CHICAGO - On one part of the field, LSU offensive tackle La'el Collins refused to answer questions regarding the murder of a former girlfriend, and specifically the further police-questioning that predicated his leaving for Louisiana later in the afternoon.

On another part, Missouri defensive end Shane Ray - who reportedly failed a drug test in college - was apologizing repeatedly, sincerely, desperately, for being cited for marijuana possession after being pulled over for speeding on Monday.

If you're trying to figure out how Connecticut cornerback Byron Jones could slip well into the first round tonight during the NFL draft, yesterday's prospects session with the media - which followed an NFL "Play60" event interacting with Chicago schoolchildren - served as an unhealthy reminder. Numerous mock drafts have placed both Collins and Ray within the top 10, but as NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock said during a luncheon a few hours later, "They're sliding.''

"If this kid is not officially cleared, how do you draft him?'' Mayock said of Collins, who is not considered a suspect in the case. "I don't think there's a general manager in the league who will say, 'Hey, no problem.' It's horrible timing for the kid.''

As for Ray and his apologies? "I'm not sure Shane Ray can say anything to a GM at this point," Mayock said. "It's kind of a three-strikes situation.''

Meanwhile, at yet another parcel of the makeshift football field, Jones stood amid a much smaller group, at times just one or two others, and did his own form of justification.

"I was lucky, man,'' he said. "You're lucky to have two parents. But I also had three older brothers. So everyone kept me in line, and really it was easy. I just followed the path they laid out for me. I get a lot of the credit but credit really goes to my family.''

The credit he gets goes something like this: Byron Jones is not just a freakishly athletic cornerback who catapulted into first-round conversations via off-the-charts Combine and pro day performances. He is a citizen, a team leader who makes others around him play better, and someone so down to earth and in tune with himself that minutes into your conversation with him, it is impossible not to conjure up Brian Dawkins.

And he is smart, finishing a couple courses short of adding a second major in political science to the one he received in economics at UConn. The son of a retired state trooper and career secretary, he is the youngest of four Jones men, all currently in their 20s, all of whom have achieved their own success in a variety of fields.

Nathan, 29, is an electrical engineer. Aaron, 28, is a Navy deep- sea diver currently deployed overseas. Winston, 24, is a Marine, and also deployed.

All were athletes. At 6-1, 200 pounds, Byron is only the third largest, and for much of his life, their little brother. Watching him interact with the small kids yesterday - teasing and teaching in equal measures - it was clear there will be no maturation process at the next level.

"I am so blessed,'' he said. "You think about some of the kids out here who may not have what I have. I think, for me, it clicked my freshman year in college. I looked around and said, 'Wow, look at the opportunities I have. Look at what I have at my disposal. It would be a shame if I don't make it.' Whatever that meant. Being a doctor, lawyer or a football player. Whatever that meant for me.''

In so many ways then, Jones embodies the so-called "culture" that Chip Kelly is supposedly constructing in Philadelphia. Consider this description on the NFL.com site and try not to compare it unfavorably to the departed Bradley Fletcher:

"Extremely smart and instinctive on the field. Shows above-average anticipation of routes. Is able to sniff out rub routes and works to avoid them. Flashes recovery speed downfield and gets head around to find ball and make a play on it.''

Basically then, the anti-Fletcher.

Will that embodiment entice Kelly to pick Jones over defensive backs generally rated higher? It's part of the remaining intrigue should the mega deal for Marcus Mariota not materialize and the Eagles use their 20th pick.

"I've got him fifth right now on my board,'' Mayock said. "But I don't know where Chip has [LSU's] Jalen Collins because of his off-the field stuff [reported failed drug tests, fractured foot]. I don't know where he has [Washington's] Marcus Peters because of his off-the-field stuff [dismissed from team in November].''

Should one or both slip within Kelly's grasp at 20, it will be an interesting conundrum:

Ignore the red flags and draft one of the two.

Or pick a guy who oozes the intangibles they appear to lack, the ones Kelly often touts.

Oh, there's one more thing, and it may be the final nudge: Jones was a middle infielder and pitched in high school.

And well, Chip thinks outside of the box, right?

So . . . "He needs a corner who can throw the ball?'' said Jones. "I'm that guy.''