of Houston. “If it was like earlier, like a month away, it would be like whatever. But now that it’s getting close, I want it to hurry up.”

He might have to wait awhile, though.

Nolan Nawrocki, draft expert for NFL.com, listed Cornett as a priority free agent, writing he’s “more of a workout warrior than football player at this stage of his development and will be challenged to produce against better competition.”

NFLDraftScout.com projected Cornett as a seventh-round choice or a priority free agent.

Another player with local ties, former Southern California tight end Xavier Grimble, who went to Bishop Gorman High School, also has a chance to get chosen and probably will need to be patient as the draft progresses.

“I think early in the process, there were a lot more nerves,” said Grimble, who will watch the draft from his Las Vegas home. “I’ve calmed down a little bit, but it still gets you a little bit.”

He visited the Carolina Panthers and worked out for the Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles. Grimble (6-4, 257) said he has heard he will go in the middle to late rounds, and that he has spoken to nearly every team.

He made the controversial decision to leave school a year early rather than enter the 2015 draft as potentially a first- or second-day pick.

Injuries cut into Grimble’s production last season at USC. He caught 25 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns, missing two games because of a sprained ankle and another one because of a sprained shoulder. Grimble didn’t lift at the combine because of an injured shoulder, and he didn’t run because of a strained calf.

Whether Grimble gets drafted is questionable. NFLDraftScout.com and NFL.com projected him as a seventh-round selection or free agent.

“Big-framed, underpowered, underachieving tight end who did not live up to expectations at USC and made a curious decision to forgo his final season of eligibility,” Nawrocki wrote, though adding Grimble “has size and enough athletic ability and hands to warrant developmental consideration.”

Grimble said he didn’t regret his decision to leave early.

“Some people said if I had waited another year, I would’ve been a first-round pick or a second-rounder,” he said. “But I’m still the same person today that I would be next year, and I still have the same attributes, maybe not as well-developed, but it won’t take me long.”

Others with local ties who probably will sign as undrafted free agents: UCLA linebacker Keenan Graham (Silverado), USC cornerback Torin Harris (Palo Verde), UNLV quarterback Caleb Herring, Northwestern linebacker Damien Proby (Cheyenne) and Utah guard Jeremiah Tofaeono (Cheyenne).

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.

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