Vereen avoids NFL draft hype, climbs draft boards

Brock Vereen has done everything in his power to drown the NFL draft hype.

Minnesota players charge onto the field before the start of the Gophers' season opener against UNLV on Thursday at TCF Bank Stadium.

Daily File Photo, Amanda Snyder

Minnesota players charge onto the field before the start of the Gophers’ season opener against UNLV on Thursday at TCF Bank Stadium.

Dane Mizutani

Brock Vereen hasn’t watched much ESPN over the last few months.

He’s caught a few games of the NBA playoffs and an MLB game here and there, but he has spent most of his time fixated on Netflix and video games.

A standout defensive back for Minnesota during the past four seasons, Vereen has made a point to avoid all the hype surrounding the 2014 NFL Draft — a three-day event that kicks off Thursday night.

“It was pretty easy to ignore [the attention] early on, but about a month ago, the realization of what was about to happen started to kick in,” Vereen said. “It hasn’t truly hit me, but the stress has gone up a little bit.”

Vereen has done everything in his power to keep the draft out of his head. Meanwhile, he continues to shoot up most draft boards.

“I watched every episode of ‘Bob’s Burgers’ in like three days,” he said with a laugh. “I caught up on ‘The Walking Dead,’ too, and watched some movies.”

He’s also played many games of “FIFA 14” with his older brother, Shane Vereen, a running back for the NFL’s New England Patriots.

Brock Vereen said his older brother can’t touch him in the game.

“I never lose,” he said.

The friendly competition that has festered in the Vereen living room in California for the past few months will soon make its way to the field.

In less than a week, Vereen will likely join his older brother in the NFL. He can’t avoid it any longer — the draft is upon him.

And Vereen, who called the draft process a whirlwind, said he’s ready for all of the speculation to be put to rest.

“I feel so blessed to have this opportunity,” he said, “but I can’t wait for it to be over.”

His stock has skyrocketed lately, but he’d be the last to know it.

“It’s been tough, but any time stuff about the draft comes on, I just change the channel,” Vereen said. “I know that sometimes my family will take a peek, but they know not to bring it up when I’m in the room.”

His name has shifted from a projected undrafted free agent after the college football season ended to a potential third-round pick.

That spike in his draft stock is especially evident when looking at pre-draft analyses from months ago.

“I have a priority free agent grade on him, and I think he’s got a chance, especially with special teams,” NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock said during a February conference call.

That was three months ago — before the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. Before Vereen clocked a 4.47-second 40-yard dash. Before he threw up 25 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. And before he was deemed one of the most physically gifted defensive backs in the draft.

“I think he’s one of the most underrated players in this draft, certainly at defensive back,” NFL draft analyst Todd McShay said during an April conference call.

McShay said he has Vereen pegged as a third-round talent  because of his physical tools and versatility.

Vereen, who spent time at safety and cornerback with the Gophers last season, recorded 59 tackles and was the unquestioned leader of the defensive unit. He’s listed as a safety on draft boards but could play either position at the next level.

“He played at Minnesota, so there’s not a lot of hype with him, but … he’s fast, he’s physical and he’s got good awareness,” McShay said. “I really think a team’s going to end up getting a steal with him.”

Vereen said he doesn’t have special plans for the weekend. He’s going to continue to keep it pretty low-key.

He’s going to Disneyland with his girlfriend Thursday, bowling with his family and friends Friday and plans to just hang around the house for much of Saturday.

Vereen said he doesn’t know what to expect this weekend — and he doesn’t want to know what to expect.

“In my mind, I’m still a seventh-round draft pick,” he said. “That way I can only be happy with wherever I go.”

He’ll likely go much higher than that, but to Vereen, only one thing matters.

“I just hope that my name is called,” he said. “I’m ready to get to work.”