All you need to know about Adams is that he often lined up at defensive end in high school at about 160 pounds. In games in which he wasn't getting three or four sacks, he intercepted passes (nine in his last two years) and made plays as a return specialist (nine punt return touchdowns as a sophomore). That sort of tenaciousness and all-around playmaking ability shows off an attitude scouts love in a NFL cornerback prospect.
Adams played all 12 games in his true freshman season after graduating from high school early to take part in 2008 spring practices. He started two games that year against Iowa and Purdue -- against whom he returned one of his two interceptions for a 40-yard touchdown. Adams took a step back in 2009, failing to make a tackle in three games and finally taking a medical redshirt due to a shoulder injury. He also missed the Spartans' game against Notre Dame due to the death of his grandmother. Adams bounced back with a second-team All-Big Ten season the following year, starting all 13 games, intercepting three passes and breaking up seven others. League coaches voted him first-team All-Big Ten as a junior, as he again intercepted three passes (one for an 86-yard score against Indiana), breaking up six passes and getting credit for three sacks. Adams is nothing if not consistent. For his senior campaign, he anchored a Michigan State secondary that held played well despite getting little help from its pass rush (just 16 sacks on the season). He once again notched three interceptions, deflected ten passes, and earned first-team All-Conference honors -- his third straight season being selected to the All-Big Ten team.
Wiry-tough corner who plays bigger than he measures. Long arms for his frame. Shows foot work at the line to stick with head fakes and hesitation moves. Creates contact to stay with his man down the sideline. Has excellent ball skills and concentration. Comes off his man to play the ball, snatching passes away from his frame, tracks the ball over his shoulder. Aware defender, comes off his man, or the first read in zone, to make plays. Also undercuts receivers on short passes to step in front. Transitions forward from pedal to corral receivers after the catch and avoid their blocks. Plays a lot of snaps in the slot, and is a regular blitzer because he is a solid tackler and can pack a punch. Incredibly effective tackler in the run game. Seeks the ball carrier and looks to invite contact. Attacks the edge on plays coming his way and regularly sticks his nose between the tackles when uncovered. Gives effort, has a bit of a burst to make tackles.
Possesses only average height and very thin in the lower half. Often in press-bail or playing off, must prove he can ride a man off his route in press. Doesn't have extensive experience backpedaling and is not particularly low or smooth while changing directions. Takes extra steps when cutting and lacks recovery speed. Larger receivers get inside position, separate from him coming out of their cuts and can win jump balls over the top. Also gets stiff-armed and bulled in the open field by stronger ballcarriers due to his relative lack of size and strength. Has trouble disengaging from better receiver and tight end blocks in the run game and beating running backs in pass protection as a blitzer.
This wiry All-Big Ten zone corner owns the athleticism to stick with pro receivers and can make quarterbacks pay for poor throws (intercepted three passes in both the 2010 and 2011 seasons). Adams even saw some time at receiver in the team’s 2012 spring game, snagging a 45-yard reception. However, Adams’ average size/strength combination and 2009 shoulder injury might prevent scouts from seeing him as an elite prospect, and he will likely be selected on the third day of the draft. His lack of size and recovery speed will probably prevent him from playing outside, but his willingness to play the run and be an aggressive tackler will likely allow him to carve out a role as a special teamer and nickelback.
Future Hall of Famer
A once-in-a-generation type prospect who could change how his position is played
An impact player with the ability/intangibles to become a Pro Bowl player. Expect to start immediately except in a unique situation (i.e. behind a veteran starter).
A quality player who will contribute to the team early on and is expected to develop into a starter. A reliable player who brings value to the position.
A prospect with the ability to make team as a backup/role player. Needs to be a special teams contributor at applicable positions. Players in the high range of this category might have long-term potential.
A player with solid measurables, intangibles, college achievements, or a developing skill that warrants an opportunity in an NFL camp. In the right situation, he could earn a place on a 53-man roster, but most likely will be a practice squad player or a camp body.