Buffalo selected Cockrell in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL draft, 109th overall, Saturday afternoon. He is Duke's earliest selection since center Lennie Freeman was picked in the second round of the 1999 draft.
“What a terrific day for Ross – we could not be happier for him and his entire family,” Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said in a press release. “The Bills are getting a young man of great integrity who will undoubtedly be an asset within their organization. On the field, he’s competed at the highest level with a great deal of success. And without question, Ross is one of the finest—if not the finest—peer leaders I’ve ever been around.”
A two-time team captain, Cockrell helped anchor Duke's defensive unit that led the Blue Devils to back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time in program history.
During his redshirt senior season, Cockrell earned first-team All-ACC honors for the second straight year after registering 46 tackles, three interceptions, a forced fumble and a sack. The Waxhaw, N.C., native is Duke's all-time career leader in interceptions with 12 and pass breakups with 41.
"He’s a winner, has ball skills, has good speed. Every guy we’ve taken so far has been a part of winning program and that is a big thing we’re stressing," said Jim Monos, Buffalo's director of player personnel. "You could see it even at his pro day. Guys gravitate to him and he is the leader of that group."
The Bills were one of two teams that brought Cockrell in for a private workout before the draft and have another Duke alum on their roster in quarterback Thad Lewis. Cockrell will join a Buffalo secondary that is highlighted by cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin. The team also signed free agent cornerback Corey Graham to a four-year contract this offseason. Buffalo made a splash in the first round by trading up to pick Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins at No. 4 overall.
Cockrell becomes Duke's second straight NFL draft pick following quarterback Sean Renfree's selection in the seventh round last year by the Atlanta Falcons. The last time the Blue Devils had draft picks in back-to-back years was the 1999 and 2000 drafts.