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Drafting the Dawgs

We’re now past the halfway point of the season, let’s check in on our draft bound* Bulldogs to see how they’re shaping up for April.

Mississippi State v BYU Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

*Let it be known that these are all players that are presumed to be entering the 2017 NFL Draft. I have no insider knowledge and this is all based off of my own opinions. Quite literally none of these guys could go to the NFL for all I know.

Congratulations, Bulldog fans! you can officially count off any and all expectations for the remainder of the season because they were effectively crushed by Kentucky last Saturday. So, with that comes a certain level of relief from this season. Now, we can look forward to fun speculations like who our new Athletics Director will be or how Dan Mullen picks up the pieces in 2017 after his worst year in Starkville ever. But today and for the rest of the season, we’re going to be looking at a couple players that I think will be in the NFL Draft come April. This week is Fred Ross and A.J. Jefferson, next week I’ll pick two new guys to throw under the microscope. We’ll look at each prospect’s performance so far this season as well as what I think they’ll have to do over the next five games to get their stock as high as possible.

If you’re in a really low place, you can even try to guess which players, if any, will receive invitations to the combine. Not even I am there yet, though.

Fred Ross

This season began as Ross’ year to pad his stats and roll through the season, picking up whatever accolades he could find upon the way, but things have quite simply not gone as planned. He currently has 436 yards, putting him tied for sixth in the SEC in receiving yards and 14 yards ahead of where he was at the same point last season. Ross also has 39 receptions and 6 TD’s, tying him for the most TD receptions in the SEC through 10 weeks of college football. While I would like to see his overall yardage better by about 50 yards because of our opponents so far this season and his average closer to 14 yards rather than the 11.2 it is, I think MSU’s QB play is a confounding variable in Ross’ stats so far this season. So far, the most attractive number is his TD receptions. Along with his catch radius and size, Ross is currently positioning himself as a red zone threat, and that could hurt his stock a good bit. In today’s passing NFL, teams are looking for WRs that are every-down threats that can match up with the physicality of corners and can fight for the ball downfield.

In order for Ross to optimize his stock before the end of the season, I think he has to work on the amount of drops he has per game and I want to see him tossed a few more 50/50 balls to display his raw athleticism. I know it’s a lot to ask for with the opponents that are coming up, but if he wants to go early, he’s going to have to learn to compete.

A.J. Jefferson

One of the few bright spots on the defense this year, Jefferson has been fairly consistent week-in and week-out on being a disruptive force in the trenches. While he doesn’t quite have the sexy stats to make him stand out, he is definitely a top-tier D-lineman in the SEC. There are only 11 players in the SEC with more sacks than Jefferson, who has 4. He has accumulated 26 total tackles, which once again aren’t the sexy numbers you want, but can be attributed in part to other weak spots in the defense.

At 6’ 3”, 280 pounds, I think that Jefferson has the size and technique to be molded into a very serviceable lineman in the NFL. Do I see him going very early? No, but I see him more a late-round gem that finds his role on a team after a couple learning seasons. Jefferson is often this close to making big tackles for losses or a big sack so I’d like to see him finish on more of those plays to up his stock as a big-play lineman. He’s got a tough road ahead, going against some of the best offensive lines in the FBS, but he’ll gain a lot of respect with a few solid performances.

Disagree with my #analysis or have a suggestion for who you’d like to see featured next week? Leave a comment and let me know!