The yearly gathering of NFL personnel and media known as the NFL scouting combine takes place in Indianapolis this week, with four former Rebels participating in the activities. With the event having officially kicked off Tuesday, top prospects will be poked, prodded and analyzed before they are drafted into the league, with a skills showcase beginning Friday.
Of the four representatives the Rebels will send, Breeland Speaks has a chance to gain the most out of the week in Indianapolis. Speaks measures 6-foot-3, 285 pounds, which places him in between the sizes of an interior defensive lineman and an “edge” rusher. He is athletic, but a player who plays on the interior at that size must be a rare athlete, and his three-cone drill and jumps will show scouts how explosive he is.
When he works out for the on-field portion of the event, Speaks will show that his best assets are his pass rush moves as a defensive end. His size and pass rush skills will best translate to being a defensive end in a 3-4 defensive scheme. Potential fits for him include the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins.
Also participating in the combine is Marquis Haynes, who returned to Oxford for his senior season and received the Chucky Mullins Award. Throughout his career, Haynes has shown a knack for getting to the quarterback, producing sacks and forcing fumbles as a hand-in-the-dirt defensive lineman. But his 230-pound weight will force him to be a standup pass rusher or an outside linebacker at the pro level.
Haynes will be asked to participate in both defensive line and coverage drills for teams to really see the degree of versatility he brings, which he made apparent at the Senior Bowl. Because the transition to outside linebacker is inevitable for him, Haynes will need to perform well in the 40-yard dash to show his athleticism. The ability to backpedal and change direction fluidly will also be important for his draft stock. Teams like the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks could be landing spots for the former No. 38.
Last season’s 1,000-yard rusher Jordan Wilkins is one of two offensive invites for the Rebels and has flown under the radar among an impressive group of running backs in this year’s draft. Though the lack of production before this past season and the lost year due to academic ineligibility will keep him lower on draft boards, there is no denying his talent. At 6 feet 1 inch tall and 217 pounds, Wilkins will need to earn his playing time at the next level as a third-down running back who can be a
threat in the passing game.
This past season’s game film will certainly help him in that area, for he was one of the top draft-eligible running backs when it came to yards per catch, but the athletic and agility workouts are important for Wilkins to meet the threshold numbers teams look for. Additionally, he needs to catch the ball well during the fieldwork.
Former five-star offensive tackle Rod Taylor rounds out the Rebel participants at the combine. Taylor, who started every game at right tackle in 2017, will be a guard in the NFL. His shorter arms on his 6-foot-3 frame will force him inside because of the measurement thresholds teams establish. The athletic testing will not be as important for Taylor, but he needs to impress during the field drills to show that he can be flexible and move fluidly.
Regardless of the showing over the weekend, expect the run of Ole Miss first-round picks to end. However, this weekend could determine status for each of the participants. The first Rebel of the group should be drafted in the third round, when Speaks should hear his name called. Haynes could go anywhere from the end of the third round to early in the sixth round, depending on his combine. Wilkins is expected to go in the fifth or sixth round because of the high volume of running backs, but he could make his name more valuable with a strong weekend. As for Taylor, he will most likely be a priority free agent but could find himself going in the seventh round if he impresses in the weekend’s drills.
Wilkins and Taylor will workout Friday, and Speaks and Haynes will workout Sunday. The combine will be televised on NFL Network and can be streamed on Fubo.TV with a seven-day trial.