As the 2018 NFL draft grows closer and closer, a number of Rebels are hoping to continue their playing careers at the next level. Ole Miss has a rich history of successful draft talent – Eli Manning and Evan Engram of the New York Giants can attest to that – and this year’s class hopes to build on that legacy. Here are a few names to keep on your radar before the draft in April.
In November, after the conclusion of the college season, Breeland Speaks announced he would be foregoing his senior season to enter the draft early. Many felt Speaks was making the right decision, for the defensive tackle had an impressive 2017 season and would likely fall on NFL draft boards if he chose to stay for another year.
At 6-foot-2, 285 pounds, Speaks possesses NFL size and could be effective on the interior or edge of the defensive line. He is graded by Draft Analyst as a 3.70 out of 6 and a “Potential Starter” upon his arrival in the league.
Prediction: The Pittsburgh Steelers select Breeland Speaks in the fifth round, 156th overall.
Marquis Haynes is the most talented member of this year’s Ole Miss draft class. He will certainly be the first Rebel off the board in what seems to be a weaker draft year than normal for Ole Miss.
Haynes is undersized (6-foot-2, 225 pounds) for an edge rusher in the NFL, but his pass rush skills and NFL athleticism make him a good fit for the outside linebacker position. He is almost unanimously considered a third-round talent and will most likely see snaps in the league during his rookie season.
Haynes participated in the Senior Bowl, , a game meant to showcase lesser-known talent to NFL scouts, on Saturday and received positive reviews. The former Rebel generated a fumble via sack that a teammate returned for a touchdown.
Prediction: The Washington Redskins select Marquis Haynes in the third round, 78th overall.
At the beginning of the season, and certainly at the beginning of his college career, it looked impossible for Jordan Wilkins to have a realistic shot at cracking an NFL roster. After working throughout his college career to gain a starting spot, all the while battling lingering injuries, Wilkins finally assembled an impressive senior season.
His 2017 performances scored Wilkins an invite to the NFL Combine. He is currently graded as undrafted by every major mock draft, but he has the talent and exposure to sign as an undrafted free agent shortly after the draft. From there, Wilkins could compete to retain a roster spot beyond the preseason, if he stays healthy. But that’s a big “if.”
Prediction: The New York Giants sign Jordan Wilkins and allow him to compete for a roster spot after going undrafted.
Among NFL kicker prospects, Gary Wunderlich is a top-five talent. Kickers are at somewhat of a premium in the NFL currently, and that bodes well for Wunderlich. Though kickers rarely go early in the draft, they are, of course, still an essential position.
Since his sophomore season, Wunderlich has missed just four field goals. His accuracy and consistency are qualities every NFL team looks for. Though his power may not measure up to other kickers in the draft, he has not been given the chance to test his true range in Oxford.
Ole Miss did not attempt a single kick from more than 50 yards this season, but Wunderlich’s accuracy from mid-range should make him one of the more highly regarded college kickers in this draft.
Prediction: The Miami Dolphins select Gary Wunderlich in the seventh round, 221st overall.