Mississippi State Football: NFL 1st team depth charts littered with former Bulldogs

Oct 19, 2020; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay Jr. (50) warms up prior to a game against the Buffalo Bills at Bills Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 19, 2020; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay Jr. (50) warms up prior to a game against the Buffalo Bills at Bills Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports /

Recently, Mississippi State Football has overshadowed other instate programs as several former Bulldog greats earning roster spots, Super Bowl rings, and multi-million dollar contracts. The 2021 NFL preseason is over, and teams have made their cuts, and so far, 16 former Bulldogs are slated to start at their respective positions.

This does not include current free agent  Benardrick McKinney. KJ Wright signed with Oakland, and I am sure he will climb the depth chart at some point during the season.

Also, just for fun, how many former Rebels do you think are starting for their respective NFL teams? I will give you the answer later.

Bulldog Quarterback

Dak Prescott is fresh off a new contract and recovering from a season-ending ankle injury. Dak looks to get the Cowboys back into the playoff hunt. I am sure Dak will look to prove naysayers wrong and regain his Pro Bowl form.

Dak has not played this preseason, as he dealt with a nagging arm injury. If Dak can return to form, the Cowboys should compete in the NFC East. You can check out Dak and his budding friendship with Zeke Elliot on HBO’s Hard Knocks.

Bulldog Offensive Linemen

Elgton Jenkins may have been drafted in the 2nd round, but he has performed like a first-round talent. Jenkins earned his first Pro Bowl nod last season. Jenkins has started 30 of his first 32 games, and I do not see him slowing down as he begins his 3rd year with the Packers.

Gabe Jackson is his  1st season with the Seahawks after starting his career with the Raiders. Jackson has started 99 of the games he has played. He should give the Seahawks ground game a big push and help protect Pro Bowl QB, Russell Wilson.

Bulldog Defensive Linemen

Mississippi State continues to lay claim on the D-LINE U nickname as five former Bulldogs are starting in the NFL. That list is led by Fletcher Cox, a perennial Pro Bowler and one of the most dominant and dangerous defensive tackles in the NFL.

Cox often sees double and sometimes triple teams and still had 6.5 sacks. Cox will look to add to his sack totals and help the Eagles get back to the playoffs in 2021

Jeffery Simmons is becoming one of the most dominant forces in the NFL. Simmons was a monster in 2020 with 49 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries, and 20 QB hits. Simmons is showing what all Bulldogs already know. He means business.

Chris Jones, also fresh off a new contract and dealing with the sting of a loss to the Bucs in the Super Bowl after winning a ring in 2019. Jones also switched positions to DE after starting his career as a dominant DT with 40.5 sacks over the past five seasons.

I like this move because it allows Jones to be a force off the edge as a pass rusher while also stopping the run. You will also see Jones drop into coverage more, where he will impact the passing game from a different perspective.

Denico Autry has quietly built himself into a solid DE in the NFL, starting his career with the Raiders and Colts. Since 2014, Autry has piled up 30.5 sacks.  He signed a 3 year $21.5 million to join the Titans, where he will team with Jeffery Simmons to give some extra Bulldog bite to that Titans defensive line.

Montez Sweat is one-half of one of the most dynamic pass-rushing duos in the NFL, as he and Chase Young will look to wreak havoc on offensive backfields this season. Sweat has 16 sacks in his first two seasons, and I expect him to reach double digits in year three.

Bulldog Linebackers

Mississippi State has always produced productive linebackers, and the duo of Preston Smith and Willie Gay are all vital to their teams’ defensive success. Smith only had 4 sacks last year after posting a career-high 12 in 2019. I look for Preston Smith to bounce back into form as teams will have to account for Za’Darius Smith (12.5 Sacks) on the other side.

Bulldog fans all know what Willie Gay brings to the table. Unfortunately, the injury bug has been a thorn in Gay’s side. He is still listed as a starter opposite Anthony Hitchens on the Chiefs official depth chart. When healthy, Gay brings play-making ability to a Chiefs defense that desperately needs it from the linebacker position.

The Ravens resigned Pernell McPhee and he is currently first at Strongside Linebacker. I am glad the Ravens resigned McPhee as he is a key cog in their defense. He is a veteran pass rusher and he has a solid backup in Justin Houston.

Bulldog Defensive Backs

Darius Slay begins year two on the Eagles after the big trade from the Lions. Slay only had one pick last year. I do not think the one pick is a knock on Slay’s ability as the NFL is a passing league. Slay will have a chip on his shoulder as he was not in the top 20 CB rankings by PFF.

We all know the drama that unfolded with the criticism Slay received from a now-fired former NFL head coach. I have a good feeling Slay will play at a Pro Bowl level, maybe even All-Pro level this season.

Jonathan Abram played like a man possessed in 2020 after an injury cost him all but one game in his rookie season. Abram had 85 tackles, 6 PDEF, and 2 picks on the year. I look for Abram to continue to help solidify a Raiders defense that needs to play well with all of the speedy receivers in the AFC West.

Bulldog Special Teamers

Mississippi State has three Bulldogs who start on special teams. One Bulldog who made his name by hurdling tacklers and scoring touchdowns on the ground is Kylin Hill. After not returning a kick in 4 years in college, Hill returns to his roots as a kick returner in high school. Hill will also contribute as the third-down back, but he will first cut his teeth on special teams.

Hunter Bradley begins his 4th season as the long snapper for the Packers. This position receives no glory or praise, but the fans will definitely let you hear it if you foul up a snap. Bradley has been a steady snapper for the Packers as he has only had one bad snap in his career.

Logan Cooke is the last Bulldog who has earned a starting position for week 1 of the 2021 NFL season. Cooke is in his 4th year with the Jaguars and had his contract extended back in March.

TSUN Starters in the NFL

While the Ole Miss Rebels have two of the most exciting wideouts in the NFL, DK Metcalf and AJ Brown only have four other starters on NFL rosters for a total of 6. Those players are Laremy Tunsil, Dawson Knox, Mike Hilton, and Evan Ingram. Mississippi State easily wins the battle of the NFL starters.

Make your picks now on WynnBET.