The final round of the 2017 NFL draft drew to a close late Saturday night. A total of four Rebels were selected throughout the seven rounds, while another five signed undrafted free-agent contracts just hours after the draft ended.
Ole Miss’ lone first-round draft pick this year, Evan Engram, had his name called sooner than many expected. The New York Giants selected the Rebel tight end with the 23rd overall pick. Engram was projected to go early in the second round, but a strong combine boosted his draft stock.
Engram will join fellow Rebel alum and current Giants quarterback Eli Manning on the field next season. This combination could pay dividends early, as Engram’s athleticism should compliment Manning’s passing style. And while Engram may have to compete with the likes of Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard for receptions and minutes, Engram’s size and speed will keep him in contention for both.
After Engram’s selection, Ole Miss fans were forced to wait until the sixth round to hear another Rebel’s name. This time, it was 6-foot-1, 319-pound nose tackle D.J. Jones.
Taken 198th overall by the San Francisco 49ers, Jones’ mediocre senior season kept him out of the earlier rounds. But raw athleticism (25 bench press reps) and an unteachable work ethic should help the former Rebel challenge for minutes as a rookie.
D.J. Jones joins fellow defensive pickups Solomon Thomas, a defensive end from Stanford, and Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster in San Francisco’s attempt to improve their worst-in-the-league defense next season.
Derrick Jones’ (no relation to D.J.) selection followed D.J. Jones’ selection by just six picks. Taken 204th overall by the New York Jets, the 6-foot-2 cornerback boasts a 41-inch vertical jump and a long, thin frame. Analysts criticized a lack of strength (Jones put up nine reps on the bench press at Ole Miss pro day) but praised his ball skills. Jones likely won’t start immediately but could add some much-needed depth to the Jets’ secondary.
Rounding out the draft at pick No. 273, Chad Kelly was taken last overall by the Denver Broncos. One of the most prolific Ole Miss quarterbacks of all time, Kelly saw his draft stock slide due to a late-season injury and nagging off-field character concerns.
Despite the drop, Kelly not only found a new team but could be in contention to start if incumbent Trevor Siemian or backup Paxton Lynch carry on last season’s struggles.
Contrary to the title given to each year’s final overall pick, Kelly could be the most relevant “Mr. Irrelevant” in recent history.
A number of unselected Rebels signed pro deals shortly after the final round. These signees included wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow (Miami Dolphins), defensive end Fadol Brown (Oakland Raiders), defensive back Tony Bridges (Seattle Seahawks) and wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo and defensive back Carlos Davis (both Baltimore Ravens).
Stringfellow stood a decent chance at being selected, but teams cited his previous legal trouble as grounds for concern. Brown and Adeboyejo entered the 2017 draft with high hopes, but unspectacular senior seasons minimized their chances of being selected.