The NFL Draft Advisory Board slotted Virginia cornerback Chase Minnifield as a second round pick last winter, and for most underclassmen players – especially ones that had graduated and that were coming off a season in which they were recognized as among the best in their conference at their position – that feedback would have been enough to trade in college for a professional paycheck.
But Minnifield – who received an undergraduate degree in sociology in December after completing a 2010 season in which he earned first team all-ACC honors – elected to stay at Virginia and play out his final season of eligibility. Being drafted in the second round would be great and all, but Minnifield has higher aspirations.
“My decision really was based on wanting to be a first-round pick, a solid first-round pick,” Minnifield said Sunday at the ACC Football Kickoff in Pinehurst, N.C. “Not wanting to settle for nothing less. That’s my goal going into the year is just to solidify myself as a solid first-round pick.”
Last season, Minnifield ranked No. five in the nation with six interceptions. Minnifield, though, said he does not measure his success based on his interception tally. He said he focuses more on preventing opposing wideouts from recording receptions and touchdown when he is assigned their cover. Minnifield broke up four passes in 2010, which tied for second on the Cavaliers.
When his junior season ended, Minnifield submitted the requisite paperwork that would enable him to be evaluated by the draft advisory board. Upon receiving their feedback, he consulted with his family – his father, Frank, was a Pro Bowl cornerback for the Cleveland Browns from 1984-92 – as well as several former Virginia players that had faced a decision on whether to enter the NFL Draft with collegiate eligibility remaining.
He spoke with Kevin Ogletree, Chris Long and Branden Albert, among others, and Minnifield said their advice – much like the fallout from their respective decisions – varied.
Ogletree, who left school a year early and went undrafted, told Minnifield he would be fine no matter where he was drafted so long as he worked hard in the pros. Long, who returned to Virginia for his senior season, told Minnifield that if he came back to school, he had better produce in that final collegiate campaign.
In the end, Minnifield said, the decision for him was mostly about wanting to fulfill his potential. In fact, he said one of his greatest competitive fears is not fulfilling his potential. Also, he noted, the NFL lockout was looming at the time.
“It’s tough,” Minnifield said. “I mean, your dream is to go to the NFL, and here it is, right here. You can go second round, late second round, third round. … My momma said, ‘I believe you can be a first-round pick,’ and I believe I can be a first-round pick, too. That’s what my goal is. That’s what I want to do.”