Brown, Engram seeking draft grade from NFL

Published 12:02 pm Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said his top three underclassmen won’t be submitting paperwork to the NFL Draft Advisory Board because they don’t really have to.

“They’ve just got to make a decision at a certain point,” Freeze said of Laremy Tunsil, Robert Nkemdiche and Laquon Treadwell.

But Freeze said Ole Miss has issued paperwork to the league for two other juniors to see if they get back a projected draft grade that’s high enough to justify bolting early for the next level.

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Defensive end Fadol Brown and tight end Evan Engram are awaiting word about their NFL prospects from the board, a panel of scouting experts that offers its collective opinion to underclassmen as to the likely demand level the league has for their services.

A school is allowed to submit paperwork for up to five players, but it’s not necessary for Tunsil, Nkemdiche or Tunsil, all of whom are widely projected to go in the first half of the first round of next year’s draft. Freeze said “there may be more” underclassmen who have asked for a draft grade, but he wasn’t sure since he just got back to Oxford early this week after spending the last two weeks on the road recruiting.

“I think kids just in general kind of want to see where they are,” Freeze said. “The new grading system, it just predicts if you’re a first-round (pick) or a second-round or come back to school, which I think is very good. The last few years, you had 50 percent of the kids that declare for the draft didn’t get drafted. You talk about a slap in the face, a cold bucket of water, that’s a different animal. A kid needs to know if he should come back to school.”

Another member of Ole Miss’ 2013 recruiting class who was seen as a viable candidate to go pro early is Tony Conner, but that was before a knee injury kept the junior defensive back off the field for a majority of the season. Conner tore his meniscus against Alabama on Sept. 19 and missed the next six games before playing sparingly in the final three games at what Freeze estimated was about 60 percent.

Brown (fractured foot) and Conner will both undergo surgery and miss the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma State on Jan. 1