Team fits for the six former Rebels selected in 2019 NFL Draft

Published 11:36 am Monday, April 29, 2019

Thursday’s opening round didn’t exactly go how many predicted or how the Rebels may have planned, but they’re not thinking about that anymore.

NFL draft prognosticators thought for quite some time that both A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf would be surefire first round picks. Leaving the NFL combine, when Metcalf stunned evaluators with his combination of size and 4.33 speed, some even thought he would be a top-10 pick in the draft.

Greg Little, Carolina Panthers

A little surprisingly, offensive tackle Greg Little was the first Rebel product selected in the draft. The Carolina Panthers traded up in the second round to draft Little with the No. 37 pick in the draft. Little slots in to compete for the Panthers left tackle spot from day one. It’s a team that hasn’t had a lock at that position in quite some years and will certainly welcome Little’s borderline elite pass blocking from Cam Newton’s blind side. Little has his question marks, particularly his force and drive in the run-blocking game, but his upside made it hard for the Panthers to pass up.

The Panthers relied on a rotation of players, none of which played all that well, on the left side of the line in 2018. Greg Little certainly can’t slack off now, but he sure should win the starting job protecting Cam Newton’s blind side.

A.J. Brown, Tennessee Titans

Second off the board of Ole Miss players was Starkville native and Ole Miss’ all-time leading receiver A.J. Brown. The Tennessee Titans took Brown with the No. 51 pick in the draft. For Tennessee, pairing Brown in the slot next to their 2017 No. 5 overall selection, Corey Davis, significantly upgrades Marcus Mariota’s weapons in the receiving game.

Brown and Davis compliment each other really well. Davis is great working intermediate routes. Brown’s ability to work the slot and make moves after the catch make him a great down low target. The Titan’s aren’t exactly thrilled with the progression of their quarterback who will be entering year three. If he can’t get it done now with Brown, Davis and tight end Delanie Walker, it may be time for them to move on.

D.K. Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks

Finally, ending a long and arduous slide was the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle selected Oxford High star and Ole Miss receiver D.K. Metcalf with the No. 62 pick in the draft. To say Metcalf was emotional receiving the phone call from general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll would be doing the emotion quite a disservice. “Why’d you take so long?” questioned Metcalf, fighting back tears.

From a football perspective, Metcalf fits really well with recently-resigned quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson throws the NFL’s prettiest deep ball, and Metcalf is the perfect guy to go get it. While he may be a one-trick-pony for now – Metcalf’s only real, developed NFL route is the go – Seattle has shown the ability to develop receivers of late. They turned Doug Baldwin from undrafted in 2011 to a two-time Pro-Bowler. Metcalf has some learning to do, but he could fit really well with Wilson in Seattle.

The best of the rest

In addition to the big three, the Buffalo Bills took tight end Dawson Knox in the third round. Guard Javon Patterson and defensive back Ken Webster were both taken in the seventh and final round, by the Colts and Patriots respectively.

Like Metcalf, Knox is a bit of a projection in his own right. He’s one of the most athletic tight ends in the entire draft, but was hardly used in college. Making 18 game appearances in his time at Ole Miss, Knox only recorded 39 receptions. His 18.9 yards per catch in 2018 is sexy, but it’s hardly the production for a normal third round pick. The Bills brought in former Bengals tight end Tyler Croft earlier in the offseason. Croft is likely the starter, but Knox should have the opportunity to see the field while he develops.

In addition to the six drafted over the weekend, three other former Rebels signed with NFL teams as priority undrafted free agents. Receiver DaMarkus Lodge signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and defensive backs Javien Hamilton and Zedrick Woods signed with the Packers and Jaguars, respectively. Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu has not signed a deal at this moment, however there are reports that he has received mini-camp invites from the Raiders and Texans.