From the end of the college football season and performances in all-star bowl games, the National Football League (NFL) combine is the week-long showcase of talent held annually at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis, Ind. Each year, college football players complete physical and mental tests in front of NFL coaches, general managers, and scouts.
13 players with Mississippi ties — either in being from a town, went to junior college, or played at one of the state’s six Division I universities — were invited to attend based on their collegiate experience. For the most part, these Mississippians performed well, which could affect their draft status along with salary.
With the NFL Draft garnering more notice year in and year out, the scouting combine has also grown in significance, allowing personnel directors to evaluate upcoming prospects in a standardized setting. All the way from the quarterback position on offense to the cornerback position on defense, the Magnolia State was well-represented.
- QUARTERBACK – Stetson Bennett IV, Georgia
Bennett was born to be football plater, coming from a big football family. Although his original intention was to go to the University of Georgia for pharmacy school, that quickly changed with him spending a year in Ellisville tossing for nearly 2,000 yards and 16 touchdowns in 12 games. He later returned to the Bulldogs and led them to two Division I national championships. At 5’11″, 192 pounds, Bennett finished seventh among the quarterbacks invited and his confidence in big games will carry him in the league.
- RUNNING BACK – Zach Evans, Ole Miss
Evans may be the most talented Mississippian in the combine, finishing third overall out of all the athletes. Despite his injuries over the last two years, Evans gets the yards with the scouting report saying that the Houston, Texas native will be an eventual starter in the league. After review of the drills, his explosion was noticed along with fumbling. The running back’s nearly 1,000-yard performance after one year as a Rebel, may work out for him with word that more than four teams are in pursuit.
- WIDE RECEIVER – Jonathan Mingo, Ole Miss, Brandon
Even though this year’s draft has a very highly touted wide receiver class, Mingo performed well, running a 4.46 40-yard dash and bench pressing 225 pounds 22 times, which placed him at 12th overall for his position group. A highly touted recruit from Brandon High School, Mingo’s imposing size, strength, 112 receptions and 13 touchdowns for the Rebels during his career sets him apart at 6’2″, 225 pounds.
- WIDE RECEIVER – Jason Brownlee, Southern Miss
The West Point native contributed to the 2018 NJCAA National Championship at East Mississippi Community College before earning 2019 first-team NJCAA All-American honors with a national-best 75 receptions for 1,055 yards (ranking second among JC receivers) and 12 touchdowns. Brownlee was quite familiar with the USM home field (M.M. Roberts Stadium) before transferring to Hattiesburg, as he led West Point High School to two MHSAA 5A State Title games there. His 135 receptions and 21 touchdowns in three years may help in the league.
- WIDE RECEIVER – Malik Heath, Ole Miss
Although Heath was the lowest player among Mississippians in the 2023 NFL Combine, his talent is there according to the scouts, and he should be an easy day three selection in the draft. Regardless of his 40 time being a 4.64, Health’s production score was 31st among all receivers in the combine and his steep jump in reception production for Ole Miss was undoubtedly noticed. His No. 1 high school ranking out of Callaway and eventual transfer from Mississippi State didn’t apparently get to his head.
- OFFENSIVE GUARD – Nick Broeker, Ole Miss
Coming out of Springfield, Ill., Broeker played all four years with the Rebels and started every game over the last three years. He was ranked as fifth among the offensive guards by scouts while not allowing a sack for Ole Miss in 435 snaps in 2022. The guard was recognized for his hand strength and ability to run block finishing in the mid-30s as an offensive line prospect.
- EDGE – Derick Hall, Auburn
Maybe the best defensive player from the Magnolia State that is projected as a first or second round pick, the Gulfport native finished his four-year career with just under 20 sacks and more than 22 tackles for loss. Hall’s size was 6’3″, 255 pounds and he ran a 4.55 40-yard dash as a power rusher. Widely regarded for his leadership qualities, Hall is known for his initial contact and explosion which helped him place in the top 10 of edge rushers.
- EDGE – Tavius Robinson, Ole Miss
The Canadian-born Rebel is incredibly fast (4.66-40) and strong (23 bench press reps) for his size (6’6″, 255), but his variety of techniques are why the scouts ranked him in the top 20 with potential to be an NFL starter. His youth and body frame are the downfalls right now, but potential is nonetheless high.
- EDGE – Tyrus Wheat, Mississippi State
Despite Wheat being ranked outside the top 30 in his position, he is fast for his size (6’2″, 263 with a 4.65 40-yard dash) and has the ability to read the quarterback effectively, according to scouts. His football physique will help him in the league, but his performance will depend on the coaching strategy. His 130 tackles and 18 sacks in Starkville may translate to the NFL.
- DEFENSIVE TACKLE – Cameron Young, Mississippi State
The Crosby native set the pace for Magnolia State linemen with a solid 5.1 in the 40-yard dash after he weighed in at 305 pounds. His career total of 109 tackles for the highly touted Bulldogs defensive unit helped set the standard in Starkville.
- DEFENSIVE TACKLE – Byron Young, Alabama
The Laurel native is widely respected amongst his teammates and coaches for his leadership qualities, along with his strength and ability to read defenses effectively. Young finished in the top 15 among defensive linemen because of his use of hands and strength (24 reps of bench press).
- CORNERBACK – Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State
Forbes became known as an interception machine in Starkville, picking off 14 passes in three years, including three returned for touchdowns. The combine proved no different, as the Grenada native can run (4.35 40-yard dash) and has a knack for forcing turnovers. After rating second in the overall score, his combine experience should be good enough for a first or second round selection.
- CORNERBACK – Darrell Luter, Jr., South Alabama
Wiggins native and former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star, Luter, Jr. provided scouts a chance to look at his length and physicality. His 89 tackles and five interceptions in three years in Mobile showed that his playing style is fit for the NFL.