Only a bit more than a third of the 37 Mississippi State players drafted this century have been selected in the first three round, and it doesn’t look as if the Bulldogs will have anyone taken that early in the 2017 NFL draft.
Of the 37 Bulldogs draftees starting in 2000, just 13 have gone before the fourth round. But as anyone who follows football knows, a 2016 fourth-round pick from Mississippi State was one of the biggest stories in the NFL last season.
Quarterback Dak Prescott was selected by Dallas in the fourth round – the 135th player taken – and proceeded to lead the Cowboys to the NFC East title and a berth in the playoffs. Maybe lightning will strike twice for a Bulldogs alum in 2017.
Here’s a look at the Mississippi State players who have a shot at being drafted this year and the positions where MSU 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): OT Justin Senior WR Fred Ross, LB Richie Brown, C Jamaal Clayborn.
The Bulldogs are: “Defensive Tackle U.” Mississippi State needed a few decades to get the defensive tackle machine going, but once they let the Bulldogs out, they’ve become established in the league. Philadelphia Eagles Pro Bowl tackle Fletcher Cox already ranks among the league’s best. He’s also the most prominent in a list of interior linemen to come through Mississippi State in the past decade: Tommy Kelly, Ronald Fields, Antonio Johnson and Kyle Love are others. And the Kansas City Chiefs’ Chris Jones, a second-round pick in 2016, looks like a strong contender to play for a long time in the NFL.
Next in line: Mississippi State cornerbacks haven’t fared badly in the NFL ranks, either. At the head of the class is the Detroit Lions’ Darius Slay, known as “Big Play Slay” because of his knack for turning games upside down by forcing unexpected turnovers. The Detroit corner continues to build his reputation around the league. Johnthan Banks, Fred Smoot and Walt Harris also have been NFL starters during the past decade-plus.
Not so much: Pre-Dak Prescott disclaimer: Before the emergence of last season’s rookie sensation with the Dallas Cowboys, Mississippi State quarterbacks had done next to nothing in the NFL. The only quarterback from the school to start an NFL game was Joe Reed in the 1970s, who ended up with 19 starts in part-time duty with the San Francisco 49ers and the Detroit Lions. In just one season, Prescott already has made himself the most successful former Bulldogs quarterback in NFL history.
Over the years: Several Mississippi State linebackers have excelled in the NFL, a line that goes back to three-time All-Pro Joe Fortunato in the 1950s and 1960s with the Chicago Bears. Then, there’s D.D. Lewis, a Dallas Cowboys stalwart from 1968-81 during the peak of the franchise’s Tom Landry era, followed by Johnie Cooks (Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts, New York Giants and Cleveland Browns from 1982 to 1991). Today’s successors in that category are K.J. Wright, at the heart of the noted Seattle Seahawks defense, and Benardrick McKinney, already showing great promise after only two seasons with the Houston Texans.
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