Sep 26, 2015; Auburn, AL, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs lineman Chris Jones (98) pressures Auburn Tigers quarterback Sean White (13) during the third quarter at Jordan Hare Stadium. The Bulldogs beat the Tigers 17-9. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
The prospects for the 2016 Mississippi State Football Season will hinge largely on the decisions many of the underclassmen make about their future.
There is a very good chance Mississippi State could be in the exact opposite position the Bulldogs were facing in 2015 next year. The Bulldogs had question marks all over the field with the lone exception of quarterback. In 2015, there were only 14 seniors on the team, and of those 14 players, 8 were starters. Furthermore, because of the injuries to Will Redmond and Kendrick Market, there were two additional spots on the roster that allowed underclassmen to receive valuable playing time.
With such little attrition, Mississippi State could be poised to have substantial success in 2016 if they can get stellar play from Dak Prescott’s replacement. But there is always the possibility of a player doing what Josh Robinson did in 2015 and unexpectedly declaring for the NFL Draft. Maybe Robinson saw what he was about to have in front of him with this year’s offensive line, but if he had known he was going to get cut half way through his rookie season, he might have made the decision to come back instead of jump to the the NFL.
There are a few underclassmen who will have the same opportunity. But some are going to be far more likely than others. So who are they?
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I’ve broken down any players who are eligible for the draft that contributed enough to at least look into whether or not they should even consider declaring for the NFL Draft. Here’s how I see it. An * indicates a 3rd year sophomore.
High potential guys who haven’t gotten a lot of playing time
- Gabe Mayles*, WR
- Donald Gray*, WR
- Martinas Rankin, OL
- Cedric Jiles, DB
These four players showed in very limited time they might be one day playing on Sunday, but we have to see more from them. The only exception is Rankin who redshirted after transferring in from JUCO.
Players who played well but will stay due to low NFL prospects
- Richie Brown, LB
- Beniquez Brwon, LB
- A.J. Jefferson, DL
- Nick James, DL
- Fred Brown, WR
All four of these guys played well consistently or at least showed they could eventually be drafted at some point. But due to size limitations or other perceived physical flaws, these players are going to have to show one more year of production before a team uses a draft pick on them.
- Fred Ross, WR
Fred had a monster year in 2015. He will likely put his name in the draft advisory board and see what comes back. I don’t think it will be any higher than 4th round, but if it is, he may not come back.
- De’Runnya Wilson, WR
I’m not as confident Bear will head to the NFL as I was at the beginning of the season. He was one of the most sure handed receivers in the SEC as a sophomore, but he struggled holding on to passes this season. Still, he has all the physical tools that simply can’t be taught to be an elite receiver in the NFL. Wilson is 6’5″, and if he bets on himself to show a good 40 time and prove he can hold on to the football at the combine, he’ll go. I don’t see him dropping past the third round, and it’s hard to pass up an NFL career if you think you’ll go in the top half of the draft.
Would be shocked to see him in a Bulldog uniform
- Chris Jones, DL
Chris Jones did not produce at a rate many of us thought he would as a Bulldog, but he still has a great chance of being drafted early in the second round according to Todd McShay (sorry if you can’t get to it because it is behind a paywall). Jones did play really well in the final month of the season, but that isn’t the reason he would be drafted so high this season. Jones is a physical freak, and it’s noticeable just by looking at what he does. When he is giving his best effort, you can’t block him. And what is so frustrating as a Mississippi State fan is he just didn’t do that on every single play as a Bulldog.
I expect to lose two additional players in 2016 to the Draft. If that’s all the Bulldogs lose, next year could be big if we get enough from one of our quarterbacks. So we shall see what happens when the early entry deadline gets here.