Kamalei Correa is a man of few words.
The former Boise State football star often needed prodding from the school’s media-relations staff to get in front of a camera or microphone.
After last season, one of the best players on the team declared early for the NFL Draft and walked away with little fanfare.
“I’m kind of a quiet dude,” he said March 31 after Boise State’s pro day workouts for NFL personnel.
True to form, Correa remains just as elusive off the field as he is on it. His agency, Priority Sports, said Correa is not doing interviews leading up to the NFL Draft, which starts Thursday in Chicago
He did speak to the Buffalo News earlier this week and talked about meeting Bills coach Rex Ryan and his staff at the NFL Scouting Combine.
“I could tell off the bat that they love football,” he told the paper. “They love to talk about it and they’re all about it. So I really dig that perspective. I feel I fit what they’re preaching. They’re just a bunch of dudes who love football.”
Those who study the NFL Draft have had plenty to say about the Hawaiian native.
“He’s an outside edge rusher ... closes fast, strong, athletic kid,” said ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr., who also called him “a big-time pass rusher.”
Kiper’s latest mock draft has the 6-foot-3, 242-pound Correa becoming the Broncos’ fifth first-rounder since 2008, going at No. 27 to the Green Bay Packers. He could be the heir apparent to six-time Pro Bowler Clay Matthews as the resident quarterback nightmare-creator.
“Me and him have a pretty similar game,” Correa told the Buffalo News. “I model my game after him. He does what I do. He’s not only an edge rusher, but he plays the stack linebacker. And he can move within a defensive scheme. He can do multiple things and not just get set on one thing. That’s what I can bring to a team as well.”
Todd McShay, Kiper’s fellow ESPN draftnik, called Correa “one of the most underrated players in this year’s draft class” and “a very solid second-rounder.”
Most mock drafts project Correa to be selected during Friday’s second round.
“He’s got a great motor, a lot of intensity, he can play in most defenses because of that versatility,” one NFL scout told the Idaho Statesman. “He’ll need to improve his pass rush repertoire.
“He moved around a lot at Boise State, which was good, but also, can make it more difficult to know exactly what he is.”
Many times talent can be forgotten when the fit isn’t right. The Broncos’ last two similar NFL prospects are prime examples. DeMarcus Lawrence, taken early in the second round by Dallas in 2014, fit the Cowboys’ system as a defensive end and had eight sacks last season.
Shea McClellin, who went 19th overall in 2012, seemed to be best as an outside linebacker in a three-lineman, four-linebacker (3-4) base. He went to Chicago, which then ran a 4-3, and never made an impact. He recently signed with New England, which is expected to put him on the edge more than the Bears did.
“He’s very different, more of a true NFL linebacker than those two,” the scout said.
Correa can play on the outside in either look, with Kiper saying he could see him eventually playing inside.
At the combine, Correa estimated he played about 80 percent of his snaps at Boise State from a 3-point stance. At the next level, he may never do that. His ability to rush the passer (19 sacks the last two seasons) would be utilized even more as a stand-up linebacker.
In a league dominated by quarterbacks, the pass rush is vital. See what Denver did in the last year’s postseason for proof. The draft has a few solid prospects to fit the mold, with Correa in the top tier.
Atlanta, which had the fewest sacks in the NFL last season, drafts 17th and 50th in the first two rounds and had its coach and general manager at pro day in Boise.
Buffalo could use someone like Correa after producing only 21 sacks last season. Tennessee worked Correa out the day before pro day, and its linebackers coach ran pro day drills.
Wherever Correa winds up, he’ll save his talking for what he does on the field, both literally and figuratively.
He told the Buffalo News, “I love to talk smack out there. When I step on the field, I’m going to bring a team somebody who’s so passionate about the game and who’s going to leave everything out there and just give them effort and fight and be a dog out there and make plays.’’
BSU draft picks since 2006
- 2015: *Jay Ajayi, RB; 5th round (149th overall), Dolphins
- 2014: *DeMarcus Lawrence, DE; 2nd round (34th), Cowboys; Matt Paradis, C; 6th round (207th), Broncos; Charles Leno Jr., OL; 7th round (246th), Bears
- 2013: Jamar Taylor, CB; 2nd round (54th), Dolphins
- 2012: Shea McClellin, DE/LB; 1st round (19th), Bears; Doug Martin, RB; 1st round (31st), Buccaneers; Tyrone Crawford, DE; 3rd round (81st), Cowboys; George Iloka, S; 5th round (167th), Bengals; Billy Winn, DT; 6th round (205th), Browns; Nate Potter, OL; 7th round (221st), Cardinals
- 2011: Titus Young, WR; 2nd round (44th), Lions; Austin Pettis, WR; 3rd round (78th), Rams; Brandyn Thompson, CB; 7th round (213th), Redskins
- 2010: Kyle Wilson, CB; 1st round (29th), Jets
- 2008: *Ryan Clady, OT; 1st round (12th), Broncos; *Orlando Scandrick, CB; 5th round (143rd), Cowboys
- 2007: Gerald Alexander, S; 2nd round (61st), Lions; Legedu Naanee, WR; 5th round (172nd), Chargers; Korey Hall, FB; 6th round (191st), Packers; Derek Schouman, TE; 7th round (222nd), Bills
- 2006: Daryn Colledge, OL; 2nd round (47th), Packers
How the experts rank Correa
- Scouts, Inc. on ESPN.com: No. 4 outside linebacker
- CBSSports.com: No. 4 outside linebacker
- Mike Mayock, NFL.com: No. 5 edge rusher