An Ole Miss tight end will be drafted for the first time in 20 years, and that tight end could give the Rebels four first-round picks in a two-year stretch.
Tight end Evan Engram is going to get picked in the first two rounds; that’s a given. The question is whether he goes in the first round. Ole Miss had three first-round picks last year. The last time the school had first-rounders in consecutive drafts was 2004 and ’05, with Eli Manning and Chris Spencer.
The last time an Ole Miss tight end was drafted at all was 1997, when Kris Mangum was a seventh-rounder. The highest-drafted Ole Miss tight end is Wesley Walls, who went in the second round (28th overall) in 1989.
Here’s a look at the Ole Miss players who have a shot at being drafted this year and the positions where alums have fared well – and not so well – in the NFL.
This year’s potential draftees (in rough order of when they can be expected to come off the board): TE Evan Engram, DT D.J. Jones, WR Damore’ea Stringfellow, WR Quincy Adeboyejo, QB Chad Kelly, DE Fadol Brown, CB Derrick Jones.
The Rebels are: It’s a bit of a toss-up – Ole Miss hasn’t produced an overwhelming number of NFL stars at any one position. Based on the past decade, though, let’s call the Rebels “Wide Receiver U.” A big part of that is Mike Wallace, who has 53 receiving touchdowns in eight years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens. Add to the list Donte Moncrief, still emerging with increasing success for the Indianapolis Colts; Dexter McCluster, the small but elusive receiver/running back best known for his four years with the Kansas City Chiefs; and maybe 2016 rookies Laquon Treadwell (a talented but injury-plagued first-rounder) and Cody Core. They aren’t through yet: Damore’ea Stringfellow and Quincy Adeboyejo are likely to go somewhere in the coming draft, adding even more Rebels to the NFL receiver roll.
Next in line: Quarterback, if your name is Manning. Archie Manning and son Eli are icons of Ole Miss sports, and both went on to long and successful NFL careers (in the case of Eli, with the New York Giants, it’s still going). These two likely need no further introduction to readers in this space, but Archie Manning passed for 23,911 yards and 125 touchdowns while playing from 1971-84 with the New Orleans Saints, Houston Oilers and Vikings, and Eli has even bigger numbers (48,214 yards and 320 touchdowns) since entering the league as the top overall draft choice in 2004. He’s won two Super Bowls, too. Eli Manning is one of just two former SEC quarterbacks (Alabama’s Bart Starr is the other) to win more than one Super Bowl as a starter. (Top-secret trivia: A third Manning, who didn’t go to Ole Miss, also attained success as a quarterback.)
Not so much: Quarterback if your name isn’t Manning. Aside from Archie and Eli, John Fourcade (11 starts for the Saints between 1987 and 1990) and Norris Weese (seven starts for the Denver Broncos in 1978 and 1979) are the only former Ole Miss quarterbacks to start a game in the NFL in the past 55 years. Maybe Chad Kelly, most often projected as a third-day selection in the 2017 NFL draft, can put a stop to that drought.
Over the years: Another good position for the Rebels has been offensive tackle. It’s a legacy that goes back to a Pro Football Hall of Famer in Bruiser Kinard, who spent a decade in the league playing both ways for the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees (both defunct) in the 1930s and 1940s. Since then, there’s been a recent resurgence in big blockers along the edge of the line, including four who started NFL games this season. Those are Bobby Massie with the Chicago Bears, Michael Oher with the Carolina Panthers, Jermey Parnell with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Bradley Sowell with the Seattle Seahawks. And although he’s started his NFL journey at guard with the Dolphins last season, Laremy Tunsil is projected as a potential future star at left tackle.
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