Small-school skill position prospects like Elon wide receiver Aaron Mellette don’t always have to wait until the third day of the NFL Draft to hear their name called from the podium.
Last year, the St. Louis Rams surprised a few NFL Draft observers when they turned their attention to the FCS’s Southern Conference and drafted Appalachin State wide receiver Brian Quick at the top of the draft’s second round.
Aaron Mellette is next in line this year, and at least one scout believes that Mellette is an even better prospect than Quick was:
“Flip on the Elon-Appalachian State game from last season (2011),” the scout said. “Quick was good, but that Elon kid [Mellette] was the most impressive receiver on the field that day. If you’re looking for flash and sizzle — Mellette isn’t your guy. But if you want production, I think he can be a reliable player at the pro level.”
Mellette, 6-2, 217 pounds, joined BSO to discuss his performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, his feelings on being compared to Quick and how he incorporated Cinnamon Toast Crunch into his gameday ritual at Elon.
BSO: I know you trained for the combine down in Miami. What’s the plan now that the combine’s over?
AM: I’m going to be working out in North Carolina focusing more on position work. I’ll be back at Elon working out.
BSO: Are you going to have a Pro day?
Yes, first I’m going to N.C. State’s on March 20th and then I have another one at Elon on March 26th after Carolina’s Pro day.
BSO: Let’s talk a little bit about the combine. Was there any part of your combine performance that you weren’t happy with?
AM: I’ll say my vertical leap was probably the most disappointing part (laughs). Man, to me that was the biggest let down. Other than that I’m okay with how everything else went.
BSO: Did anything else surprise you at the combine?
AM: I guess the confidence that I had built up from all that training and going through different mock combines. When Sunday (wide receiver workout day at combine) came I had no nerves at all because I was just going out there to do what I had been doing for the past month.
BSO: Do you feel like you addressed some of the concerns that scouts have expressed about your speed and your ability to create separation on your routes?
AM: I do. I think I ran better than most of the scouts thought.
BSO: How did the combine compare with your experience in Mobile for the Senior Bowl?
AM: It was very similar to me, but it was just on a larger scale as far as meeting with different teams and scouts. I felt like it was almost the same going through informal interviews with the teams. It was just more medical stuff than we had at the Senior Bowl.
BSO: What’s the strangest thing that a team has asked you in an interview so far?
AM: They didn’t ask me anything strange at all. Just regular generic questions about my background that I answered to the best of my knowledge.
BSO: I heard that your family came down to Mobile pretty deep for the Senior Bowl. Did they come up to Indianapolis for the combine?
AM: No, they didn’t. I was pretty much on lock so it wouldn’t have made sense for them to come up.
BSO: How important is it for you to rep your hometown of Sanford, N.C. as you continue to go through the NFL Draft process?
AM: It means everything to me. Me having a chance to play in the NFL and be a draft pick is going to make everyone in my city proud.
BSO: Did you choose to go to Elon because it was close to home?
AM: Yes, at that time it was the reason. I was kind of a homebody kid, but Elon was really the only school that gave me a shot to play college football.
BSO: Yeah I hear you were a late-bloomer because basketball was your first love. Who was it that got you into football and why did you stay with football over basketball?
AM: It was a youth pastor at my church named Byron Buckles. He introduced me to football playing pickup games outside with other kids and told my parents that I should go out for football. I didn’t listen to him at first, but when I got to high school and I got older I finally listened to him and went out for the team.
BSO: When did you first realize that the NFL was a possibility for you?
AM: I think it was my junior year of college. I knew that most guys from the FCS end up being undrafted free agents or late round picks, but after I built up a lot of buzz from the Vanderbilt game I knew I really had a great shot at playing at the next level.
BSO: You mentioned that Vanderbilt game from your junior year in 2011. You were matched up against Casey Hayward (now with Packers) for a lot of that game and you put up some impressive numbers (11 receptions, 180 yards, 1 touchdown). Hayward’s an NFL starter now. Given that you didn’t get to face competition like that a lot at Elon, is there another NFL corner you’re looking forward to competing against?
AM: All of them. Everybody in the NFL is an elite talent whether they’re considered the best at their position or the worst, they’re all there for a reason.
BSO: You played in the Southern Conference like 2012 second-round pick Brian Quick (Rams). Since you’re about Quick’s size, a lot of people are comparing you to him. How do you think you compare to Brian Quick and where do you think you should be drafted?
AM: I know people compare us a lot because we came from the same conference, but I feel like we’re two different types of players. I’m not really sure what he does well because I haven’t studied him on tape, but I feel like we’re two different players. As far as where I should get drafted I mean no player has effect on where he gets drafted. I just want to get drafted and go work hard in minicamp and work my way into the starting lineup.
BSO: What part of your game is the strongest right now going into the NFL?
AM: I think going across the middle where it’s the most violent. I like doing that and I took pride in it my whole career at Elon. I like making the tough catches and taking the hard hits when the safeties and linebackers come down.
BSO: Where do you need to improve?
AM: My route running. Learning to get out of my cuts quicker and learning the different tricks. The corners in the NFL probably have better footwork than the receivers, so if I can take an extra half-second off of my routes I know it’ll help at the next level.
BSO: What’s this I hear about you and Cinnamon Toast Crunch?
AM: I ate that during halftime of my games in college. Our coaches passed out fig newtons but I preferred Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I’d take a little mini-bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and drink a Powerade.
BSO: So was that a routine for you?
AM: (Laughs) Yeah it became a weekly routine. It was hard doing it for the road games, but at the home games I always had two little boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
BSO: We asked Tyrone Goard about going up against some of NFL’s better trash-talkers on the outside like Richard Sherman. Are you much of a trash-talker?
AM: Nah, it takes a lot for me to begin talking trash. I usually let my play do the talking if a guy’s talking trash. Eventually if I get mad enough and I start making plays then I’ll start barking back just because where I’m from we don’t back down from no challenge on the field.
BSO: Who’s the best receiver in the NFL right now?
AM: Definitely Calvin Johnson. Seeing what he’s been able to do his last two seasons, he’s finally come into his own and harnessed the skills and attributes that scouts saw in him coming out of Georgia Tech.
BSO: Do you think the spread option look is going to continue to become more prevalent in the NFL or do you think there will always be a place for the traditional drop back passers who throw the ball downfield?
AM: I think there still has to be a balance of both, but as you see the trends in college change the NFL can’t help but change because of the personnel that’s coming into the league each year. It will probably change some in college, but you see different NFL teams like GB, Denver and New England using a spread no-huddle look now with their passing game. The NFL can’t help but to pickup on it even more.
BSO: Do you have a preference for either one?
AM: No I don’t. As long as I’m on a team and getting to play on Sundays it doesn’t matter.