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What to expect from Ole Miss products in the NFL Draft

Ole Miss may not have had the most productive season on the field in 2018, but their individual products are drawing a tremendous level of looks from NFL talent evaluators.

The opening round of the 2019 NFL Draft will take place live from Nashville on Thursday. As many as three Rebels could be selected in the first round and as many as seven could realistically see their names called over the weekend.

On the morning of the opening round of the draft, let’s take a look at some expectations and projections for some Rebels that are about to be in the NFL:

D.K. Metcalf, WR (Projected: Mid-1st Round)

Of the former Ole Miss players in the draft, Metcalf is the only one that seems to be a consensus lock to have his name called in the first round on Thursday night.

Despite injury concerns and a lack of overall production in college, the 6-foot-3, 228-pound receiver has made teams salivate with his testing numbers. Very few humans on the planet, yet alone football players, can run as fast as Metcalf’s 4.33-second 40-yard-dash at his size.

Some scouts and insiders are saying Metcalf could be drafted as high as No. 4 overall to the Oakland Raiders, but it’s more likely for him to end up in the middle of the first round. Keep an eye on the Baltimore Ravens at pick No. 22. The Ravens have a dearth of talent at receiver and Metcalf’s frame and catch radius would be a good fit with the oft-inaccurate Lamar Jackson.

A.J. Brown, WR (Projected: Late-1st round – 2nd round)

Where Metcalf may have the bigger ceiling, A.J. Brown was the best receiver on the Ole Miss team the last few seasons. Ole Miss’ all-time leading receiver left school with 189 receptions, 2984 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Brown is seen mostly at the NFL level as a big slot receiver, although he’s spent some time playing on the outside after Metcalf’s injury this past year. He may not be a supremely developed route runner, but his run after the catch ability is second to none in the draft.

Teams are projecting Brown as a late first rounder who may fall into the early second. Any team getting Brown in the second round must be ecstatic about that value. Keep an eye on the Green Bay Packers at pick No. 30 and the New England Patriots at No. 32 for Brown – both teams are in need of pass-catching help to go along with their Hall-of-fame quarterbacks

Greg Little, OT (Projected: Late-1st round – 3rd round)

Greg Little is the most volatile of the Ole Miss products. Some are projecting Little as high as the 20s and others have him falling into the third round.

Little has the size and build that can’t be taught, things NFL teams heavily covet for tackles. At 6-foot-5 and 325-pounds, like Metcalf, he’s a bit of a boom-or-bust prospect.

A natural athlete for his size, he’s a very raw prospect who is at his best in pass protection, but struggles with the aggression and power needed in run blocking. Look for Little to likely go early on day two.

Dawson Knox, TE (Projected: 2nd-4th round)

Drafting Dawson Knox is drafting a guy completely on projection and potential. Playing on a team with three future NFL receivers and a scheme that de-valued the tight end position, Knox doesn’t have NFL-caliber usage and numbers.

Knox literally touched the football 15 times in 2018, but he averaged 19 yards on each touch. What he does have is fantastic athleticism and size for the position and above-average run blocking. Look for a team to take a risk on the Knox’s upside – he might go higher than we think.

Late-round projections

DaMarkus Lodge, WR (3rd-5th round) – Lodge gets often overlooked with the two, first-round talents on the Ole Miss receiving corps. But there’s a third member of the Ole Miss ‘Nasty Wide Outs.’ An unnamed Rebel defensive back told me in the spring that Lodge is actually the hardest of the three to play press coverage against. He may not be super athletic, but he has a great release and fantastic size.

Jordan Ta’amu, QB (4th-7th round) – It seems like teams are all over the board with the Ole Miss quarterback. But it just takes one team to fall in love. Jordan Ta’amu is a really accurate QB. He’s going to need some time to mentally adjust from a college system that didn’t ask him to do much processing of the field to the NFL, but he has enough positivities traits to get himself drafted on day three.

Zedrick Woods, S (5th-7th round) – Woods is DeMarkus Lodge’s inverse. A combine testing freak, Woods ran the best 40-yard dash of any draft-eligible player at the NFL Combine. His 4.29-second 40 raised some eyebrows about the Rebel defensive back. Expect a team to gamble on that athletic upside.

The first round of the NFL Draft, live from Nashville, will take place Thursday night. Rounds two and three will be Friday night and the remaining four rounds on Saturday afternoon. Draft coverage will be on ABC and ESPN, and we will be publishing live from the draft throughout the first round on Thursday night.