Even though win totals don’t reflect it, Ole Miss traditionally has a solid amount of professional talent at the top of the roster, and that usually shows at the NFL Draft Combine.
Even with a 5-7 record in 2018 under Matt Luke, Ole Miss was well-represented in the combine last year with nine prospects invited. DK Metcalf was superhuman to the point of overnight stardom with his 4.33 40-yard dash time and impressive 27 bench press reps.
A.J. Brown and Greg Little impressed enough to land in the second round. Dawson Knox showed his physical talents, and even Zedrick Woods made a name for himself by posting the best 40-yard dash time.
Though Ole Miss doesn’t have that same first-round prospective talent arriving in Indianapolis, Josiah Coatney, Benito Jones, Scottie Phillips and Qaadir Sheppard hope to improve their draft stocks over the week.
The former Ole Miss student-athletes will be measured physically and mentally by NFL teams looking to fill their rosters with impact players. The draft process will be strenuous (ask Joe Burrow), but testing well now can lead to life-changing money. Here’s what each Ole Miss draft prospect needs to do to make that happen:
Defensive Lineman Josiah Coatney
Coatney signed with Ole Miss as a junior-college transfer and started for three years with the Rebels. He’s racked up 174 total tackles with his best season coming in 2017. Coatney made 46 total tackles in 2019 with 3.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks.
The Douglasville, Georgia, native was invited to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, where he impressed throughout the week.
Coatney is listed a 6-foot-4 and 309 pounds and has the benefit of experience along the defensive line. He’s lined up on the interior and on the edge, and he’ll need to show versatility in drills this weekend, as NFL teams value prospects who can add depth in multiple positions.
Coatney’s greatest asset will be his utility and hustle.
Defensive Lineman Benito Jones
Jones burst onto the scene as a freshman at Ole Miss and earned All-SEC Second Team honors for his performance in 2019. The Waynesboro native lettered all four years in Oxford, appearing in 48 career games and tallying 132 total tackles — 31 of those for loss.
He was also invited to the Senior Bowl alongside Coatney and flashed that potential to scouts.
Jones, listed at 6-foot-1, 321 pounds, is a pure nose tackle made for a 3-4 defense but has surprising lateral speed on the interior. His sneaky speed could raise some eyebrows in Indianapolis this weekend, and he could find himself taken somewhere in the mid-late rounds. NFL.com currently rates him as a 6.20 prospect and a good backup who could become a starter.
Running Back Scottie Phillips
Phillips made a huge impact as the workhorse in 2018 and was on his way to 1,000 yards rushing before an injury sidelined him at 928 yards. He finished with 12 rushing touchdowns in his junior season.
Phillips didn’t have the same production in 2019 with Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Conner joining the backfield and had 542 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns as a senior.
NFL teams are generally hesitant to take tailbacks, so the 5-foot-8, 211 pounds Phillips will need to show utility as an all-around back who can be a valuable piece on a roster.
Walter Football projected him to go somewhere between rounds 3-5.
Outside Linebacker Qaadir Sheppard
Sheppard’s draft stock is nearly non-existent after a lackluster senior season with only 25 tackles and no sacks in 2019. Even with a slow senior season, the edge defender boasted 48 tackles and 10 tackles for loss in 2018.
An invite to the NFL Draft Combine is usually a good sign as Sheppard gets the opportunity to meet with teams to see what needs improvement before the draft.
The NFL Draft Combine will run through Feb. 27 – March 1 and will broadcast on NFL Network.